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Metro Parks commits to more diversity in hiring

March 8, 2018

A message from Park Commissioner Jessie K. Baines Jr.

Keep your eye on the ball.

How many times have you heard that?

For me, it’s not a cliché. That’s probably because I’ve spent most of my life playing and coaching team sports, in which winning or losing depends on how you and your teammates handle the ball.

Now, I’m one of five members of the Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners helping our park district keep its eyes the ball. To ensure we meet that responsibility, we recently adopted a strategic plan that sets a number of important goals, including that we improve our hiring so that our workforce reflects the community it serves. That means more racial, ethnic and gender diversity.

The strategic plan sets a specific goal. By 2023, we aim to bring the composition of the Metro Parks workforce to within 5 percent of the community we serve.

In 2017, we analyzed our staff demographics and compared the racial, ethnic and gender mix to the city’s population. One discovery was that while the percentage of African-Americans in Metro Parks jobs approaches the percentage of African-American Tacoma residents, other people of color are not proportionally represented among agency staff.

To fulfill the commitment to equity in hiring, the strategic plan specifies that we use “all available tools and techniques to improve ethnic and gender diversity.”

Recently, Metro Parks’ human resources managers took a step in that direction by subscribing to the Professional Diversity Network. This network includes Black Career Network, IHispano, the Women’s Career Channel, the Asian Career Network, the OutProNet, ProAble, and Military 2 Career websites. We’re now automatically sending all of our job listings to all of the networked sites. We can also use the network to target recruitment emails, texts and for banner advertising.

This is just one way we trying to diversify our workforce. We fully expect to use others.

In the meantime, we’ve also partnered with Tacoma Public Schools, where the majority of students are people of color. Through the schools’ Next Move program, dozens of high school juniors and seniors are participating in Metro Parks’ coaching and sports management internships. It’s a great way to prepare for that first summer job. And, yes, these internships teach teens the importance of keeping eyes on the ball.

In more ways than one.

Jessie K. Baines Jr. is serving his first term as an elected member of the Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners. He has spent 30 years participating in youth programs as a player, volunteer and coach.