3 Talented Ways HBCUs Are Helping Companies Beat Their DE&I Goals

Louna Jacques, a search associate at GattiHR, has seen it firsthand: Companies really can’t “wait till they get their Hanes on you.”

The ancient but ageless slogan from the world-renowned clothing brand is taking on new meaning following a recent splashy announcement.

According to reports, the clothing manufacturer has committed millions of dollars to three historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to provide internships, scholarships and mentorships to students in a various academic programs.

The investment is the latest by a slew of household brand names to reach deep into their coffers to call first dibs on the best talent HBCUs have to offer.

Before HanesBrand, the co-founder and CEO of Netflix donated millions to HBCUs. So did Novartis, Apple, Intel and Google, plus author MacKenzie Scott, one of the wealthiest women in the world.

Jacques says that public HBCUs have seen record investments since the “racial reckoning” of 2020. Consumers and shareholders are pushing more corporations to integrate diversity, equality and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives into their ranks. Surging investments in HBCUs by companies in varying industries are an effective strategy for maximizing DE&I efforts and genuinely making a difference.

Not to mention bolstering their workforce.

“The conversation that everyone should be having is how we should all know more about HBCUs,” Jacques says. “If you’ve been to an HBCU or know someone who has, you know exactly how much of a unique experience HBCUs offer their students and the value these potential employees have following graduation.”

Jacques says there are three ways HBCUs could be the difference-maker for your company, its workforce and its DE&I success.

HBCUs Easily Diversify—and Improve—Your Talent Pipeline

America’s 100-plus HBCUs are smoldering hotbeds for booming talent.

About 42% of black engineers, 47% of black female engineers and 40% of the Congressional Black Caucus are reportedly HBCU alumni. Also, more than 50% of all black physicians are graduates of HBCUs.

And while only 3% of the nation’s colleges and universities are HBCUs, these schools generate nearly 20% of all Black college graduates with a bachelor’s degree.

Jacques says the numbers speak for themselves: HBCUs offer a unique set of well-qualified candidates right off the bat.

“These schools are adequately staffing the workforce, making college more accessible and affordable and constantly reminding us that there is so much talent out there that would boost DE&I efforts and improve bottom lines,”  Jacques says.

And research supports this conclusion. One Gallup-Purdue poll concludes that “graduates of HBCUs are significantly more likely to have felt supported while in college and to be thriving afterward” compared to their peers at other higher-learning institutions.

“I try to source talent from HBCUs because their graduates tend to have a certain experience, a certain skill set and understanding, of what DE&I is,” Jacques says. “DE&I was kind of entrenched in their entire undergraduate experience. So it is woven into the process.”

HBCUs Help Remove Economic, Geographical Barriers

To beat the competition to the punch and access this talent first, partnering with HBCUs requires more than just showing up at a college’s career fair.

A better approach: sponsor the talent.

That’s what HanesBrand and many industry titans did—and it works.

“It’s more than an investment,” Jacques says. “It’s a critical action item behind improving a brand’s DE&I numbers and developing a long-term relationship with a lot of prominent schools.”

These types of investments in diverse talent, she says, helps talent-hungry companies high-step closed to prospective employees who live in far-off regions or cities or may not have the economic means to relocate for an internship or entry-level opportunities.

“Investing and sourcing from HBCUs remove this barrier,” says Jacques, a native Floridian who moved to Chicago for work. “Hands-on mentorships and internships are more important than ever.”

More accessible, too—thanks to the remote work boom that proceeded the pandemic shutdowns. “With the right HR expertise and technology, there are endless ways for clients to access the best HBCUs have to offer,” Jacques says.

HBCUs Better Cater to Certain Sector Needs

Like predominantly white institutions, HBCUs have their tiers, Jacques says. As a result, the schools you recruit from will depend on your sector and what skillset you have in mind.

“Howard, Spellman, Morehouse, for instance, those are some of the top-tier HBCUs—the Yales and Harvards of HBCUs. And many companies recruit from them automatically,” she says. “But there’s another method. I recommend drilling in on the skills you need, then looking into specialties some of those HBCs and plenty others are recognized for. This will help better determine which HBCU is the best school for you to explore for talent.”

For instance, statistics show that North Carolina A&T, Florida A&M and Jackson State University are three of the best HBCUs for engineering—alongside well-known staple Howard. “Of course, Howard ranks up there too, but look at all these other schools, right there in the mix, sometimes in the lead,” Jacques says.

Another example: What are some of the leading HBCUs in computer science? Outside Howard and North Carolina A&T, surveys suggest Bowie State University, Alabama A&M and Morgan State.

“These kinds of statistics help you zero in on which HBCUs to source from based on your specific role in your specific industry,” Jacques says. “Double check and make sure these schools have the accreditation as well as the recognition you need from your field.”

HBCUs have been teaching and educating minorities, giving them new economic opportunities and instilling great values for more than a century—a trio of must-have attributes that have instant caught the attention of corporations worldwide before and after the social justice reforms of 2020.

“Not do HBCUs constantly produce a well-educated, well-experienced workforce, but they also fill a critical need, one far beyond DE&I,” Jacques says.

“HBCUs produce future leaders, and companies see that more now than ever.”

Are you looking to strengthen your emerging DE&I efforts and tap the limitless talent that America’s expanding pool of HBCUs has to offer?

We can help. Let’s chat.