Chase donates $1.7M to diversify Delaware workforce
WILMINGTON – In support of Black History Month and a local community where nearly a quarter of all residents are Black, banking giant JPMorgan Chase donated $1.7 million to four organizations Tuesday to support efforts to diversify Delaware’s workforce and open new opportunities to previously disadvantaged communities.
Chase, which is Delaware’s largest for-profit employer with more than 11,000 workers in offices in the city of Wilmington, its suburbs and near Christiana, has made more than $9 million in previous commitments around the state, but the total $1.7 million was one of the single largest in recent memory.
“We all believe that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not,” said Tom Horne, Delaware market leader for Chase, at a public announcement in Wilmington on Tuesday. “For us as a company, this is not just the right thing to do. It is a business imperative. We believe that part of our purpose is making dreams possible for everyone everywhere every day.”
Jac Rivers, vice president and program officer for global philanthropy at Chase, noted that economic inequality has been worsening over the past 50 years. According to a 2022 report that looked at 2019 data, Black Americans had only one-sixth of the wealth of white Americans on average. The median net worth of white families was $188,000, nearly eight times that of Black peers at $24,000. In Wilmington, the median household income for Black residents is $30,000.
“And we know that the pandemic has only accelerated the concentration of wealth,” she said. “Wealth is accumulated in two ways: It builds slowly from interest on previous wealth, and it builds slowly from income or business revenue. So, because most Black households don’t have any previous wealth, then home equity, financial assets and income become the focus to help build wealth over time.”
The largest single recipient of funding was Delaware State University, which will receive $709,000 over three years to help develop a new part-time, evening associate degree program in early childhood education with a business development focus. The historically Black university in Dover is building a $30 million Early Childhood Education Innovation Center that will open a pathway to child care credentialing and the building of successful small businesses.
“Our childcare workers are highly underpaid, but they also need to see a career trajectory so they can build and change lives for the people that they serve, their families and their communities,” DSU President Tony Allen said.
Wilmington-based coding bootcamp Code Differently will receive $500,000 over two years in partnership with the Wilmington Housing Authority to launch IT career opportunities for youth from underserved communities. A bootcamp led by Black founders Tariq Hook and Stephanie Eldridge, Code Differently has trained over 200 Delaware adults for technology careers in the local market over the past two years with Black adults making up over 70% of their participants.
While coding training is not necessarily difficult, a student must arrive prepared and ready to learn, which can be a challenge for the underprivileged, Hook said.
“We’re creating a program for African American and Hispanic 18 to 24 year olds where we don’t only teach them how to do technology, but we also teach them how to live, how to pay bills, how to manage their finances, and take care of everything so that they can truly start to build generational wealth,” he explained.
L.E.E.P., a nonprofit focused on ending intergenerational poverty and closing the wealth gap in Black and Brown communities, will receive $410,000 over two years to support the expansion of the nonprofit’s Pathway to Apprenticeship (P2A) program. It is the only state Department of Labor-certified pre-apprenticeship program designed specifically for unions that leads to direct entry into union construction trades. The grant will increase capacity in the program by 50% and provide increased program support to youth and those who are justice-involved.
“We only started this organization four years ago, and even despite COVID, we have been able to place 118 individuals into careers – about 60% of whom had re-entered society after previous criminal records and about 12% of whom are women, who traditionally are not represented in construction industry,” said Gwenevere Motley, executive director of L.E.E.P.
Finally, coding bootcamp Zip Code Wilmington will receive $160,000 over two years to pilot a Zip Code Prep Program to address inequities within STEM education and the tech sector, creating a bridge for more Black and Latino candidates in Zip Code’s full-time, 12-week training program.
Desa Burton, executive director of Zip Code Wilmington, said that she is proud of students who came in earning $30,000 a year and walked out with job offers that often top $100,000. Despite graduating more than 600 students to date, Burton said they hope to add more diversity to cohorts where about a third of students are minorities on average, and train those in the city.
“We have folks who are packing everything they own into a car and driving to get here to this opportunity, but then we have people in 19801 who don’t even know what this is,” she said. “The Zip Code Prep program is here to help bridge the gap for people who know a little bit about technology to what these careers are.”
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