LeadersUp Launches Business Jobs Social Responsibility S.O.A.R. Initiative with Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) 

(Left to right): Scott Lee, Senior Workforce Manager, LAWA; Jeffery T. D. Wallace, LeadersUp; John Roberson III, Chief of Staff, LeadersUp; Alphonso Reed, Business Development Executive, Watts Labor Community Action Committee (WLCAC); Adrienne Hutchinson, CTE Navigator, LAUSD Adult & Career Education

JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon, in a recent opinion article on CNN.com, issued a call to action for businesses, communities and local governments to break down the silos that prevent them from working together to create Opportunity Markets and ensure that the most disparate members of their communities aren’t left behind. 

 “The best programs address this gap,” he writes, “and ultimately improve the diversity of our workforce, and the health of the economy.” 

 Dimon characterized the need to catalyze collaboration between government, business and education as “urgent” and emphasized that local policy efforts and education solutions must be “meaningful.” Translation: employers can’t simply do a fly over but must invest in people to drive and sustain inclusive growth. 

 At a time when the majority of executives at U.S. companies large and small, across industry sectors, describe challenges with hiring and retaining workers as a significant threat to growth and their bottom lines, Dimon is saying, emphatically, that business must to play a more active role in facilitating the expansion of Opportunity Markets if they are to thrive. Inclusive growth is the new fuel of the American economy, and we must be intentional around driving it so that people living in the most historically marginalized communities can maximize their participation in the economy. One way we accomplish this is by equipping the next generation of diverse talent with the skills and social capital they need to access Opportunity Markets and fully participate. We must give them more than a job but define and direct them toward pathways to build and sustain wealth and advance through the process. 

 Some might call these lofty goals. But from our perspective at LeadersUp, these are necessary steps to achieve equilibrium between the demand for skilled talent and the supply of talent. And that equilibrium generates transformative opportunity and catalyzes mobility for the most marginalized citizens. 

Amber Meshack, Director of Business, Jobs & Social Responsibility, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA)

 Will company bottom lines be hurt by this? No. In fact, the opposite will happen. Companies do well by doing good. There’s research proving this, and evidence of it right here in our great state of California led, in fact, by JPMorgan Chase. The financial giant is being intentional around local hiring and diversity to fill positions at the new Chase Center in San Francisco. By focusing on diversity, they’re evolving and catalyzing change from an employer perspective. 

 That’s something we need to think about here in L.A. as the expansion of the Los Angeles World Airports creates a bevy of jobs requiring a strategy around building an inclusive pipeline of talent and creating pathways to advancement. Companies must recognize that the community is as important a stakeholder as their shareholders. To be globally competitive, we need businesses to invest in the next generation of talent. 

 So, kudos to LAWA for partnering with LeadersUp to develop an inclusive hiring strategy for the expansion of LAX. Together, we’ve launched the Business Jobs Social Responsibility S.O.A.R. (skill-up, onboard, advance and retain) initiative to aggregate an Opportunity Market designed to drive sustainability at LAWA. In addition, we have formed a S.O.A.R. Business Council comprised of business leaders who value diversity and inclusion and have committed to championing the S.O.A.R. initiative with their colleagues and industry sector. 

 At our inaugural meeting last month, employers were very interested in diversity and inclusion training and tapping into new and innovative ways to best engage diverse talent. They recognize part of the work they have to do in providing the jobs is also shifting their culture and examining their own policies and practices as it relates to being more inclusive. 

Jeffery T. D. Wallace, President & CEO, LeadersUp; Amber Meshack, LAWA; Scott Lee, Senior Workforce Manager, LAWA

 S.O.A.R. has the potential to become a shining example of how we activate this type of intentionality from an employer perspective. We’re forging cross-sector collaboration between employers, government and education to bring their assets to bear for the most marginalized citizens of L.A. I’ve coined an acronym for this model, A.C.E., which stands for academic, career and economic opportunity. In L.A. it looks like this: The City of Los Angeles has taken the important step of designating impact zones that will enable LAWA to target the lowest socio-economic neighborhoods. Government then leverages its resources to make sure residents have the resources they need to match their potential and that education is tied to employer demand. Employers get the talent they need and young adults who were neither working nor in school get on a path to a brighter future. 

 S.O.A.R. is an example of what Dimon is talking about and the kind of cross-sector collaboration we can and should replicate. Catalyzing opportunity seems far less lofty a goal with collaboration and a commitment to embracing one of our most valuable assets, and that is our diversity. 

 Jeffery T. D. Wallace is President and CEO of LeadersUp, a nonprofit talent development accelerator that bridges the divide between the untapped potential of young people and the business challenge of finding and keeping the best talent. For more information, please visit LeadersUp.org. If you would like to become an employer partner, please email Katie Ho at [email protected].