It is not clear that the legislators who Vicky and approximately 12 million Latinos helped elect in 2012 understand the needs of the Latino workforce. According to our latest report, Now Hiring?  Latinos and the Job Creation Policies in the South Atlantic, legislators in South Atlantic states have made plans to create jobs without taking stock of the barriers that the burgeoning Hispanic labor force faces. State policymakers are paying little to no attention to the intersections of local job creation policies and current state workforce development, immigration, and transportation systems. Necessary investments in programs like basic skills training, which help Latinos successfully compete for jobs, are often overlooked. Priority is placed on developing and expanding tax incentives to encourage companies to create jobs and endorsing actions like anti-immigrant legislation that hinder Hispanic workers’ access to employment. These choices are to the detriment of workers and businesses alike, thus undermining job growth initiatives.

There is a need for significant policy adjustments at the state level to ensure that jobs in the fastest-growing industries are available to Latinos, the fastest-growing segment of workers. Given the diversity of Latino workers, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work when developing strategies to meet their unique needs. This is especially true for Latinos in the South Atlantic. Disproportionate numbers of Hispanics in the region possess limited formal education or English proficiency and largely have inadequate access to language training. For example, among Latinos over the age of 25 in Georgia, 44.2 percent have not completed high school and 70.5 percent have limited English proficiency. If we look at this same population next door in Florida, we find that just 26.3 percent do not have a high school diploma and 57.4 percent speak English less than very well. Solutions and approaches must be tailored to local needs.

Now more than ever there is a need for policymakers to ensure that Latinos have a seat at the table to inform the job creation agenda at the state level.  The needs and concerns of the Hispanic community should no longer be an afterthought. The early warning signs uncovered in Now Hiring? Latinos and the Job Creation Policies in the South Atlantic call for serious policy discussions on how to ensure that jobs are within reach for a broader share of workers and their families. It is paramount that in this time of limited resources legislators endorse customized policy solutions that benefit employers and cultivate the workforce for years to come. These discussions can’t wait because our economy won’t work without Latinos.

Criado is a policy associate at the Economic and Employment Policy Project.