Investing in Ohio’s future by Investing in Its Students

April 19, 2023

As the end of summer neared, the Columbus school district was gearing up for another successful school year. On a sunny day in August, the district hosted a back-to-school resource fair for families filled with free books, backpacks, and school supplies.

One attendee was Lisa Gray, the President of Ohio Excels, a nonprofit coalition of business leaders committed to improving education for every Ohio student. Gray and her team were there to spread the word about career exploration opportunities for students. Part of a new job-training initiative funded by JPMorgan Chase, the $7 million, five-year commitment made in 2020 will prepare Columbus’s high school students—particularly those from underserved communities—for high-value careers in industries that have lacked diverse representation in the past.

The initiative is a collaborative effort between the Ohio Department of Education, Ohio Department of Higher Education, Columbus City Schools, Columbus State Community College and Ohio State University. In total, these educational institutions serve more than 150,000 students.

A Vision for the Future

“I think part of the reason that JPMorgan Chase chose Columbus for the job-training initiative is because this builds on other work that’s happening in the community,” says Gray. “Great progress has been made over the years, but we must continue to build on that success, get better at what we’re doing and, ultimately, provide more families with great educational opportunities that set their kids up for success.”

The payoff of that work is apparent every day. Gray recounts a story of how career pathway programs can truly change the trajectory of a child’s life.

“I was on a call just this morning with a former principal who had recently ran into one of her students who had gone through a career pathway. He shared that through his employment, he bought the house that his mother had only ever been able to rent,” says Gray. “It gave me goosebumps. I mean, that’s really what this work is about.”

Building More Equitable Career Pathways

By providing meaningful exposure to careers in IT, health care and advanced manufacturing—as well as access to mentors, internships and other work-based learning experiences—the program can provide high school students a smoother transition to a two-year college program at Columbus State or a four-year program at Ohio State University.

 “We need to ensure that kids are not wasting time, they’re not wasting money and they’re getting what they need to be employed,” Gray explains.

To do that, the participants in the job-training program have a leadership team that meets twice a month. These leaders work with community-based partners to remove barriers to participating in career programs—like lack of access to reliable transportation or childcare—that underserved young people might face.

Simultaneously, working groups are digging into the data to evaluate existing career pathways offered to students and find ways to make those pathways more equitable — all the while identifying gaps and finding ways to enhance career advising and academic supports.

A Vision for the Future

“In 2018, less than 50 percent of Ohioans earned a postsecondary degree or high-value credential,” says Gray. “This program will help students seeking higher education—and, by offering real world experience, we have an opportunity to support students in earning a living wage, close skills gaps, help Ohio businesses and fuel our state’s economy.”

Corrine Burger, JPMorgan Chase Columbus Location Leader, agrees. “Building on our longstanding commitment to Ohio, JPMorgan Chase is focused on ensuring that Ohio students have the necessary skills and resources to contribute to a more inclusive economy,” she explains. “Ohio Excels is one of the many ways we invest in young Ohioans and the states workforce.”

Learn more about how JPMorgan Chase is making a difference in the communities where we live and work.