Healthcare is one of today’s fastest-growing job sectors. As a populous older generation retires, the demand for skilled labor in this area will continue to grow. And unlike lots of other jobs these days, healthcare jobs aren't so easily automated or moved offshore.
But the key word here is “skilled.” The healthcare industry depends on a myriad of middle-skilled employees — like nurses, technicians, and caregivers — who require training beyond a high school diploma. But our nation’s bifurcated education system, split between high school and college, doesn’t deliver on that demand.
We've reported before on how some funders are keen to help low-income workers, especially young people of color, move into an expanding healthcare workforce. We've also written on growing funder interest in middle-skilled jobs, which can offer an upward path to young people who can't afford college or aren't prepared for it.
- A Funder Zeroes In On One Promising Solution to Inequality: Middle-Skilled Jobs
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Funders from the financial sector are especially interested in addressing the “skills gap” between high school-educated workers and good jobs like those in healthcare. Almost as one, the major banks have debuted high-profile workforce development campaigns in recent years focusing on low-income youth and young people of color. From Citi to Bank of America to Capital One, financial funders are becoming a mainstay in this area.
For its part, JPMorgan Chase is zeroing in on the skills gap with its $250 million “New Skills at Work” initiative (launched in late 2013) and another $75 million “New Skills for Youth” program. Recently, JPMorgan announced a round of grants to move low-income Americans into middle-skill healthcare jobs. Totaling $8.6 million, the grants fund a range of strategies. They include direct training through apprenticeships and educational partnerships, improving hiring practices, and studying the problem.
Some notable recipients are healthcare networks like Norwell Health and the Seton Healthcare Family, as well as researchers at the Urban Institute and the National Employment Law Project. In 2015, JPMorgan Chase provided initial support for the Chicago-based Healthcare Workforce Collaborative, a recruitment and training project uniting the efforts of several local health providers. This year’s grants continue that funding.
Back in 2015, we called JPMorgan’s initial research partnership with the Urban institute “unusual.” But lately, with more corporate money flowing to policy work around financial inclusion, among other issues, this partnership stands out less.
Of course, it's not just corporate funders who are engaged in grantmaking to close the skills gap broadly and create opportunities through healthcare jobs specifically. Such funders as Robert Wood Johnson, Kellogg, the California Endowment, and Atlantic Philanthropies have all given in this same space, as we've reported.
In addition, a number of new funder-backed matchmaking efforts are springing up to help connect workers and employers. The Markle Foundation, in collaboration with LinkedIn, has been doing some interesting things in this space through the Rework America initiative and a new platform called SKILLFUL that's now operating in Arizona and Colorado to make employment connections.
As we've also reported, JPMorgan has backed an effort called petrochemworks.com, an online tool to help young people find good jobs in the petrochemical industry and get training for such jobs. In New Orleans, the bank has partnered with Bloomberg Philanthropies to fund YouthForce NOLA, a collaborative effort offering specialized technical education.
Today's frustrating skills gap might be described as another symptom of the transition from an industrial economy to a service economy, with healthcare jobs epitomizing the “service” part. That shift is hardly news at this point, but the U.S. education system and hiring practices have been slow to catch up in ways that build a new middle class. That’s where philanthropy, including by banks, might make a difference.