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When you look at inequities in corporate America, the huge amount of importance put on the junior-year internship is one area that has long been a factor in keeping big companies non-inclusive: That internship is a concept notorious for advantaging students with corporate connections through family and friends, whether it’s nepotism or just knowing who to network with, and students of color have borne the brunt of it.
And yet, “most of these companies in general hire the majority of their incoming class based on their junior internship,” Sekou Kaalund, JPMorgan Chase managing director and head of JPMC’s Advancing Black Pathways, told Technical.ly. “So think about this: If you are from a family that wasn’t corporate, not understanding the corporate background, it could put you at a disadvantage at the most critical point, because that’s going to dictate whether you’re going to get full time employment.”
Advancing Black Pathways, now in its second year, addresses this gap by partnering with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and starting students earlier on the corporate intern path.
“We created Advancing Black Pathways to give freshmen and rising sophomores the opportunity to come [to JPMC] for this apprentice program, to get acclimated to the corporate world of financial services, and then be able to see that, one, they belong, and two, that they can thrive, and three, that there are different types of careers that are available,” Kaalund said.
Delaware, which has a large JPMC presence in Wilmington, falls between its major D.C. and NYC markets, and its own HBCU, Delaware State University, is an active participant in the program.
Financial assistance is an essential part of Advancing Black Pathways.
“We knew that 45% of Black students come from poverty ZIP codes,” Kaalund said. “If you look at Black colleges, anywhere from 70% to 85% are Pell Grant-eligible, so we knew that financial help would be a critical component.” (Technical.ly could not independently confirm these figures.)
Advancing Black Pathways incorporated a financial help session as part of freshman orientation at D.C.’s Howard University for the first time this school year, with over 2,000 students going through the component. Currently, JPMC is working with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to digitize the session and make it accessible to students at all HBCUs.
While Advancing Black Pathways is part of a push to hire 4,000 African-American students within the next five years, Kaalund says that finding talent for JPMC is only part of the goal.
“While I would love for all of them to work with JPMorgan Chase, my primary passion is that these students now have a pathway that is as accessible as possible,” he said.
A facet of ABP internships is to learn about entrepreneurship, encouraging not only corporate career paths, but also business ownership.
“We engage Black-owned businesses in all of these cities, and the students, as part of their internships, work on an issue for a Black business and go back and present to that Black business owner,” he said. “It’s an extra win that these students get to understand and learn about entrepreneurship, and these businesses are able to see this bright young talent and share ideas and insights.”
Another component is informing students that there is more to being employed by a bank than working at a branch or investment banking.
“It’s helping people understand the breadth of careers at banks,” Kaalund said. “You can be a technologist at JPMorgan. We are a tech firm — we have 40,000 technologists. It’s demystifying the assumptions [about bank jobs].”
Apps are due for the next round of Advancing Black Pathways by April 3.
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