After two years of research, the Latino Professionals Association (LPA) of Greater Madison is calling on local industries to implement career advancement strategies for working Latinos in Dane County. 

The “Yo Soy: Investing in Latinx Talent” event will take place Friday, Oct. 16, 11;30 a.m. and will focus on the action items the LPA concluded after their analysis on the climate of working professionals. Andrés T. Tapia will be the keynote speaker and is known as one of the leading voices in shaping a contemporary, next-generation approach to diversity and inclusion, according to the LPA website.

The analysis from the LPA is based on more than 150 survey respondents, three professional facilitated focus groups, research and group conversations. More than 60% of the participants said they lived in the Madison area for over 10 years, according to the executive summary.  

“The conclusion is Latinos have achieved a lot and we’ve made a lot of progress and that’s been despite all the challenges and barriers, but we really need to flip the narrative,” LPA board member Tania Ibarra told Madison365. “Not because of overcoming challenges and barriers but because do we have all the opportunities we need? What can we really accomplish if we had all the access and we did not experience all these barriers and challenges.”

During the analysis three themes emerged, Ibarra said: educational attainment, workplace culture and career advancement. She said Latinos are often viewed as workers not leaders, can’t be themselves in the workplace, and are the least educated of all demographics when it comes to four-year degrees. 

Ibarra said to address some of the issues LPA found in their analysis industries should use unstructured pathways that combine education with networking, have mentoring and intentional sponsorship programs and review policies through an equitable lens. 

There are examples of local structured pathways in Madison, Ibarra said, such as Caminos Career Pathways at Centro Hispano of Dane County and the YWeb Academy at the YWCA. 

The Caminos Finance career pathway at Centro Hispano, for example, is a partnership with Centro, Madison College, United Way of Dane County and local credit unions. Through the program, people take courses on customer service and financial literacy; and are connected with potential employers. 

The program has placed over 100 professionals in the finance sector since 2016 and at least 50% of those professionals have since experienced career advancement from tellers to universal bankers, accountants and lending specialists, according to an email from Ibarra.

“When you go to a work program training it’s usually technical skills of whatever the job requires, but with the structure pathways, they combine both technical skills and soft skills. And so the combination of those making the career advancement and career growth more feasible,” Ibarra said. 

She added that mentorship is an important career advancement strategy. In LPA’s analysis, they found more than 60% of respondents were first-generation graduates and so they don’t often have an organic network. 

“As a leader If you don’t have any mentees or sponsors for Black, Indigenous or people of color, then you are not wanting to truly talk about diversity,” Ibarra said.

The free event on Friday is open to the public and Ibarra said she hopes participation among LPA members is high. 

“We want members to have these tools,” she said. “Myself, as a Latino leader, I always knew this existed, but I didn’t really have the words to say, ‘This is what’s going on or this is how it’s happening.’

“We experience it and we are in survival mode and try to manage it. But our expectation is to the next level and [to] become an advocate within our companies, within our communities and in our industries that we individually and collectively belong to.”

To register for the event, click here.