Today, there remains a large gap in employment, income, and wealth between Black Americans and white Americans. By one estimate, the net wealth for US Black families is $4,000 while the net wealth for White families is $147,000. This poses a major challenge to racial equity in the US.
Companies have the ability to address at least one aspect of this challenge—they can eliminate a barrier that disproportionately affects Black Americans: College degree requirements. A college degree can be valuable for some jobs, but it is often an unnecessary requirement for many other family-sustaining jobs. That is particularly true when considering the underlying skills for success in certain jobs. OneTen founders Ken Frazier and Ken Chenault came to understand that helping companies focus on hiring for skills, not school, would open higher-paying jobs to well-deserving and talented individuals. Doing that at scale could help close the racial wealth gap.
The two founders set an ambitious target which became the organization’s name—hire, promote, and advance one million Black Americans within ten years, or “OneTen”—and began gathering member organizations. Meanwhile, Ken Chenault, who’d previously worked with Bain, engaged us to devise a strategy.
Bain officially joined the coalition of corporate partners and went further—we committed pro-bono support to help shape strategy and plan for the coalition. Bain teams started by conducting analysis to add additional data to the conversation and understand how companies should change in response to OneTen’s proposal.
Together, OneTen and Bain identified the three key stakeholders: Black talent, large employers, and talent developers such as community colleges and training organizations like Year Up and NPower. Of its existing member corporations, OneTen calculated that 88% of their middle-skill job specs still required a four-year degree, but if you looked at the underlying skills needed, a college degree was not always necessary. How could OneTen change the members’ hiring, sourcing, onboarding, and development to strike that requirement from the job listing? And how could they also provide Black professionals the opportunities to acquire the skills they’d need to succeed?
- What was the right operating model for all parties?
- What were the best practices in skills-first hiring?
- Who within each corporation should OneTen work with?
- What jobs were in the highest demand and could fit OneTen’s mission?
- What underlying skills were most needed, which people could be trained for?
- Who were the appropriate partners to develop and support talent?
- Which markets should OneTen target?
- How would OneTen measure success?
As the coalition got started, Bain teams conducted even more extensive research to inform and focus OneTen’s approach. They analyzed where OneTen’s target demographic tended to live, and overlaid employer data to understand where there was opportunity. They established employer working groups in those areas to get them talking about skills-first hiring, partially, to hear their reactions.
All this led the Bain teams to conclude that a “skills-based” approach was indeed the correct framing. Through hosting a CEO forum and focus groups with Chief Human Resources Officers, it was clear that the degree requirement could be overcome if credentialed institutions (the training partners) could certify candidates.
Bain helped OneTen launch a tech platform to support virtual job matching, activate hiring on the ground in key markets like Philadelphia and Dallas, and establish employer working groups to train them on skills-first hiring. After those first markets proved successful, they began rolling it out across the rest of the US.
OneTen’s model is now working and gaining momentum. The non-profit has helped break systemic barriers, reduce exclusionary hiring practices, help companies identify tens of thousands of talented individuals, and offer people new education paths that lead to family-sustaining careers. Now OneTen is well on the path to its mission, with the following results after two years: