Diversity, equity, and inclusion skills are defying the COVID-19 labor market: See 3 ways universities can help meet this new demand

Expert Insight

Diversity, equity, and inclusion skills are defying the COVID-19 labor market: See 3 ways universities can help meet this new demand

Nationwide protests and outrage over systemic racism sparked demand for DEI professionals in June 2020 and beyond


average monthly decline in all national bachelor’s- and master’s- level job postings, May-July 2020

Human resources professionals must contend with particularly fragile job security during a recession, as companies seek to limit costs and freeze recruitment. This trend is particularly evident during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic and the resulting recession. Job postings for professionals with human resources skills declined 12 percent overall from March to June 2020; this pattern will likely continue alongside the increasing economic effects of the coronavirus.

However, demand for diversity and inclusion professionals defies this trend, driven by widespread protests calling attention to nationwide systemic racism.

Demand for specific diversity-related skills in job postings across industries increased by as much as 85 percent from May to July 2020, surpassing pre-COVID levels. 

Growth in Demand for Diversity Skills Far Surpasses Last Year’s Average Monthly Growth

Growth in Demand for Diversity Skills Far Surpasses Last Year's Average Monthly Growth

Existing DEI programs are few and far between. How can schools meet this new demand?

1. Certificates: Short-format programs offer just-in-time education for human resources professionals


average monthly increase in bachelor’s- and master’s- level DEI job postings, May-July 2020

Our research indicates working professionals increasingly seek low-cost, flexible educational credentials. A shorter, less expensive graduate or non-credit certificate conferring diversity, equity, and inclusion skills, can attract mid-career professionals unwilling to commit to a full degree but wanting to stay competitive in a shifting labor market. Ensure your certificate meets adult student needs in terms of flexibility and cost, however; too often schools overprice certificates too near the cost of a graduate degree itself for the certificate to appear worth the investment to students.

Read more  about the market trends that make it difficult for certificate enrollments to take off and learn from six successful certificate programs to ensure a DEI offering meets your goals.

2. Executive Education: Offer non-credit programs to partner with employers seeking more inclusive workplaces

In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the resulting protests, companies across industries have come under increased pressure to facilitate diverse work environments. Glassdoor reports a spike in negative employee reviews referencing diversity and inclusion terminology, and over 300 CEOs have signed the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion Pledge so far. By offering executive education credentials through open enrollment or custom programs, institutions can form lasting relationships with companies and meet nationwide demand for increased workplace diversity and sensitivity.

3. Existing Program Curricula: Update existing business and human resources degree programs to attract career-minded students, or build new certificate programs from existing courses for student specialization

Employers rarely specifically request diversity and inclusion degrees in job postings, and students may be averse to committing to such a narrow field. Consider instead incorporating diversity and inclusion skills into existing bachelor’s- and master’s-level human resources and business programs. Adding related courses into an existing MBA or Master of Organizational Leadership program provides a lower-cost opportunity to keep programs aligned with the shifting demands of the labor market for 2020 and beyond. Additionally, colleges and universities can appeal to a broader range of students by drawing on existing curricula for new certificate programs. By requiring only one core DEI course, the University of Georgia’s non-credit certificate program lets students tailor their certificate to their chosen field through elective options.

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