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A Special Series on the 2013 Social Innovation Summit

Skoll World Forum has partnered with Landmark Ventures to produce an online series of op-eds to spotlight innovative solutions to a wide range of societal challenges. Tied to this year's Social Innovation Summit, which takes place on November 19th and 20th at Stanford Business School, contributors to the series include key speakers and delegates such as Shannon Schuyler of PwC US, Somaly Mam of the Somaly Mam Foundation, Dave Evans of Cisco, Sarah Elizabeth Ippel of the Academy for Global Citizenship, and more. The Summit is a twice annual event that represents a global convening of black swans and wayward thinkers. Those who are playing at the nexus of technology, investment, philanthropy, international development, and business come together to investigate solutions and catalyze inspired partnerships that are disrupting history.


Innovation in a Rapidly Evolving World

Shannon Schuyler

Leader, Corporate Responsibility, PwC

Fixing Our Educational System is of Vital Economic Importance

Fixing Our Educational System is of Vital Economic Importance

Dalila Wilson-Scott

Managing Director Global Philanthropy and President of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, JPMorgan Chase

November 18, 2013 | 5474 views

JPMorgan Chase employs nearly 270,000 people, each of whom plays an important role in the success of the firm, and should be given the right tools and training needed to meet their potential.  As a result, we are acutely aware that we are only as strong as our people.

Today, as technology continues to advance at a blistering rate and our economy becomes increasingly complex, workers need new skills to keep pace.  Unfortunately, our educational system hasn’t fully adjusted to this new reality.  In the 1970s, only one-quarter of jobs required more than a high school education.  Yet, today, two-thirds of jobs require at least some post-secondary education or training.  It is clear that a high school graduation is no longer sufficient for most jobs, leaving many young people without the skills and training necessary to enter the workforce and most with little opportunity to access college or training programs.

At the same time, due to insufficient coordination between educational institutions and employers, many students are graduating with skills that are not in high demand while not enough young people are trained in areas that would be valuable to employers.  As a result of these trends, even as the national economy recovers, the U.S. labor participation rate for young adults aged 20-24 has fallen to just 71% — its lowest figure since 1972.

This is an issue of vital economic importance, and it has clear ramifications for employers who could find it increasingly difficult to access talent in the coming years.  Fortunately, there are companies that understand this reality and realize that they are well-positioned to make a difference on this issue by working with nonprofits, policymakers, and other partners.  We are already beginning to see success stories emerge from our partnerships.

Year Up is a justifiably celebrated organization that provides low-income youth with college credits, internships, and skills in high-demand, growing sectors like information technology, investment operations, customer service, and accounting.  The organization works closely with corporate partners who are eager to access the pipeline of skilled entry-level candidates that Year Up provides.  A remarkable 84% of graduates are employed or attend college full-time within four months of program completion.

YouthBuild works with low-income young people to help them attain high school diplomas or GEDs at the same time that they develop in-demand construction skills by building affordable housing.  The organization also provides counseling and other forms of support to help guide participants through the program.  YouthBuild has 273 programs in 46 states and Washington, DC, and they serve 10,000 people a year.

What can we learn from these exemplary organizations?  First, they show that young people – even those who face significant challenges – can secure and maintain employment if given a real chance and the personal supports needed.  Year Up and YouthBuild also illustrate the importance of multiple pathways to success.  Not everyone needs a college diploma, but specialized skills are necessary to thrive in the workplace.  It is also becoming increasingly apparent that simply sending young people to school is not always enough.  We must be increasingly strategic about what students are taught and how they can leverage these skills to find jobs. Aligning education to future employer needs will help diminish the skills gap.

For the most part, we know what needs to be done.  But we face such a broad, diffuse challenge that the only way to make a meaningful difference is to enlist a wide array of stakeholders to work in concert.  No single organization can solve the problem on its own – not even the U.S. government. That’s why JPMorgan Chase and numerous other corporate and philanthropic funders are proud to participate in the Aspen Institute’s Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund, a funding collaborative that addresses the workforce skills gap in 21 communities around the country by enlisting the collective expertise of a disparate group of partners including philanthropic organizations, government agencies, K-12 and post-secondary educational institutions, training organizations, and businesses. These are the kinds of robust partnerships we need to tackle such a major challenge, and the Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund serves as a compelling model to others seeking to achieve systemic change in helping young people find and maintain stable employment.

Our economic future depends on the success of this effort.  JPMorgan Chase is committed to doing its part, but we can’t do it alone.  As our CEO, Jamie Dimon, has written, “These are big, complex challenges. And I believe that our elected leaders, business leaders and community leaders need to remain focused on making sure our young people are prepared to help America continue to lead in a complex global economy.”


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