As the nation continues on the road to economic recovery, it is important to recognize the significant demographic changes that have taken place over the past decade, and how they will affect the workforce and prospects for business competitiveness in the future.

According to 2010 census data, the growth of the Hispanic population since 2000 has been the driving force behind much of the growth in the U.S. population. A 2010 Census Brief, “Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010,” notes that:

“More than half of the growth in the total population of the United States between 2000 and 2010 was due to the increase in the Hispanic population.”

Indeed, the Hispanic population grew from 35 million in 2000 to 50 million in 2010–a growth rate of 43 percent. And, according to demographers, Hispanics will form the bulk of labor force growth within the next decade.

Given these trends, what are the implications for the future U.S. workforce, and how can employers modernize their workplace policies and practices to help them remain competitive? And how can businesses align their strategic goals for diversity with their goals for talent development?

This was a topic that Peggy Walton, Senior Director of Workforce Readiness at Corporate Voices, discussed at the University of St. Thomas’ Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity in March. Walton emphasized the challenge employers will face accessing the next generation of skilled, diverse talent, and how they can look to corporate best practices on talent development to stay ahead of the curve.

As the baby boomers–the most highly-educated segment of the American workforce–retire, they will be replaced by a younger, more diverse population, which is historically less-inclined to complete higher education. In fact, 13 percent of Hispanics have a college degree, compared with 31 percent for Caucasians, 18 percent for African-Americans and 50 percent for Asians.

This education gap is sobering, given that a majority of jobs within the next decade will require at least some postsecondary education.

At a time when the rising costs of college and a lack of workplace flexibility create significant barriers for low-wage young adults to access higher education, employers can and do play a positive role in providing training and workplace supports to “grow their own” talent. These efforts make business sense for employers, helping to improve recruitment and retention rates, and enhance productivity and engagement. They also provide employers with a powerful talent management and development tool as they seek to increase the skills of their workforce.

Through Corporate Voices’ Learn and Earn initiative, we seek to identify and spotlight businesses that make significant contributions to postsecondary education completion through progressive talent development practices. We have published case studies highlighting companies such as KPMG, which works with colleges to provide internships, and professional development and scholarship opportunities to access diverse, high-potential young talent.

We have also documented the efforts of Verizon Wireless, which offers its employees significant financial support to attend training, and partners with community colleges to offer on-site delivery of classes that lead to college degrees.

As employers grapple with changing demographics and their own talent development needs, we encourage them to consider ways they can adopt positive, best-practice and business-friendly supports to increase the diversity and skill base of their workforce. A good place to start is by looking at the nexus of the diversity and talent development goals within best-practice companies.