Up top, Phyllis Barajas, founder/CEO of Conexion, gave praise to her sponsors, which included Eastern Bank for appointing her as the first Latina trustee in 200 years.
The first guest speaker was Rosalin Acosta, who holds the honor of being the first Latina Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development in Massachusetts. She said part of her mission as Secretary is to diversify apprenticeship programs, and to make trades more inclusive of outside voices.
Acosta reported that 88% of employers hire exclusively by word-of-mouth. Therein can lie a habit of exclusion for members of outside communities. “If you’re not in the room, you’re not getting hired,” Acosta said.
Phyllis Barajas, founder/CEO of Conexion
More statistics rolled in from the next speaker, Paul Osterman, Professor of Human Resources and Management at MIT, who shared that 56% of all hotel/motel employees, 53% of home-health, and 29% of hospital employees are immigrants.
“We wouldn’t be able to function if not for our immigrant population,” Osterman said.
Rosalin Acosta, Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development in Massachusetts
Paul Osterman, Professor of Human Resources and Management at MIT
Carlos Matos, Interim COO of Conexion
The immigrant population is also largely underpaid: the median annual earnings of all working immigrants in 2014 and 2015 was $36,303, compared to $51,064 for working natives, with 30% of all working immigrants making only $25,000 or less annually.
And while 38% report their English skills are poor, 41% of immigrants have a college degree or more.
Osterman suggests that some of the economic disparity comes from a widespread lack of cross-training opportunities, which would give service industry workers the skills they need to advance into higher-paying, technical positions.
The Jewish Vocational Service has provided cross-training and tuition assistance to CNAs at nursing homes, one instance where upward mobility opportunities have been created for immigrants working long hours for low pay.
And while Osterman proposed a future in which immigrants play a larger role, the night’s final keynote speaker addressed a future in which technology plays an exponentially larger role.
Carlos Dominguez, former Futurist & Technology Evangelist for Cisco, gave an impressive presentation about society’s perpetual reluctance to accept change.
Dominguez said that constantly learning from change is the key to everlasting relevance.
The example he gave was heart-attack victims. After letting the audience guess how many heart attack victims decided to change their eating habits afterwards, he revealed that only 20% actually did, and the rest went right back to their old ways.
“A lot of people would rather choose death over change,” Dominguez said.
Carlos Dominguez, former Futurist & Technology Evangelist for Cisco
Dominguez went further to apply this to the disconnect between technology trends and commercial realization, and the idea of ‘disruptors,’ who are people who choose to succeed by using any means possible.
In conclusion, Dominguez encouraged everyone to stay on top of new trends, use new types of technology—if at the very least so you know what your kids are using—and to challenge yourself to make changes.