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For immediate release — May 21, 2015
(DALLAS) — As the Dallas economy grows, so does the number of opportunities for thousands of middle-skills jobs that would help fight the growth of poverty in the area. However, people looking for employment in the DFW area don’t have the skills they need to qualify for those jobs. That’s why a partnership between the Dallas County Community College District and JPMorgan Chase is critical.
Building career pathways through middle-skill jobs is the focus of that partnership, especially in the areas of health care and information technology. Those elements are part of a report issued today by JPMorgan Chase titled “The Dallas Skills Gap” (read the full report: PDF - 1MB), which is a component of the company’s New Skills at Work program. Dr. Joe May, DCCCD’s chancellor, joined JPMorgan Chase executives, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and other city and business officials to discuss the impact of the report and Chase’s financial support for the region through New Skills at Work.
Last year, JPMorgan Chase committed $5 million to fund workforce programs in Dallas as part of its $250 million, five-year global New Skills at Work workforce readiness initiative. DCCCD received $500,000 of that initial investment to fund a program called Project OnRamp, which provides training for certified nursing aides so that they can become patient care technicians and increase their wages by 20 percent. This year, Chase committed an additional $2 million for workforce training in Tarrant County, bringing its total commitment for the DFW metroplex to $7 million.
Chase also announced two new grants totaling $700,000 — one to the Parkland Foundation to support its Rise to Success Fellows workforce program and the second to Per Scholas. Parkland’s Rise to Success program is designed to create a pipeline of future health care professionals, and DCCCD will provide the educational instruction. Per Scholas is a workforce training program that leads to a professional Comp TIA A+ certification.
Why is such an investment in people and jobs important? The Chase report is a roadmap of statistics and recommendations that explains the need for more workforce training in the area and focuses on the availability of middle-skill jobs.
Middle-skill positions require some education or training beyond high school but not a bachelor’s degree. At least 25 percent of the workforce for each middle-skill occupation featured in Chase’s report earns more than the region’s “living wage,” which is $18.08 per hour for a family with two adults and one child.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area added more jobs than any other metropolitan area in 2014 — the first time since 1990 that DFW topped the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ rankings for metro job growth. DFW’s economy currently has 960,000 middle-skill jobs, which represent 29 percent of the region’s workforce. Based on a study of recent hiring trends, the local economy is projected to generate 42,000 middle-skill jobs annually through 2018. Middle-skill positions pay an average median wage of $24.47 hourly, which is 35 percent higher than the region’s living wage. However, many job seekers don’t have the necessary skills, training or education to fill those available new jobs that pay well.
“This region is thriving,” said Rawlings. “However, more must be done to help aspiring workers attain good jobs that are waiting to be filled.”
The growth of middle-skill jobs presents an opportunity for Dallas to address the city’s poverty rate which, at 24.4 percent, is among the highest in the nation. The poverty rate in Fort Worth is 20.1 percent, which also is higher than the national average of 14.5 percent.
And, according to the Chase report, almost 1 million DFW residents lack a high school diploma, which is a “significant obstacle” to obtaining jobs that pay well. A key goal of the New Skills at Work initiative is to strengthen the “first rung” of career pathway programming so that low-income, low-skill adults can more effectively prepare for and earn middle-skill credentials.
“There is great strength in the region’s economy, and there’s a high-quality education and training infrastructure already in place here in DFW,” said Chauncey Lennon, head of workforce initiatives for JPMorgan Chase. “What we must do is collaborate and work strategically to make sure the community and its tremendous resources are aligned in a way that leads to success for both workers and employers.”
That’s where DCCCD comes in.
The DCCCD board of trustees have identified five key initiatives for the district, and the chancellor has focused on issues related to poverty, workforce and the economy, and demographics. Those issues are key factors the system must consider as academic programs and workforce initiatives move forward that will benefit students, businesses and the community.
Earning middle-skill credentials is an integral part of that plan, according to May.
“The $500,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase provides a win-win situation for local employers who need skilled workers and also for people who are underemployed and who want to train for a better future,” explained May. “Project OnRamp is one program that can address the need for more health care workers who have middle-skill training. The Chase report also emphasizes the need for more IT workers with middle skills, which we also will address.”
Two DCCCD students shared their Project OnRamp stories, too.
Dominque Island, an El Centro College student, doubled her income after just four weeks of training in the program. Although she had completed some basic training in nursing, Island was working part time in retail. When she learned about Project OnRamp, she knew it was her chance to sign up for the tuition-paid professional training she might not have been able to afford.
After she earned her EKG certification, Island was able to get a full-time job at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, where she monitors the heart rates of patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit. She also is continuing her nurse’s training as part of Project OnRamp and plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
“Instead of making minimum wage, now I make $15 an hour, with medical benefits. It makes a huge difference,” she said. “I was able to buy a car and pay for more nursing courses. I am able to help my parents rather than depend on them for so much help. I am very thankful that I came across Project OnRamp.”
The Dallas Morning News shared the story of another Project OnRamp student, Shanté Suber. Through the program, she also completed her EKG certificate in March (from Brookhaven College) and will finish a phlebotomy course at Eastfield College next month. She currently earns about $29,000 a year as a nurse assistant at Silverado Hospice Dallas.
Suber hopes the training she’s taking through Project OnRamp will help her earn a higher wage. She said, “I believe it will give me fair job security where I’m at, but I believe it will give me a better opportunity to find a better job.” Suber's goal is to earn $40,000 annually.
For more information about DCCCD’s Project OnRamp program, contact the district’s Health Careers Resource Center at 214-860-2283 or read more at
For more information about the JPMorgan Chase Dallas Skills Gap Report, contact Greg Hassell, JPMorgan Chase media relations, at
email@example.com or 713-419-9208.