Business & Tech

Teen job programs get $17 million boost

JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon will announce the grants.

Win McNamee/Getty Images/File

JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon will announce the grants.

Internships aren’t just about filing papers and making copies anymore.

Today, students need technical skills, such as the ability to create Excel spreadsheets, to get in the door at many companies.

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In an attempt to help more teens get the experience they need to enter the workforce, the financial services firm JPMorgan Chase & Co. is investing $17 million over the next five years for summer jobs programs in 19 cities, including an initial $100,000 grant to the Boston Private Industry Council.

JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon will be at Brigham and Women’s Hospital on Monday afternoon to announce the investment.

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The Boston Private Industry Council, known as PIC, plans to use the money to bolster a program that places 16-year-olds in paid work-based training programs that create pathways toward professional internships.

This summer, 20 teens will be placed in these training programs, with wages subsidized by the JPMorgan grant, at organizations such as the South End Technology Center. The programs will introduce them to technology skills needed in the workplace. PIC career specialists will then help these teens move on to career-oriented internships next summer at employers such as Sanofi Genzyme, State Street Corp., and General Electric Co.

The program will target students of color from low-income families who don’t have the opportunities that teens from wealthier families may have.

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The PIC launched the tech training program last year with the help of a $50,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase. In the past, the aim was to get students work experience of any kind, but the focus is shifting to a more “longitudinal” one that creates a pipeline for higher-level jobs, said PIC executive director Neil Sullivan.

The need has grown as job opportunities for teens have decreased dramatically, caused in part by older workers taking jobs formerly filled by teens and technology displacing lower-skilled workers in some sectors.

Only 30 percent of 16-to-19-year-olds nationwide worked last year, compared with 45 percent in 2000.

“Those of us over 30 learned the habits of paid work because we had summer jobs. In the second half of the 20th century that was America’s job training system for youth — jobs at the mall,” Sullivan said.

Now, the retail sector has been decimated, and the training system must be upgraded with a 21st-century focus. “The skill level is higher than it has been historically, so we need to use subsidized employment more purposely to develop the skills needed to compete for private internships,” he said.

The grant from JPMorgan Chase, which has 800 employees in Boston, comes at a good time, Sullivan noted, as state funding dipped more than $1.5 million in the past year. In the past two years, the financial firm has invested $5 million in summer youth employment programs around the country.

“We know that helping young people build skills and work experience while they’re in high school leads to long-term economic benefits,” said Jennie Sparandara, vice president of global philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase. “Every year, unfortunately, there are fewer opportunities out there than people who want them.”

Katie Johnston can be reached at katie.johnston@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.
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