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UpSkill Houston Recognized in National Workforce Development Playbook

Published Apr 26, 2021 by Susan Moore

Bryant Black describes UpSkill Houston's work in a pull quote from Accelerator for America's new workforce development playbook

UpSkill Houston's model for employer engagement is exemplified in new workforce development playbook. Image from "A New Path Forward" Playbook in collaboration with the Accelerator

HOUSTON (April 26, 2021)  –  For the last seven years, the Partnership’s UpSkill Houston initiative has played a leading role in mobilizing the collective action of industry, business, education, and nonprofit leaders across the region to strengthen the pipeline of skilled workers and create better pathways to opportunity and prosperity for all residents. The initiative has focused primarily on careers that require education and skills beyond high school but less than a four-year college degree. UpSkill Houston partners and leaders have supported and influenced similar workforce development efforts in other parts of the country, from Corpus Christi and San Antonio in Texas to Tampa and Gainesville in Florida and the Buffalo-Niagara region of New York. 

Now, as the nation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic that drove national unemployment rates to historic highs and the need for workers to upskill and stay in stride with the accelerating pace of technological change has grown, UpSkill Houston’s model for employer engagement is being exemplified in a new workforce development playbook designed to help local leaders across the country develop successful programs for workers who do not hold four-year bachelor’s degrees. 

“A New Path Forward: Place-Based Solutions for a Stronger Workforce Ecosystem,” released by Accelerate for America, a non-profit consortium of mayors, labor and business leaders, and urban and economic development experts, presents four actionable best practices for local leaders and stakeholders to follow as they develop their own workforce ecosystems. The playbook calls for a demand-driven approach to workforce development placing employers central to closing the existing gaps between their workforce demands and workers’ employment needs and inequities that have only widened during the pandemic.

The guide features Bryant Black, the Partnership’s director of regional workforce development, along with a case study describing how UpSkill Houston followed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management® strategies to convene industry councils addressing workforce struggles and successes and to codify the competencies in highest demand. The councils also connect individuals whose work intersected but might not otherwise have had opportunities to collaborate.

The feature also highlights UpSkill Houston’s intentional shift to a skills-based approach for these convenings to align competencies that cut across industries, and its focus on developing career pathways and upskilling progressions through employer-trainer partnerships.

Other programs highlighted include digital skills education company General Assembly, the Markle Foundation’s career coaching-focused Skillful initiative, and Opportunity@Work’s talent marketplace for individuals skilled through alternative routes (STARs) (as opposed to through four-year bachelor’s programs), with additional insights provided by former President Barack Obama, Vice President Kamala Harris, and first lady Dr. Jill Biden. 

Peter Beard, Partnership senior vice president of regional workforce development and UpSkill Houston’s leader, is featured in an accompanying playbook video. 

See Accelerator for America’s workforce development playbook “A New Path Forward.” UpSkill Houston is an employer-led initiative of the Partnership that mobilizes the collective action of more than 200 critical stakeholders to strengthen the pipeline of skilled workers that employers need and to create better pathways to opportunity and prosperity for all Houstonians. Learn how.


Greater Houston Partnership
The Greater Houston Partnership works to make Houston one of the best places to live, work and build a business. As the economic development organization for the Houston region, the Partnership champions growth across 11 counties by bringing together business and civic-minded leaders who are dedicated to the area’s long-term success. Representing 1,000 member organizations and approximately one-fifth of the region’s workforce, the Partnership is the place business leaders come together to make an impact. Learn more at

Executive Partners