A multimillion dollar philanthropic initiative is aiming to close the gap on global tech and digital skills, and broaden career pathways for underserved communities.
One of the world’s largest finance groups, JPMorgan Chase, announced last week it would donate US$350 million (A$493 million) as part of a New Skills at Work initiative.
The initiative will make philanthropic investments in community colleges – the largest job-training providers in most US communities – and non-traditional career training programs, to help women, people of colour, veterans, and returning citizens secure and hold down in-demand and stable jobs.
Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase CEO and chairman, said the new world of work was about skills, not necessarily degrees.
“Too many people are stuck in low-skill jobs that have no future, and too many businesses struggle to find the skilled workers they need,” Dimon said.
“We must remove the stigma of a community college and career education, look for opportunities to upskill or re skill workers, and give those who have been left behind the chance to compete for well-paying careers today and tomorrow.”
The firm will set aside US$200 million (A$283 million) to develop and pilot new education and training programs to teach high-demand digital and technical skills, and US$125 million (A$176 million) to strengthen collaboration between employers and community colleges.
Additionally, US$25 million (A$35 million) will go toward collecting and distributing labour market data to help government and business make better informed decisions about future investments and initiatives.
JPMorgan Chase will also partner with a number of think tanks and policy centres, including the Aspen Institute and PolicyLink, to help develop the training and reskilling programs over the next three years. It will link up with Massachusetts Institute of Technology to upskill the company’s own workers for the future.
A significant portion of the $350 million will be distributed throughout the US, but the company also plans to invest in 38 countries globally.
The company said in a statement that a rapidly changing economy required foundational, digital and industry-specific technical skills to access good jobs, which was why JPMorgan Chase was making the philanthropic investment.
“According to some estimates, by 2030, more than 30 per cent of the US labor market and 375 million workers globally will need to change jobs or upgrade their skills significantly to continue to advance within the workforce,” the statement said.
Jennie Sparandara, JPMorgan Chase head or workforce initiatives, said even in the midst of economic prosperity, the benefits were not reaching everyone, and they had to be ahead of the game.
“These aren’t issues that are going away,” Sparandara said.
“Jobs are changing. There are more digital skills that are required across the board, it’s not just about tech jobs.”
In February, Foundation of Young Australians called for “urgent action” on a looming skills shortage which the organisation said could leave Australia with serious social and economic problems if not swiftly dealt with.
Sarah Davies, the CEO of Philanthropy Australia, echoed this sentiment, telling Pro Bono News that Australia was “behind the eight ball” on the issue.
“We should be having these conversations at all levels of government, industry, education and community about the skills that we need now, and in the future,” Davies said.
She said it was not philanthropy’s job to solve the issue.
“Philanthropy is our social risk capital, in terms of piloting and trying new things, but I don’t think you could see this as a social risk capital investment,” she said.
“Sure philanthropy can try and draw more attention to it, but this actually has got to be a fundamental national priority around our core education system.”