JPMorgan Chase takes aim at youth unemployment

Naomi Capellan goes to school in a hangar, much to her delight. The senior at Aviation High School in Queens, New York, is preparing for a career in aviation management.

"I didn't realize how great I was at hands-on work and just how much I loved it until I was actually here," she said

Capellan, who is captain of the girls' basketball team, is exactly the kind of student JPMorgan Chase (JPM) has in mind for its "New Skills for Youth Initiative." The five-year, $75 million program, which the banking giant announced Tuesday, aims to help students get the training they need to become technicians, machinists, coders and nurses, as well as enter other fields where there is economic opportunity.

Young people can use the leg up. Youth unemployment in the U.S. is 11 percent, more than double the national jobless rate and still historically high as the economy continues to heal from the financial crisis.

That "saps people of hope and opportunity in life," said JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, noting that unemployment also tops 20 percent for minorities.

That puts younger people at risk of being left behind at a time the U.S. labor market is gaining strength. Employers added 2.6 million jobs last year, making 2015 the second-best for hiring since 1999, when the technology sector was booming.

"The economy is improving, but in the downturn youth suffered particularly," said Harvard University economics professor Ken Rogoff. "When they got out of high school or college, jobs were scarce."

Dimon, who visited Aviation High and its unusual classroom last week, believes that there may be a Steve Jobs or a Barack Obama in low-income parts of the country who he hopes will benefit from the the company's new training program.

"We don't know what we are missing because we are not giving people the opportunity," he said. "And it is not a zero-sum game. Everyone can do better if we do something like this."


Speaking of the youth initiative, Dimon added that "the point of all this is a good, well-paying job, not just a degree. It's a degree with a certificate that leads to a job."

Not all the news is grim for younger workers. A growing number of baby boomers are retiring, opening up jobs for 18-to-34-olds.

"There's demand for millennials to fill those positions," said Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi. "Demand for millennials workers will be strong for foreseeable future."

The World Economic Forum will address the issue of youth unemployment at the group's annual meeting, which opens Wednesday in Davos, Switzerland. Among other participants, former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, will appear on a panel called "Educating for Future Security" on Friday. The session will discuss ways to educate, train and help displaced youth in an effort to discourage political radicalization.