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Latinos hit 50 million but still lack in the workplace

In case you missed it, the United States is swarming with Latinos. Everywhere you look—Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta—Latinos are there. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Latinos account for approximately 50.5 million people. However, even though Latinos have made their impact on the population, they are still less likely to hold a position in managerial, professional or related occupations as compared to Whites or Asians, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

When Martin Castro, 48, was applying for college, he went to his high school counselor for help but instead the teenager was told that he should work in the steel mills like his father and grandfather. Although, this was a common decision being made by young Latinos at the time, Castro took the step toward education.

He explains that he learned the application process on his own because his parents, Mexican immigrants, couldn’t help him. Castro went on to finish his law degree and years later chose to co-found New Futuro, a new bilingual initiative to get Latino students into college and beyond. Although Castro was told not to attempt a college degree, Latino students today find themselves in a bind when it comes to either investing in their futures or helping their family monetarily; choosing between college and a job.

“It’s important for our community to understand the importance of education in the long-term,” he says. “It’s a difference between making $100 a week or $100,000 a year. And I think we have to communicate that there’s a long-term investment that we have to make in ourselves.”

The growth of the Latino population is phenomenal and exponential; just ask any marketer or businessman. With over a trillion dollars in spending power and a steep incline of Latino college enrollment (a 24 percent growth from 2009-2010), Latinos are undoubtedly desired clients but the issue at hand is that many companies attempting to cater to the market just don’t know how, almost ignoring Latinos and performing at the bare minimum for a large segment of the population.

“I think a lot of the general market sees the potential but they don’t know how to tap into that market,” says Castro. “We’re a very diverse community… We’re a very complex community and most folks outside of the community don’t understand that.”

There are programs and organizations to help Latino advancement.  In addition to New Futuro, Latinos In Social Media (LATISM) is a nation-wide non-profit that unites those professional, tech-savvy, college-educated Latinos and has given an outlet to voice opinions and talk about issues affecting Latinos.

Made up of many professionals in the communication world, LATISM has become a credible site where non-Latinos have turned to learn about the community.  The organization was recognized by the White House for its work and members were asked to attend sessions to help resolve Latino issues.

“Having a strong sense of their place in this country and within their own culture, [young Latinos] have found the inner strength to own their voices: they have no qualms about speaking their mind on the issues that affect our community,” says Elianne Ramos, vice chair of communications and public relations for Latinos In Social Media. “As a matter of fact, I would not be surprised if the high affinity and strong representation of young Latinos in the social media arena may partially be a consequence of their desire to have their voices heard.”

Elma Placeres Dieppa, experienced marketing consultant, says that in order to be noticed and understood, the Latino community has to demand better. Latinos, she says, have to realize the importance that they hold and act accordingly, not just as spenders but as vital resources in the workforce, something that Castro also agrees with.

“Latinos in the workforce are extremely important from a number of different perspectives. Just from the sheer volume of the number of Latinos out there now and the growing number of us, it’s important for any workforce to integrate Latinos into it,” says Castro.

Hiring those who know the Latino community is vital, especially if employers wish to tap into the Latino market. Those who know the community are typically those who are personally involved.

“There are those companies who realize that they want to understand the market, they want to be able to sell to the market, they want to be able to reflect the market; it’s incumbent on them to find Latinos who understand those issues and to be able to build those relationships with the community,” says Castro. “Not that non-Latinos can’t build those relationships, but they can be done more effectively with better understanding and knowledge by folks who are part of and intimately familiar with their community.”

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