JPMorgan to spend $350 million on skills

Like many companies, JPMorgan Chase expects artificial intelligence and other new technologies will change how its employees will work over the next decade. The company announced recently that it will spend $350 million over five years to support training programs, invest in community colleges and conduct research on ways to help less-skilled workers find better jobs and careers. The goal is to help train workers in the U.S. and globally, not just its own employees.

Jennie Sparandara, JPMorgan Chase's Head of Workforce Initiatives, explains why the company has taken this step. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. Why has the company launched this program?

A. The focus is really on supporting people who are most at risk of being left behind, who are not sharing in the kind of economic growth and prosperity that we're seeing in places. So the funding supports job training organizations, nonprofits, community colleges, other kinds of educational institutions that are really working in partnership with employers to understand what skills are needed, what credentials have value and then how do we prepare people with those skills and abilities.

We have a business outlook survey and every year it tracks what are the top concerns for business. And this year in 2019 number one is talent. So it's surpassed even growing revenue and sales.

Q. You are also going to forecast upcoming skills that JPMorgan Chase employees will need as part of this initiative. How will that work?

A. Researchers at M.I.T. have developed some tools to look at the suitability of certain skills for machine learning. So it's a way that you can look at how might a job change with the development of new technology. They have not turned their attention yet to financial services, and that's one of the things we're going to enable them to do.

Q. This initiative follows an earlier five-year, $250 million skills development program. What results have you seen from that?

A. (For example,) we have a great relationship with Columbus State Community College (in Columbus, Ohio). We look to examples like that and say, OK, how do we export that to other communities?

Q. Do you feel that it's harder now than in the past to forecast future skill needs?

A. I've been doing this for about 10 years. I think the pace of change has genuinely accelerated. And I think business is more accustomed to moving with the speed of that pace of change. And it's a place where we can really support the community based organizations — the non-profits, the educational institutions — because they don't necessarily have access to the same type of information.