Skip to main content

Working Together to Crack the Code on the Future of Work

Published Sep 30, 2019 by Peter Beard

Linda Aldred

Linda Aldred, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Texas Children's Hospital

Peter Beard, the Greater Houston Partnership’s senior vice president for Regional Workforce Development, leads the Partnership’s UpSkill Houston initiative. Beard recently hosted a roundtable of representatives from the various sectors participating in UpSkill Houston – industry, K-12, higher education, and community development. Linda Aldred, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Texas Children’s Hospital, participated in the roundtable. Her comments are excerpted below.  

BEARD: What do you see changing as we build a regional workforce for the future? 

ALDRED: As a human resources leader, I’ve participated in lots of conversations in which we ask hiring leaders, “Do you need four-year degrees? Learning is changing. Do you actually need certifications and/or people with specialized skills?“ But, to an organization, one of the first things on every job description is, “You must have a bachelor’s degree.” 

Yet, when we ask our hiring leaders if they actually need someone with a four-year degree, they say “Maybe not, but isn’t that something you should have as your minimum qualification?” While the human resources profession encourages hiring leaders to look at skills differently, the systems our organizations have in place shut the door to people without bachelor’s degrees. That’s an old idea and an old system that we’re going to have to find a way to break through. Some of our organizations’ policies or procedures have been around for 25 plus years, and they don’t take into account the organization’s needs and the way young people or people at all ages want to learn. 

Can you give me an example of another area where existing systems haven’t caught up to current needs?  

A representative of a neighborhood organization recently was talking to me about why the Texas Medical Center hospitals don’t hire people she brings through her program. I asked about those individuals’ qualifications, and she told me the certifications and education she was sending them back to school to get. I said, “We don’t actually hire for those jobs anymore. Those jobs aren’t prevalent. If you’re churning out a lot of those folks, they’re going to have a tough time finding those roles.” 

Then we had a great conversation around the Medical Center’s current needs. Nine months later she told me, “I shifted people in that different direction, and they were hired by Texas Medical Center hospitals.” She was frustrated that her folks weren’t breaking into health care, but they weren’t getting educated in skills we need.  

How is Texas Children’s thinking about the workforce it will need in the next five to 10 years?    

Organizations are not successful without talent. So, we’re all going to need to crack the code on what the future of work looks like. We have a choice. We can try to solve the issue on our own, within our own industry or within our own hospital, in the case of Texas Children’s. Or we can partner with others to say, “For Houston, the region, our neighbors, what does the future of work look like, so everyone prospers, and everyone succeeds?” As an organization, you would still be able to fulfill your need to grow or provide the right care to your patients, for example. 

Working together through UpSkill Houston is a unique opportunity for us to consider questions about the future of work that everyone is trying to answer. Rather than solving the issues alone and only benefitting a particular organization or company, there’s real power in the common purpose. 

How do you see employers benefitting from a common purpose?  

Organizations need to come outside of their own four walls and say, “What’s our responsibility and accountability not only to grow the region, but also to take the opportunity to partner with educators and the community development agencies on what our organizations need, where they’re going, and ways we can attract, train, place, and grow people who will help us be successful?” 

Not being involved in the common purpose means solving your talent crisis by yourself. Very few of us can accomplish that, unless we have lots of money to throw at the talent in our region. That’s not a sustainable model. 

Solving our talent crises requires building partnerships to grow the talent that will make our organizations successful. UpSkill Houston breaks down barriers among employers, so we can have the conversations about how we are all better together.

 

This is one of a series of four Q&As with executives who participated in a roundtable hosted by UpSkill Houston. Don’t miss insights from executives from higher ed, K-12, and community development, also available online. 

Related News

Health Care

Texas Medical Center Leaders Reflect on Houston Health Care in 2020 and Beyond

12/16/20
Texas Medical Center President and CEO William "Bill" McKeon delivered the keynote presentation at the Greater Houston Partnership's State of the Texas Medical Center on December 10. McKeon and other TMC leaders talked about how the world's largest medical city has battled COVID-19 and continues to build on the health care and life sciences brainpower.  "As we have seen throughout this COVID pandemic, many states and cities have had a really difficult time understanding this data in real time," said McKeon. "We have heard about significant delays. So what was powerful about the Texas Medical Center was that we have been delivering that data in real time every day so that we always know how difficult things are getting, or what our run on inventory, how many patients we have or how full our ICU’s are.” Dr. Marc Boom, President and Chief Executive Officer of Houston Methodist Hospital, echoed how crucial that information was.  “One thing we recognized early on was a need to standardized data reporting and the value of understanding on the front lines what’s going on with this pandemic.” Boom and other TMC leaders said their united and connected group has been essential to Houston’s ability to effectively manage through these difficult days. "We have learned a lot about the value of communications, collaboration and cooperation here in the TMC," said Dr. Eric Boerwinkle, Dean of UTHealth’s School of Public Health. ”We need to make sure that infrastructure and relationships that we have built really are re-honed and targeted to tackle the common diseases that plague our public’s health, including heart disease, cancer, stroke and mental health. If we can do what we do for those conditions what we have done for COVID-19 by communicating, by collaborating, by bringing the best and the brightest together, we will be able to move the dial on those important conditions through new discoveries, new therapies and, most importantly, how to prevent them from ever occurring in the first place.” TMC continues to break new ground and the TMC Innovation Institute is a foundational piece helping to shape the future of life sciences by uniting leading innovators in academia, science and medicine. Since its debut in 2014, more than 100 companies have been housed, or are currently working out of, TMC Innovation and have raised over $240 million in funding.  TMC3 will break ground soon as a world-class, life science complex that unites the best minds in medicine across 37 acres, with shared and proprietary research centers, multi-disciplinary laboratories, health care institutions, a hotel and conference center, retail, and a unique double-helix green space – totaling almost 3.7 million square feet of developed property. “The opportunity here is beyond extraordinary,” said David Manfredi, CEO and Founding Principal of Elkus Manfredi, architect for TMC3. “It’s an opportunity for collaboration in innovation across life science, medical device and bio medicine platforms and at great scale. The opportunity is to bring people together that don’t normally come together – to build an ecosystem that is diverse and broad and that is open is really extraordinary and it’s because of the assets that are already here.”  The State of TMC was broadcast live December 10 from the Avenida Houston Virtual Studio inside the George R. Brown Convention Center.  The Texas Medical Center is internationally renowned as home to the brightest minds in medicine, who every day pursue the very best in research, treatments and education. The 61 member institutions of the TMC are consistently recognized by U.S. News and World Report as some of the best hospitals and universities in the nation. Learn more about Houston's life sciences industry. See the latest COVID-19 data from TMC on our Reopening Houston Safely dashboard.
Read More
Education

