mauryThis month we will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo. To celebrate the holiday in the United States as a celebration of thanks to Mexico in fending off the would be French invasion of the U.S, many display Cinco de Mayo banners while school districts hold special events to educate pupils about its historical significance. Special events and celebrations highlight Latino culture, especially in its music and regional dancing. Commercial establishments have capitalized on the celebration, advertising Mexican products and services, with an emphasis on beverages, foods, and music.

But while there are celebrations in the streets and restaurants on this single day, economic developers should be concerned about Washington’s fastest growing minority group. In the state’s K-12 classrooms, one fifth of all students are Hispanics who are struggling to fulfill their potential.   High school graduation rates were over 13 percent lower for Hispanics than for white children. At 26 percent the states Hispanic poverty rate was more than twice that of whites.

This population can play a very important role in dealing with many of the job shortages we have in particular industries.  Mike Sotelo, CEO/Founder of Consolidar is at the center of a larger network helping to build thriving Latino communities in Washington State. This past month, he unveiled “Jobs Network” a program to aid job-seekers and connect them with high-quality employers. It has already registered over 4,100 job seekers and the number is growing.  Mike will be speaking at Community Survivors on May 14 at the Great Wolf Lodge and I hope you have a chance to come listen to this new and important workforce initiative.