Why is JPMorgan Chase Investing $1.1 Million in Boston’s Workforce?
Ambitious young professionals like Cambodian native Uy Hou are turning their dreams into reality with a little help from both public and private partners.
Arriving in the United States at 19, Cambodian native Uy Hou was lonely.
He had waited 11 years to come to the land of opportunity, all the while dreaming about becoming a scientist. But without a firm grasp of the language, or a high school diploma, Hou began working odd jobs anywhere that would hire him. When the restaurant he was working for in Texas shuttered its doors in 2007, Uy decided to move in with his sister in Boston.
But Hou’s luck was about to change. He was hired at a popular breakfast spot in the Allston neighborhood, where he met a co-worker who had just received her high school diploma through Jewish Vocational Service’s (JVS) Adult Diploma Pathway program.
“I never had the opportunity to complete my high school diploma in my country, so this opportunity was a really big deal for me,” Hou said.
Learning the Ropes
Enrolling in JVS’s program reignited Hou’s passion for science, one that he hadn’t be able to explore since he left Cambodia.
After 24 months of hard work, Hou was not only a proud recipient of a high school diploma, but also enrolled in JVS’s Bridges to College program with a focus on biotechnology. Determined to work in science, he went on to earn his certificate in biotechnology from Quincy College and landed a job working in the laboratory at Finch Therapeutics.
“I work on transformation bacteria. Basically inserting genes into bacteria and letting them produce the protein you want,” Hou said. “Eventually those proteins become medicines. It’s fascinating.”
But Hou’s story of success could have turned out differently. Without the right skills and education, many young people entering the labor market find themselves stuck in low-skill, low-wage jobs or, worse, unemployed and out of school. And that education matters, 66% of those who do not have a high school degree in Boston earn less than $25,000, a sharp contrast compared to only 15.8% of bachelor’s degree holders who earn the same amount.footnote 1
To alleviate this growing problem, public and private partners across the country are teaming up to help people develop the skills they need to compete in today’s job market. JPMorgan Chase, for example, has invested more than $350 million in jobs and skills development programs around the world.
The company just announced an additional $1.1 million investment to help Boston residents develop the necessary skills to secure in-demand jobs. That means organizations like JVS in Boston will receive the funding they need to connect non-traditional students, like Hou, to high-paying careers.
However, creating opportunity is not limited to supporting the nonprofit sector. JPMorgan Chase’s expansion to New England is also creating up to 350 new jobs that pay no less than $18 per hour, a full four dollars above Boston’s current living wage of $14footnote 2 per hour; in essence, producing the same high-quality jobs they are supporting through skills development programs in the region.
Changing the Game
In 2016, Brookings named Boston one the most unequal cities in the nation due to its growing income inequality.footnote 3 A reality that also fuels the skills gap, the void between the skills that job seekers have and those that employers want. Programs that help to close that gap, like JVS, are vital to the future success of the city.
JVS will have a new neighbor and partner in Downtown Crossing, the heart of Boston’s business district, when the first Chase branch opens later this year. Collaborations between organizations like JVS and JPMorgan Chase are working to meet employer demands with hardworking individuals who also happen to face academic, language and/or financial barriers - solving two economic problems with one solution.
Case in point: In just over three years, Uy Hou changed his life and the trajectory for his family. Next summer Hou plans to start his Associates’ Degree in biotechnology, something he never dreamed of when he came to America 14 years ago.
“I worked hard to achieve my goals, but I have JVS to thank for my life today,” said Hou. “Education changed my life. It made me confident in myself and my ability to find a job I love. It gave me freedom.”
- 2015 Office of Workforce Development Workforce Report Booklet(Opens Overlay)
- Living Wage Calculation for Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA(Opens Overlay)
- City and metropolitan income inequality data reveal ups and downs through 2016(Opens Overlay)