Yet Another Bank Turns Its Focus to Work Skills and College Success

The list of banks that are giving money to help poor kids get into college and build skills keeps getting longer. Earlier this year, we reported on Wells Fargo's Go College! initiative, and one of Bank of America Foundation's major funding areas is "workforce development and educational funding," a large portion of which is dedicated toward community and vocational college programs. JP Morgan Chase is also doing big things in this space, as is the Citi Foundation

As we've argued here, a major reason that banks are so into this funding area is that "they hire huge numbers of young people, often of color, to staff their giant operations, from working the teller windows to handling back office responsibilities." 

So we weren't surprised when UBS Americas recently announced a five-year, $10 million initiative that seeks to improve college success among underserved populations. The program, called UBS NextGen Leaders, will initially launch in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and focuses on equipping young African American and Latino men with the skills, knowledge, and experience needed to succeed in college, and compete in the global marketplace. (And, yes, to also work at UBS.)

Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, a nonprofit organization that has provided educational and career programs to young people from underserved and underrepresented communities since 1963, will serve as the lead partner for the program. In addition to recruiting young men of color from urban high schools and providing them with academic, social, and emotional support from Grade 12 through college graduation using the SEO Scholars model, NextGen Leaders will also provide exposure through internships, international excursions, and direct mentoring from UBS employees.

“We are proud to partner with UBS for this vitally important initiative,” said William Goodloe, President and CEO of Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO). “We know our SEO Scholars model works, and we’re excited to be able to help more deserving young men of color reach their goal of college graduation.” Indeed, 95 percent of those who participate in the SEO scholars program graduate from college.

UBS Americas points to the increase in lifetime earnings and upward mobility that results from receiving an associate's or a bachelor's degree as a reason why they decided to focus on this issue. It's curious that UBS didn't also mention that it has a direct stake in improving the work skills of the labor force that it relies on, since there's nothing wrong with that as a motive for giving. 

The White House, which is leading an effort to improve educational and career opportunities for young men of color through an initiative called My Brother's Keeper, was quick to praise UBS Americas. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan saluted UBS’s corporate leadership, stating, "Efforts like these help assure that our increasingly diverse American workforce remains the best in the world."