BY CHAUNCY LENNON, HEAD OF WORKFORCE INITIATIVES FOR JPMORGAN CHASE & CO.

When Taylor Ferguson started as a freshman at Towson University in Baltimore, she was already well ahead of her nursing program classmates. As a high school student in the Academy of Health Professions Program at Western School of Technology and Environmental Science, she earned certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid and learned to take vital signs, make hospital beds, and communicate with patients, physicians, nurses, and hospital administrators. The experience she developed proved invaluable in her nursing program, and it also set her up for long-term career success.

Skilled workers are in high demand in the health-care industry. The need for registered nurses in the United States is expected to grow about 16 percent between now and 2024, which is a much faster rate than the average for other occupations. The median annual salary for entry-level registered nurses is nearly $67,000, and nursing is also a strong career pathway to future opportunities. With the skills Taylor is developing, she is well on her way to a high-skill, good-paying career.

Unfortunately, economic success is increasingly out of reach for many other young people. As the economy has evolved to require a more skilled workforce, not enough young people have access to the college and career pathways that build the skills good jobs increasingly demand. Too few students get the same opportunities that Taylor received from the Academy of Health Professions program.

Today, the youth unemployment rate in the U.S. is more than twice the overall national rate. The unemployment rate for young black people is about four times the national rate. Five million young people, including a fifth of blacks and Latinos, are neither working nor in school. They are stuck in low-skill, low-wage jobs and are missing out on opportunities to build their skills and advance economically. These challenges put significant strains on workers and their families, as well as on businesses and local economies.

We must address the youth career crisis, and this needs to start in our schools. Career and technical education systems must be better aligned with the needs of business. This will ensure that the necessary skills training provided to young people matches them up with high-demand jobs in growth industries in their communities, such as health care, advanced manufacturing, and technology.

We know that these types of jobs are out there—one-third of U.S. companies report having job openings for which they cannot find qualified workers with the correct skills. Economists project that by 2020, over 60 percent of new jobs will require more than a high school diploma, but about half of those new jobs will not require a four-year degree. Yet only one in three Americans in their mid-20s today has graduated from college, and only 10 percent have a degree from a two-year college or the right training or certificate to get a job requiring technical skills that pays above the living wage.

This is why JPMorgan Chase is investing $75 million over the next five years to improve career readiness for young people through its New Skills for Youth initiative. We intend to use our resources, leverage our expertise, and convene government, business, and education leaders to confront career education challenges so that we can get our young people the skills needed to land good-paying jobs.

First, we are launching a competition among U.S. states to incentivize them to transform how they design and deliver career-focused education. JPMorgan Chase is working with the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium to award grants to 20 to 25 states for planning and early implementation of long-term career readiness education programs that align with the needs of area employers. Following that, additional grants will be awarded to 10 to 15 states, with up to $2 million per state over three years, to implement and assess their demand-driven career and technical education programs. To succeed in the competition, states will bring together education leaders, business partners, and community partners to set ambitious goals for expanding access to and preparation for careers in high-skill, high-wage jobs.

Second, to promote global innovation in career-focused education, we will invest in city and school programs around the world that are developing new and effective models of high-quality, career-focused education. We hope to increase the number of students, particularly disadvantaged young people, who earn meaningful postsecondary and workforce credentials. We will document and study the level of success of each program so that educators, policymakers, training providers, and employers around the world are enabled to identify and replicate the most promising approaches.

New Skills for Youth is an ambitious initiative that aims to prepare young people for high-skill jobs to compete in the global economy. By investing in career-focused education in cities and schools worldwide, we can develop new and effective models that are aligned with the needs of emerging industries. These services can give young people a running start in their careers, ensuring they are equipped with the skills and experience needed to compete for good-paying jobs and long-term career opportunities. As for Taylor, she’s excited about her immediate prospects in nursing, but she’s even more excited about the endless possibilities she sees for herself in the future working in health care.