Propelling Detroit’s Workforce

Propelling Detroit’s Workforce

As published on www.forbes.com

High school graduation was staring Gregory Davis in the face and he didn’t know what he wanted to do after the big day came. Working a minimum wage job wasn’t the right path, and yet college was a distant thought. Compounding his problem was the daunting challenge of finding a good job in Detroit – a city hit hard by the recession that only now is really starting to recover.

Gregory began exploring his options by taking classes at Focus: HOPE – a Detroit nonprofit organization that provides machinist training for the jobs that are currently in high demand by area manufacturing employers. Their Machinist Training Institute not only taught Gregory the skills he needed to land a good paying manufacturing job, but it has paved the way forward for a possible future career. Gregory is now a team leader at Detroit Manufacturing Systems, a developer of automotive interior systems, and now is considering a college degree in computer programming and drafting that could increase his wages and further advance his career.

Gregory’s employment journey is just one example of why JPMorgan Chase & Co. launched its New Skills at Work initiative, a five-year, $250 million program focused on rebuilding and retooling the workforce in cities like Detroit.

At its worst, Detroit saw overall unemployment reach 15 percent, disproportionately impacting low-income and low-skill residents. But as the economy has recovered, businesses have been in desperate need to find workers with the right skills. Unfortunately, some of those residents seeking working lack the skills necessary to fill these in demand jobs.

To support this undertaking, JPMorgan Chase provided a first-of-its-kind data-driven report to help identify this skills gap and make recommendations for city leaders, employers and education providers to help job seekers access necessary skills training. The report found that high-growth industries like healthcare, technology and manufacturing are alive and well. In fact, there are 6,000 middle-skill healthcare and manufacturing job openings annually through 2018 in the Detroit area. These positions pay well, on average $23.37 an hour, far above the $17.08 an hour living wage for the Detroit, and are in high demand.

But, in order for these industries to continue to grow, they need workers with at least a high school diploma and some technical training or certification to fill what are known as middle-skill positions. The challenge is that 12 percent of those ages 25 and above – more than 340,000 people in the Detroit metropolitan area – do not have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Plus, less than 10 percent of all adults who need basic literacy or English-language instructions have access to help, undermining their ability to find a solid career path.

As a result, job postings in healthcare and manufacturing in the Detroit area are going unfilled for an average of one to three months because job seekers lack the necessary skills and correct certifications to get the role.

With better data and a greater understanding of where the skills gaps are, the city is aggressively tackling this challenge. There is a coordinated approach to align regional workforce goals and training programs with in-demand middle-skill positions. Mayor Duggan and the Detroit Employment Services Corporation are using the data we’ve provided to link skills training to employer demand. Working with community partners, skills development programs, like those at Focus: HOPE, have taken shape.

Detroit is also turning to private companies, like JPMorgan Chase, that have a major presence in Detroit for support. These companies are investing in training providers who build the skilled workforce. They’re allowing area job seekers to compete for more skilled positions and begin down pathways to long-term careers.

Finally, once on the job, employers are being encouraged to expand work-based learning and accelerated learning opportunities. This will increase wages for Detroit’s residents and further the city’s recovery.

Thanks to training providers such as Focus: HOPE, skilled workers like Gregory Davis have found stable and sustainable careers. In fact, in 2014, our Detroit partners provided nearly 1,000 area residents with job training and certification programs. More people like Gregory have now found gainful employment, are making a good wage and better supporting their family. In return, more companies like Detroit Manufacturing Systems are utilizing their skilled employees to help the company grow and fuel greater economic opportunity.

There is a lot of work to still be done. But as more job seekers secure the necessary skills for in-demand jobs, the unemployment will continue to fall and the regional economy will further recover.

Learn more about JPMorgan Chase & Co. New Skills at Work.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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