Minneapolis pursues increased diversity

by Alida Tieberg

City officials want to diversify Minneapolis’ workforce.
The City Council approved a new plan last week that would increase the diversity of city workers to include more women, young people and minorities. The plan includes more recruiting and reducing unnecessary barriers that often inhibit certain individuals from applying. 
Less than 30 percent of the city’s staff is female, Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon said at last week’s meeting. 
“That doesn’t seem like that’s what we really want in a big picture kind of view,” he said at the meeting.
Currently, whites make up three-quarters of the city’s workforce, and more than 70 percent of employees are men.
Patience Ferguson, Minneapolis’ human resources director, said officials will discuss recruiting strategies with the city’s 20 departments. Officials hope to make progress in diversifying the city’s workers in the next three to five years.
“Research shows us that when you have a diverse workforce … there’s more innovation,” she said. “You get more voices at the table.”
The plan includes measures to eliminate “unnecessary requirements, certifications, and educational levels” in job descriptions. It will also translate application materials for bilingual and non-native English speakers.
Ferguson said a lack of awareness of open city positions, along with job descriptions that don’t accurately reflect the nature of the job, may discourage people from applying.
More than 300 city employees will reach the age retirement in the next 10 years, and some city leaders want more young people in government jobs.
Ward 13 City Councilwoman Linea Palmisano said the city should prioritize young people in the Twin Cities as a target for city job recruitment. 
“We’re in a competitive environment, and we want the best and the brightest from the University [of Minnesota] and other places to come and work for the city,” she said.
Ferguson said the city has also created recruiting teams to entice more young people to apply for city jobs.
This initiative, she said, is similar to the STEP-UP Youth Employment program, which educates youth in low-income communities about employment opportunities in Minneapolis.
More youth are showing interest in the employment program, Ferguson said, which is a good sign and may prove useful as the city attempts to hire more young people. 
City officials also examined the Minneapolis Police Department’s diversity last week.
Ward 9 City Councilwoman Alondra Cano said at the meeting that the department’s recruitment tools, including online recruitment videos, are ineffective in reaching minority residents and need to be updated.
The department has produced new recruiting materials, but they have not been released, Medaria Arradondo, MPD’s First Precinct commander, said at the meeting.
Last week, Arradondo said the department will continue to push its Community Service Officer program as a way to improve the diversity of police officers.
The department has recently pursued outreach in the Somali community and also works closely with the Somali-American Police Association to recruit Somali youth to become community service officers.