Building the Right Workforce for the Right Jobs

A partnership between local schools, industry and JPMorgan Chase puts students on the path to good careers in a growth industry.

January 1, 2020

Nashville desperately needs trained technologists—according to a recent study conducted by JPMorgan Chase and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, job growth in the tech sector grew by 47 percent and will continue to rise until at least 2028.

Dr. Shanna Jackson, President of Nashville State Community College, thinks she might have a solution: creating tech education programs that give students the skills they need to enter the workforce, but move faster than the traditional associate's degree process.

“We're developing a program where people can move at their own pace," Jackson says. “We're engaging with employers to find out what these students need to know in order to get the job done."

Learn and Earn

One of the companies she's working with is Tractor Supply Company, a Fortune 500 rural lifestyle retail chain based in Nashville. Together with Nashville State, Tractor Supply developed “Learn and Earn," a pilot program that combines classroom instruction with real-world work. To enable further collaboration, Jackson gave the company a classroom on campus, which it transformed into a satellite office.

“We want students to more than just job shadow," Jackson says. “We want them to have a real opportunity to do work."

In the summer of 2018, five students joined the pilot program and collaborated on networking projects for the company, all while taking on their regular course load. One of them was William Macklin, a father of two and a student studying IT. Macklin decided to leave his career in law enforcement and pursue a field that would allow him to build a better life for his family.

“They're my main source of motivation," he says. “Some nights, I only get a few hours of sleep, but they help push me during the harder days."

Through the program with Tractor Supply, William has worked to make the company's telecom network more efficient, developed software to automate business processes using robotic process automation-all while earning money he's put toward paying for his degree.

Helping to Build Tomorrow's Workforce

JPMorgan, in tandem with other community partners, including the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Complete Tennessee, and Lipscomb University, is working to help develop programs like this. It has given a $250,000 grant to Nashville State Community College and Columbia State Community College to help programs like this by training faculty and supplementing courses that could help 250 adults progress toward careers in tech each year.

The Nashville commitment is part of JPMorgan Chase's New Skills at Work initiative, a $350 million investment to build a global talented workforce able to meet the growing demand for the future of work.

The Nashville commitment is part of JPMorgan Chase's New Skills at Work initiative, a $350 million investment to build a global talented workforce able to meet the growing demand for the future of work.

“We must remove the stigma of a community college and career education, look for opportunities to upskill or reskill workers, and give those who have been left behind the chance to compete for well-paying careers today and tomorrow," says Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan's Chairman and CEO.

The Right People for the Job

Leaders at Tractor Supply Company say partnerships with Nashville State and other local community colleges are not only mutually beneficial but also necessary for companies to keep pace with the demand for IT advancements.

“As artificial intelligence and automation continue to become more important for companies to stay competitive, we want to make sure we have access to talent," said Glenn Allison, Vice President of AI, Data, and Innovation at Tractor Supply Company in Nashville. “I was really impressed with the students. They are highly engaged, and they did a great job. We saw terrific results from the project we had them work on."

The focus in Nashville is on the city's next generation of workers, and that next generation isn't wasting any time preparing to meet the need.

“It's been the experience of a lifetime and I've enjoyed every minute it." Macklin says.

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