NASCAR and Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) hope to get young people interested in science, ... [+] technology and learning. (BAGC Supplied)
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in the labor force have never been more important. It's way past time to make sure all members of society are represented at all levels in the workplace. And from an employer perspective, making DE&I a top priority means tapping into a previously overlooked workforce. In the current labor shortage, we can't afford to overlook anyone. One new partnership that's caught my eye involves a unique pairing: NASCAR and Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). The two groups have come together to introduce young people to the range of skilled careers that propel NASCAR races. They hope to get young people interested in science, technology and learning when they see how STEM skills can lead to an exciting career. The partnership focuses on three major areas: career exploration; STEM education; and diversity, equity and inclusion. DE&I has long been at the foundation of Boys & Girls Clubs, as they aim to give all kids and teens access to the education, technology, equipment and opportunities they need to thrive in the workplace and life. According to Jennifer Bateman, Senior Vice President, Youth Development at Boys & Girls Clubs of America, leveling the playing field is the reason for the Clubs very existence– they drive opportunities to young people in places where opportunity might be limited. Boys & Girls Clubs of America supports 5,000 Boys & Girls Clubs in the United States, including military installations, schools, native lands and public housing communities.
The aim of the partnership is to pique young people's interest and imagination.(BAGC Supplied) So far, through its national partnership with NASCAR, the duo has coordinated 15 at-track events for teenage students, with over 2300 attending in 2022. At these events, young people from Boys & Girls Clubs across the country talk to drivers, pit crews, trainers, engineers, doctors, event staff and broadcasters about the skills and science behind races. They might learn about the physical forces that help a car go faster, get put through their paces by a pit crew trainer, or see how a broadcasting studio works. The aim is to pique young people's interest and imagination, and open them up to careers they might never have considered, or even known existed. A key factor is fun. The events at the track include personal engagement with people directly employed in a variety of careers, plus hands-on interaction. This is the first national partnership of its kind for NASCAR, according to Eric Nyquist, NASCAR's Chief Communications and Social Responsibility Officer. 'NASCAR has wanted to find the right community partner,' said Nyquist, 'that purposely drives diversity and inclusion. We want to show that racing is for everyone.'
Bateman notes it's important not only to work with young people, but also to educate parents and families. They need to know about the many career opportunities available, and the knowledge and skills required to take advantage of them. They also need to know it's possible to enter an exciting, engaging career field without necessarily getting a four-year degree (and the debt that often goes with it).
To complement the track events, NASCAR developed online, STEM-focused content that features engaging personalities who conduct interviews with various industry employees and showcase activities young people can do at home to build essential skills. Their MyFuture (BGCA's digital learning platform) digital learning modules have exercises on designing a track, the '3 Ds' of Speed, and broadcasting, as well as teamwork and fitness. So far it's attracted participation from over 2500 youth and allows youth across the nation to learn and engage with the racing-themed content without geographical or economic barriers.
For me, one of the best things about Boys & Girls Clubs of America's partnership with NASCAR is how it demonstrates the importance of teamwork and collaboration. When you think of NASCAR, you think mainly about the cars and drivers, but this behind-the-scenes glimpse shows how many people are needed to make the races happen and broadcast them to the world. And young people see how everyone must work together to make the race and the broadcast go smoothly.
Skills have never been more important than they are now. Employers are looking for people who not only have concrete, in-demand skills, but also know how to learn, and are passionate and committed to their work. This unique partnership is a great template for connecting young people to skilled careers.
There are many ways individual organizations can turn their focus to DE&I (I've outlined how business leaders can do this – and the numerous benefits they receive – in my report Ready, Willing and Able, which focuses on including people with disabilities in the workforce). No one has to do it alone, or start from scratch. You can take advantage of the many resources available, or connect with organizations already focused on DE&I.