JPMorgan Chase & Co. Commits Millions of Dollars to Close Job Skills Gap in New Orleans
Posted By Donna Fuscaldo on May 26, 2016 at 9:43 am
Unemployment may be at a four-year low but companies are still struggling to find qualified candidates, even among college grads.
But instead of sitting idling by, one behemoth, JPMorgan Chase & Co., is taking matters into its own hands, earmarking millions of dollars toward efforts to make sure high school graduates and those going on to a post-secondary education are aligning themselves with the in-demand skills. It is part of an effort to create a global workforce that can meet the needs of employers today and into the future.
“For many years, the focus of educators and policy makers has been expanding access to bachelor degree programs,” says Sarah Steinberg, vice president of global philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase & Co. “They are realizing now that maybe they have gone too far in that direction. A lot of people need or want to enter the labor market before they earn a four-year degree but there aren’t clear pathways to well-paying jobs.”
Not all well-paying jobs require a bachelor’s degree
Unlike a doctor or a lawyer, there are a lot of high-paying jobs that don’t require a traditional bachelor’s degree. Many of them are in growing industries including advanced manufacturing, environmental, energy, bioscience, healthcare, digital media, software development and information technology. But despite the current and growing need for skilled workers in those areas, parents and students often find it hard to see a clear path to obtain the jobs. They send their children off to a college or university spending thousands of dollars and four or more years when that level of schooling isn’t the only option. For those that can’t afford college, the lack of information and training in high school means they will never get those middle-skilled jobs that pay a good salary and improve economic mobility.
Earlier this month, JP Morgan Chase and Bloomberg Philanthropies announced they were committing $7.5 million to expand young people’s access to economic success in New Orleans. JP Morgan and Bloomberg Philanthropies are providing grants to support YouthForce NOLA, the nonprofit working to redesign the career and technical education programming at the city’s public high schools. The goal over the next five years is to help 1,600 students earn credentials to get them a good job and place 1,200 students in paid internships in three growing industries: skilled crafts, health science, and technology.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. to invest in other cities to bridge the skills gap
J.P. Morgan Chase plans to provide grants in other cities around the country but chose New Orleans first because of the high number of youths facing dim job and education prospects. According to J.P. Morgan Chase, close to one in five young people in Greater New Orleans are neither working or in school. The city has the third largest population of disconnected youth in the country. At the same time, demand for skilled workers is increasing at a dramatic rate. By 2024 in New Orleans, JP Morgan Chase says the need for skilled workers – or those with more than a high school degree but less than a bachelor’s degree – is expected to grow to more than 67,000. The high demand jobs will be in manufacturing, health science and technology industries, which means there will be a lot of opportunity for trained young people. New Orleans isn’t alone. Steinberg says the demand for skilled workers is going to increase in cities around the country, requiring states to respond to the broadening skills gap.
“There’s a misalignment in the labor market,” says Steinberg. “Something is not connecting. There’s a high level of unemployment and, at the same time, employers are having a hard time finding people with the right skills.” Steinberg says JPMorgan Chase is focused on expanding its grant program in a handful of U.S. cities and is also setting its sights internationally in countries that are facing the same challenges in aligning the labor market with the in-demand skills.
J.P. Morgan Chase’s effort in New Orleans is part of its broader New Skills for Youth program in which it is investing $75 million in a five-year initiative to bridge the skills gap for middle-skilled workers. Earlier in the year, it along with the Council of State School Officers Consortium launched a competition among U.S. states that are improving their education systems. In April, Louisiana received a $100,000 grant and is now competing to be one of the ten states to get as much as $2 million this fall for their demand-driven career and technical education programs.
On the surface, some people may think J.P. Morgan’s efforts smack of hypocrisy. The financial giant and its Wall Street companions are known for hiring Ivy League graduates and stacking their summer internship programs with Harvard, Yale, and other prestigious school students. But according to Steinberg, the bank also has a need for workers that don’t come from a top pedigree school and has a vested interest in seeing students learn the necessary skills. “We hire a fair amount of workers that have less than a bachelor’s degree,” says Steinberg. “We too are thinking of how we can better develop our own talent pipeline.”