The imbalance is changing ever so slowly.
The U.S. Census shows Minnesota is 83% white, which means the state’s population of 5.3 million is 17% people of color.
And half are female.
However, a drive past any road crew, or a scan of any construction team, reveals precious few women and faces of color.
A very slow change began a few decades ago with decisions by smart employers to hire the best workers regardless of race and gender, but more so by women and minorities, aided by government-hiring goals, demanding entry to the jobs.
One of the biggest breakthroughs came last year with the Minnesota Department of Transportion and its highway and bridge contractors striking an agreement with community groups to aim higher on workforce diversity goals.
Another milestone came this week with the announcement by the Minnneapolis Urban League, along with two locals of the Laborers International Union of North America, to train a group of 18 – a mix of women and minorities – in highway construction skills at the union’s Lino Lakes training facility.
Another group of 20 is waiting in the wings for the next training session.
The Minneapolis Urban League CEO and president Scott Gray put it simply but profoundly, “this is truly groundbreaking, and we look for positive outcomes.”