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Op-ed: Orchestrating Detroit’s Comeback: Closing the Skills Gap

April 17, 2015 – Chauncy Lennon and Pamela Moore, U.S. News

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.

JPMorgan ChaseDavis 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. Its Machinist Training Institute not only taught Davis the skills he needed to land a good paying manufacturing job, but it has paved the way for a possible future career. Davis 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.

Davis’ 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 the official unemployment reach 15 percent, disproportionately impacting low-income and low-skill residents. But as the economy has recovered, many businesses have been in desperate need to find workers with the right skills. Unfortunately, some of those residents seeking work lack the skills necessary to fill these in-demand jobs.

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