The Lancaster Chamber strives to provide opportunity for local business and community leaders to share their insight and perspective on a variety of current topics.
This Words That Activate Change series is focused on uplifting voices in our community that encourage dialogue, cultivate transformation, offer thought-provoking ideas, and challenge all of us to be better, be stronger, and, most importantly, be advocates for systemic change within both our community and our workforce.
Our first article is by Dr. Daniel A. Wubah. Dr. Wubah is the 15th President of Millersville University. He came to Millersville with a distinguished record of service as a senior-level administrator at Washington and Lee University, Virginia Tech, University of Florida, and James Madison. He has been a dedicated professor, mentor, and scholar in microbiology and botany for over three decades. He is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the African Scientific Institute. In addition to his roles on campus, Dr. Wubah is active in the community and beyond. He serves on several boards including the Lancaster Chamber Board, LG Health Board of Trustees, and the Governing Council of Academic City College, Ghana. Dr. Wubah received a B.Sc. (Honors) and Dip Ed from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, a M.S. from University of Akron, and a Ph.D. from University of Georgia.
Diversity Education and Workforce Development
By Dr. Daniel A. Wubah
In his speech “Black English: A Dishonest Argument”, James Baldwin stated that history is not the past; it is the present and we carry our history with us because we are our history. It appears the ongoing social unrests due to the intersection of what some have described as our pre-existing condition (structural racism) and current health malaise (COVID-19 pandemic) exemplify this dictum. The question that we have to address is how do we heal our communities, starting from Lancaster County to our nation? While current circumstances may appear to be a crisis because of the tragic loss of life and the economic devastation, I believe we have been presented with an opportunity to make things right for the betterment of our future. Why will I say that
This year, Lancaster County’s unemployment rate jumped from 3.6% in February to 21% in April due to the pandemic. Following stay-at-home directives to avoid the spread of the pandemic, workers were laid off or furloughed in April and May. As businesses begin to reopen in June, some workers will definitely not be able to return to their jobs. According to the Center for American Progress, majority of these workers will be women and people of color because they make up most of the lower-paying jobs at businesses, such as restaurants and retail, that have been most affected by the pandemic. These workers will need employment guidance, and many will require intensive retraining, retooling and supportive services. If we want to accelerate our economic recovery in our community, we have to pay attention to this sobering reality of inequalities in the workforce. Are we equipped to do that?
Due to rapid technological advancement, skills training needs to be responsive to changing workforce demands. Unfortunately, the historical and inter-generational approaches in multiple systems, including education, housing, criminal justice, and healthcare, have created an intrinsic set of hindrances for people of color and women. Also, this has led to disparities in training programs based on socioeconomic background. Such structural imbalances need to be addressed by redesigning how we educate or retrain our traditional age students and adult learners. How prepared are we at the local level to make these changes?
In Lancaster County, we are blessed with a diverse array of institutions of higher education that prepare our students and adult learners for the workforce. In addition, demographic shifts and our culture as a leading region for refugees, is making us more diverse. For the first time in our nation’s history, a majority of public school K–12 students in our country are students of color and McCaskey High School is an example of such a school. All of these students are our future. They are active architects of our history. How are we preparing them to become productive citizens in this increasingly diverse community? Partnerships between our educational system, community-based organizations and businesses are prerequisites to nurture our students’ talents and equip them with skills needed to create the vibrant and prosperous community we aspire to be. Organizations such as Lancaster City Alliance and Spanish American Civic Association can contribute towards this effort.
What are the benefits of diversity in educating our students? For starters, it affects their academic and social experiences, and prepares them for citizenship. Students educated in a diverse environment are better able to work with people from other cultural backgrounds, ethnicities and races because it leads to greater awareness that challenges the views to which they are accustomed. It also helps them to accept and value beliefs and customs that differ from their own. Interactions with people from different backgrounds improve communication and thought processing skills by challenging stereotypes. All these experiences will better prepare them for the workforce of the future in Lancaster County. Ultimately, we are our actions and our actions become our history.
The Lancaster Chamber is currently creating a diversity task force and sourcing inclusivity & anti-racism training. We are committed to making changes within our own organization to better serve everyone in Lancaster County.