A great many funders these days are advancing efforts to create more upward ladders for lower-income workers and disadvantaged young people. Behind this push on workforce are various motivations, from worries about inequality and social mobility to the more self-interested concerns of specific industries predicting possible shortages of skilled workers.
One of the most promising areas of workforce investment is health care, a sector that will produce huge numbers of middle-skilled jobs in coming years, but also many low-skill, entry-level jobs. This is an ideal sector to strengthen upward ladders for workers that often end up in dead-end, low-wage situations.
We’ve reported on a number of initiatives by private foundations to this end, including those of Atlantic Philanthropies, Kellogg, and Robert Wood Johnson. But corporate foundations are another set of players. In fact, health care workforce development has been gaining ground as a favored cause of funders from the financial industry.
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Last week, JPMorgan Chase & Co. announced a $3 million grant to launch the Healthcare Workforce Collaborative in Chicago. The collaborative, operated by Advocate Health Care, will provide health care-focused, skill-based training for middle-skill occupations to unemployed and underemployed populations. And according to a press release, the grant also denotes “the largest single corporate gift in Advocate’s 20-year history as an integrated health system.”
The Healthcare Workforce Collaborative will focus on four to five middle-skill health care occupations that include both in-patient and out-patient jobs. The program will position graduates into employment opportunities and lay the foundation for longer-term career growth. There will be four hospitals and a number of outpatient sites that engage in the program that will launch out of Advocate Trinity Hospital in the Calumet Heights neighborhood and expand after the startup phase. More than 1,000 participants will receive training over the course of the grant.
It's not surprising to find JPMorgan Chase giving big in this space. The investment is the latest in a string of moves following the launch of the bank’s $250 million, five-year global workforce readiness initiative in 2013—The New Skills at Work program.
At the time, we mentioned that JPMorgan had announced that part of the grant money would be earmarked for research and data collection. The banking goliath made good on that promise, with a recently released report investigating Chicago’s growing skills gap:
Health care makes up 23 percent of all well-paying middle-skill online job postings in the region. It is the largest private sector employer with more than 410,000 positions.
Middle-skill health care opportunities in the Chicago area include biomedical equipment technicians for dialysis centers and medical laboratories, physical and occupational therapy assistants, surgical technologists, and health information managers.
Through their research, JPMorgan determined that there will be more than 14,000 middle-skill job openings every year in Chicago’s health care sector through 2019, but not enough skilled workers to fill these jobs. The report also identified a particularly high need for bilingual, Spanish-speaking individuals, consistent with the country’s evolving demographics.
Taking things a step further, JPMorgan also awarded a $500,000 grant to the Chicagoland Workforce Funders Alliance (CWFA) to develop and launch a network of health care entities with hiring needs.