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Utah is one of 24 states chosen to receive a $100,000 grant to examine how well schools are preparing students for employment and to develop a plan to improve.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is one of 24 states chosen to receive a $100,000 grant to examine how well schools are preparing students for employment and to develop a plan to improve.

The grants are part of a five-year $75 million initiative called New Skills for Youth, a partnership between the Council of Chief State School Officers, JPMorgan Chase and Advance CTE.

Business leaders hope to help educators develop high school programs that are more aligned with high-skill, high-demand jobs in their state. The initiative will later include advancing programs, degrees and credentials for college students.

The grant program is largely driven by a nationwide shortage in qualified technical trades workers, according to Chauncy Lennon, head of workforce initiatives at JPMorgan Chase. Utah lawmakers and educators are grappling with a similar shortage of graduates in science, technology, engineering and math.

"We must address the youth career crisis, and it starts in our schools," Lennon said in a prepared statement. "These grants kick-start an effort to ensure career and technical education systems are better aligned with the needs of business, and leaders throughout states are committed to tackling youth employment."

Utah and the other 23 states will use the funding to develop an action plan to advance career-aligned education programs. Those states will also be eligible to apply for a second phase of grants this fall, when 10 states will receive up to $2 million each over three years to execute those action plans.

Utah's interim state superintendent of public instruction, Sydnee Dickson, said the funding will help teachers and administrators gain useful insight into how well Utah's high schoolers are being prepared for careers after graduation.

"We are anxious to develop a career readiness action plan for our students and pleased to be a part of this helpful public-private partnership to move this critical work forward," Dickson said in a prepared statement. "This grant gives Utah the assistance and support needed to meet Utah student needs in both school and the workforce."

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