As the end of summer approached, the Columbus school district was gearing up for another successful school year. On a sunny day in August, the district hosted a back-to-school resource fair for families filled with free books, backpacks and school supplies.
An assistant was Lisa Gray, the president of Ohio Excels, a nonprofit coalition of business leaders committed to improving education for every Ohio student. Gray and his team were there to spread the word about career exploration opportunities for students. Part of a new job training initiative funded by JPMorgan Chase, the five-year, $7 million commitment made in 2020 will prepare Columbus high school students, especially those from disadvantaged communities, for high-value careers in sectors that lacked diverse representation in the past.
The initiative is a collaborative effort between the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio Department of Higher Education, Columbus City Schools, Columbus State Community College and Ohio State University. In total, these educational institutions serve more than 150,000 students.
A vision for the future
“I think part of the reason that JPMorgan Chase chose Columbus for the job training initiative is that this is based on other work that’s happening in the community,” Gray says. “Great progress has been made over the years, but we must continue to build on that success, improve what we do and ultimately provide more families with great educational opportunities that set their children up for success.”
The payoff of that work is evident every day. Gray tells a story of how career programs can really change the trajectory of a child’s life.
“I was on a call just this morning with a former principal who had recently met one of his students who had gone through a career path. He shared that because of his job, he bought the house that his mother I just couldn’t afford it,” says Gray. “It gave me goosebumps. I mean, that’s really what this job is all about.”
Build more equitable career paths
By providing significant exposure to careers in computing, healthcare and advanced manufacturing, as well as access to mentors, internships and other work-based learning experiences, the program can provide undergraduate students a smoother transition to a two-year college program in Columbus. State or a four-year program at Ohio State University.
“We need to make sure kids don’t waste time, don’t waste money and get what they need to be employed,” Gray explains.
To do that, participants in the job training program have a leadership team that meets twice a month. These leaders work with community partners to remove barriers to participating in career programs—such as lack of access to reliable transportation or child care—that underserved youth may face.
Simultaneously, working groups dig into the data to assess the existing career paths offered to students and find ways to make these paths more equitable – while identifying gaps and finding ways to strengthen career counseling and academic supports.
A vision for the future
“In 2018, less than 50 percent of Ohioans earned a postsecondary degree or high-value credential,” Gray says. “This program will help students seeking higher education – and by providing real-world experience, we have the opportunity to support students in earning a living wage, close skills gaps, help Ohio businesses and nurture the economy of our state.”
Corrine Burger, JPMorgan Chase Columbia Location Leader, agrees. “Building on our long-standing commitment to Ohio, JPMorgan Chase is focused on ensuring Ohio students have the skills and resources needed to contribute to a more inclusive economy,” he explains. “Ohio Excels is one of the many ways we invest in young Ohioans and the state’s workforce.”
Learn more about how JPMorgan Chase is making a difference in the communities where we live and work.