Bank giving $100,000 grant to hit skills gap in Chattanooga area

Bill Kilbride, Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, left, Hamp Johnston, J P Morgan Chase Executive Director for East Tennessee Commercial Banking, and Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke announce a Skills Gap job grant of $100,000 to help area job seekers Thursday at City Hall.
photo Chase hires Hamp Johnston to lead Middle Market Banking in East Tennessee.

Taking aim at the skills gap of people in the Chattanooga area, the nation's biggest bank is providing money to fund a study to better connect job-seekers to employers.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is giving $100,000 to address the mismatch between employer needs and the skills of those seeking jobs, said Hamp Johnston, who leads JPMorgan Chase's commercial banking in East Tennessee.

The skills gap analysis will "help our community build a road map for potential employees to gain the skills needed to be successful in the tech, automotive and advanced manufacturing, and health care industries," he said.

The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce will oversee the study and then look at ways to fund its implementation, said Bill Kilbride, the business group's chief executive.

He said the plan will provide the city with data and help coordinate efforts to tackle the skills gap issue.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said people are willing to work and companies need employees, and the study will help build a solution to address the skills gap issue.

The goal is to provide "paths to a middle class," he said. "It's an important step."

According to the Chamber, many local employers struggle to fill vacancies, especially technical and skilled positions. At the same time, aspiring workers are unemployed and an unprecedented share of the workforce remains underemployed.

The grant will help Chattanooga take the first step in a multi-phase process.

"This investment demonstrates the confidence JPMorgan Chase places in our community," said Kilbride. "JPMorgan Chase puts Chattanooga in the national spotlight along with several high-profile cities - including Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami - where the global firm has also invested."

Analysis results will be published in a final skills-gap report that will be used to convene local governments, educational institutions, private foundations and businesses to create solutions. The recommended solutions will be implemented by employers and educational institutions to align training programs with current and projected workforce skills requirements.

"This effort will continue Chattanooga's long history of leveraging public-private partnerships," Johnston said.

In 2013, JPMorgan Chase launched New Skills at Work, a $250 million, five-year initiative aimed at helping accelerate efforts to develop demand-driven skills training.

In Chattanooga, JPMorgan Chase's commercial banking office is located in Liberty Tower. Johnston said the office has four employees and he's looking at filling two more slots.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318.