Having Open Conversations: Operationalizing Equity and Opportunity with Our Worksite Partners

After reflecting on the murders of Black and Brown people at the hands of the police, we realized that we could play a bigger role in combatting racial injustice by having open conversations with businesses in Boston around operationalizing equity and opportunity. Our work is rooted in a desire to build a workforce that is welcoming to young people from across Boston especially those who attend its public schools.

Dismantling exclusive networks and rebuilding inclusive, culturally competent networks requires that each of us re-evaluates the role we play in perpetuating injustice, even if it is seemingly innocuous. We must work intentionally to create organizational cultures that support individuals from a range of backgrounds. Our worksite partners are our allies in this mission — here are four strategies we shared with them for operationalizing equity, when working with our City Summer Interns. We are sharing them here in the hope that they are helpful for other businesses and programs involved in similar workforce development initiatives.

  • Acknowledge that First Impressions Matter.

When you are introduced to our interns, what are the messages you want to send? All of our City Summer Interns identify as female and are Black/African-diasporic, Latina, or Multi-ethnic.

Will any of the employees who interact with them be of the same ethnic or cultural background?  Did any of your employees attend Boston Public Schools or grow up in a Boston neighborhood? It helps to make these connections. If not, it’s good to acknowledge the proverbial elephant in the room, because our collective silence can do unintended damage.

We discuss first impressions in our skills seminars because we know that our interns notice the race and background of the professionals they meet—and addressing it openly is the best approach.  Apprentice Learning staff can help moderate these discussions. For example, “From first impressions, it appears we represent different racial backgrounds. During our time together, we hope to be able to learn more about one another and discover more about our individual experiences as well as qualities that we may have in common.”

  •  Learn from One Another: Authentic Connection.

It’s clear what the interns hope to learn from you, but what do you hope to learn from them? We want to offer an exchange that’s a two-way street where all experiences have equal value.

How can you create connections with the interns that go beyond the surface? One way to deepen your engagement is by listening to discover shared interests and points of common ground. Often implicit biases hinder our ability to connect. What do you think you know already about the demographics of our interns? What is your evidence? Is it accurate? Are you open to knowing differently?  Ask how interns spend their free time, what do they love to do? What are their future dreams? Who inspires them?

  • How People Change Policy.

What conversations are you having internally at your organization around diversity, equity, and belonging? How can you share some of those insights and experiences to demonstrate to our interns how change happens at an organizational level?

How did the events surrounding Black Lives Matter affect your organization in positive ways? What are your hopes for your organization?

  • Your Actions and Engagement Matter.

How can you promote your work with Apprentice Learning as an action that contributes to equity and opportunity in your organization?  Please share your involvement with Apprentice Learning and our youth within your organization and promote organizations like Apprentice Learning. We firmly believe that building a diverse workforce starts early by giving young people a sense that they are welcomed and their skills are valued in an organization. This is what ignites purpose and career passions.

Executive Director of Apprentice Learning
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