Simon Lopez, president of Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE), defines his goals on the advancement of the Latino workforce.
A Pew Hispanic Center report about recovery of jobs after the Great recession found that, despite a modest gain in employment rates, Hispanics are one of the communities experiencing a faster rate of job growth, placing Latino employment at 2007 levels. Surprised?
The study shows that the disparate trends in jobs recovery from 2009 to 2011 reflect changing demographics of the American workforce. An increment in jobs merely keeps up with the demographic growth of young Latinos entering the workforce –16 and older–, while the slow growth rate for whites and other racial or ethnic groups is according to the also slow rate in demographic increase, the report said.
“Our goal at HACE is to do more to connect this growing Latino talent with hiring companies, and expand our impact across those communities experiencing rapid demographic growth,” said Simon Lopez, President of the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE).
Simon Lopez on Latinos and leadership
Simon Lopez believes Latinos fit the profile of millenials, a generation of 86 million young consumers that are Internet savvy, connected and committed to their communities, and looking for meaningful careers that can change the world.
“Our goal is to expand our reach even more at a national level. HACE is looking for Latino leaders who are driven, inclusive and collaborative; those rallying their communities. Latinos are not a significant part of the country, we are this country,” Lopez told VOXXI.
Despite that Latinos are still behind in climbing the corporate ladder or getting ahead in professional opportunities, Lopez believes the task at hand is to create educational opportunities and build networks that bring their talent to the forefront.
Simon Lopez, 40, was born in the small town of Artesia, New Mexico, with a population of nearly 10,000 inhabitants, half of which is of Hispanic origin. His background is of Mexican, Native American and Spanish origin.
Born and raised in a poor community in New Mexico, Lopez saw the struggle of generation after generation of Latino families unable to get out of the poverty gridlock.
Some share of New Mexico’s Hispanic population –and in other parts of the country- is not made of recent immigrants; however, they remain at the lower end of poverty and education.
“I believe there are some cultural reasons but also, it has to do with the dynamics of the community,” Lopez said. “When you underestimate the value of a systematic education, you do not talk about it at the dinner table,” he said.
For HACE’s president, the challenge is then understanding the value of a formal education but also understanding how to navigate the system to get there, and beyond into corporate and career opportunities.
“Latinos might not see a clear national leader but there are many in government offices, community organizations and in the corporate world that are opening doors. Do we want leaders that protest or we want someone influencing others from inside,” he asked.
To Lopez, Janet Murguía, from NCLR; Robert Menendez, senator for New Jersey and Ben Lujan, representative from New Mexico, are fighting “the good fight.”
“Our leadership is not homogeneous as people come from diverse backgrounds; however, we often forget that there are certain common values representing us such as commitment to hard work, to community and to family,” Lopez said.
Aligning HACE’s national goals
Before becoming HACE’s president, Lopez focused on issues of professional opportunity and employment since he started his career as the director of the Workforce and Leadership Development Department at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). For 13 years, he led the national career mobility programs and helped design policies to channel better employment and career opportunities for Hispanic professionals.
HACE was launched out of the necessity to prove the existence of qualified Hispanic professionals in Chicago, back in 1981. A group of professionals co-founded the organization which helps Fortune 500 companies and government agencies identify potential Latino candidates for career opportunities.
Today, HACE represents a network of over 42,000 professionals in several cities around the country including New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Houston. It has also launched its high school students’ arm, El Futuro, a high school development program, designed to help the youngest develop skills to be incorporated to a global workforce.
In addition, Mujeres de HACE brings the empowerment and representation that Latinas require to become great leaders in the workplace, offering the women’s leadership program twice a year in Chicago and Houston.
“Latinos are the workforce of the 21st century,” Lopez said. “HACE plays a critical role in helping them prepare for better professional opportunities while we supply the diversity companies need. We help to fill jobs in high-demand with qualified professionals that also bring a diverse vision to the table,” he said.