U.S. Bank joins banks investing in workforce assistance programs

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U.S. Bank has become the latest lender to spend millions of dollars to provide job training for those left behind in the recent economic and technology booms.

The Minneapolis bank said Thursday it would make $8.2 million in grants to nonprofits that help arm potential workers with cutting-edge skills, promote small-business growth and teach financial literacy.

U.S. Bank's chief social responsibility officer, Reba Dominski, said the banking industry and its commercial clients worry they lack enough workers with the talent to do the kinds of work that will need to be done in the future.

“We bank a lot of small businesses, and a lot of their concern year after year is succession planning, who is going to run this business,” Dominski said. “There is also the reality that when you look at how fast the world is changing, we need a different skill set to meet the changing needs of our customers.”

Dominski cited recent estimates that show 60% of all jobs will require training beyond high school by next year, leading to a potential shortage of 5 million workers. Dominski also pointed to a survey that found about two-thirds of banking industry officials believe there is a digital talent gap in financial services. U.S. Bank has formed partnerships with groups that help teach children, especially girls, how to code.

“We want to make sure employees are ready for jobs in banking,” Dominski said, adding they wanted to make sure more of their hires “reflect the diverse communities we serve.”

There have been setbacks to finding enough skilled workers in low-income areas banks serve or are expanding into, said Center for Economic Inclusion CEO Tawanna Black, whose organization in Minneapolis received $1 million from U.S. Bank.

“If you don’t have people who’ve walked in similar shoes in your bank, you can’t think like they do,” Black said. The center has been working informally with executives from several large banks on the issue, she said.

U.S. Bank is also giving $1 million to the Wilder Foundation to help break cycles of poverty. The bank and the foundation are starting a forum where finance companies can listen to families and help them better understand their products.

Earlier this year, JPMorgan Chase committed $350 million to programs that offer high-tech training and encourage employers to hire workers who go through the schooling.

“The new world of work is about skills, not necessarily degrees,” JPMorganCEO Jamie Dimon said at the time. “Unfortunately, too many people are stuck in low-skill jobs that have no future, and too many businesses cannot find the skilled workers they need. We must remove the stigma of a community college and career education.”

Besides the donation it got from U.S. Bank, the Center for Economic Inclusion received a $400,000 grant from JPMorgan. That grant coincided with JPMorgan's opening of branches in Minneapolis as part of its expansion strategy.

Beyond job training programs, the center is also working to ensure employers are ready to take on new workers that come from poverty. In many cases, Brown said, newly trained workers farmed out by staffing agents are hired as temporary employees who do not receive full benefits like health care. This lag time before they are transitioned to a full-time employee can last as long as two years, Brown said.

The organization works with employers to make sure the new hires they make come with full benefits.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m making $17 an hour,” Brown said. “If I don’t have benefits, I don’t have benefits.”

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Workforce management Corporate philanthropy Economy JPMorgan Chase U.S. Bank