Hispanic Heritage Month is a time when Latinos celebrate our cultural values and share our heritage. We tell the stories of the leaders who paved the way for us and those among us today who are making meaningful changes at the root of what we read, think, and do. This month we have come together—a DC-based policy institute, a major research university, and a tech company—to issue a new challenge to industry, policymakers, and educational training institutions alike.

While we each as individuals have personal stories of our journeys as an immigrant, first-generation American, and multi-generational American, we are bound by common threads in the values we were brought up with: we come from and are ourselves, thrivers. COVID-19 has revealed and reinforced the grit and perseverance of US Latinos. We recognize ourselves in the essential workers who held up the supply lines during the darkest moments of the pandemic, the students who seek out free Wi-Fi to connect to classes, and the business owners who pivoted their services to keep employees on the payroll.

This Hispanic Heritage Month, we are sober about what we are celebrating. The pandemic trifecta—a public health crisis, a contracting economy, and a moment of racial reckoning—has exacerbated social inequities, leaving many Latino families in economic despair. About 59% of Latinos live in households that have experienced job loss or pay cuts due to the coronavirus outbreak, compared to 43% of US adults. Many more remain at high risk due to the overrepresentation of Latinos in industries that are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.  To compound the problem, the pandemic has accelerated the digitalization of industries with high concentrations of Latino workers, changes which are here to stay.  Continued job displacement due to automation in the Latino community is disconcerting for economic recovery and necessitates immediate fact-based interventions.

This month, the UCLA Latino Politics and Policy Initiative released a report which found barriers to educational access and digital technology are preventing Latinos from acquiring the skills necessary to thrive in the 21st century: It is both a call for caution and opportunity.

Read the full article about preparing Latino workers for the digital world at The Aspen Institute.