Rebooting Community Colleges to Get Americans Back to Work

12/15/20
In the early 1980s, roughly two thirds of American jobs were open to individuals with only a high school diploma; by 2019, two thirds of American jobs require more education beyond high school, according to the Washington, D.C.-based think tank and policy shop Opportunity America. Many jobs now require more education and skills than a high school diploma but not a four-year college degree. What’s more, as the COVID-19 pandemic precipitated layoffs and accelerated the pace of digitalization of the workplace, it sharply increased the need for immediate upskilling of American workers to re-enter or remain in the workforce. The nation’s 1,100 two-year community and technical colleges can be where traditional students gain the knowledge, skills and credentials they need to start careers and where non-traditional students learn new skills to maintain or improve their career prospects. But is a reboot necessary in order for them to better serve their students? Community colleges across the nation have long held a number of primary missions: Graduate students who transfer to four-year colleges or universities (the credit side); graduate students with applied technical degrees and certificates (the credit side); and provide individuals with short-term job-focused upskilling to get them to a better job (the non-credit side). Many strive to fulfill these missions and there is room to align and improve the workforce outcomes of their students regardless of their pathway. According to Opportunity America data, close to 12 million students were enrolled in community colleges before the pandemic, with close to half enrolled in credit programs. Roughly 77 percent of students who enroll in credit courses expect to attain a bachelor’s degree but only 13 percent do. This summer, Opportunity America released a report calling upon community colleges to reboot and place workforce education more at the center of their mission and culture and embrace their role as the nation’s premier provider of job-focused education and training. The report, “The Indispensable Institution – Reimagining Community College,” outlines the important role of community colleges can play in helping individuals adapt to the changes in the economy and upskill themselves in order to get back to work. Americans at all education levels will need to develop new skills and build on existing ones as they adjust to changes due to the greater use of technology in their workplaces or re-enter the workforce because of the COVID-19-driven shock to the labor market and economy. In early December, Tamar Jacoby, president of Opportunity America, discussed how community colleges can live up to their promise of workforce education with Partnership Senior Vice President of Workforce Development Peter Beard during an UpSkill Works forum. Jacoby highlighted the need for many community colleges to improve the workforce outcomes of their students by building better bridges between the credit division and the non-credit division of schools. This approach could help keep students looking for a job in the short-term from retaking courses or relearning skills if they want to return for a degree later in life. It can also help students who seek a bachelor’s degree prepare to enter the workforce. Jacoby also illuminated ways in which some community colleges could improve their offerings and programs, and with them, workforce outcomes, for non-credit students. Employers and educators need to build meaningful partnerships with deep engagement. The non-credit divisions of community colleges can be nimbler and more responsive to the labor market and employer needs because the programs are designed with specific workforce outcomes in mind. Jacoby shared that the “secret sauce” is labor alignment, and programs cannot be aligned with employer needs without employer engagement. “You can’t do job-focused education without the people who know the jobs. That is like a manufacturer creating a machine part without knowing […] the specs for the rest of the machine,” Jacoby said. Employers and educators share responsibility for effectively communicating with each other since both sides speak in different languages, come from different cultures and have different senses of time, she said. This year, the Texas Senate Higher Education Committee took on the charge of examining existing innovative programs that assist non-traditional students in completing a degree or credential and considering methods the state could use to partner with higher education institutions to expand successful programs. The development of San Jacinto College’s LyondellBasell Center for Petrochemical, Engineering, and Technology Center, which opened in the fall of 2019, is one example of a Houston-area community college designing a program with significant input and guidance from employers to meet industry workforce needs and standards. Employers need to explain their needs to faculty but also to guidance and career counselors. Jacoby encouraged employers to lend employees to educational institutions to serve as counselors to help students navigate to a job or career path to pursue. Employers also need to be honest with colleges about the on-the-job performance of their graduates. “When the graduates they hire have the skills, the colleges need to know. But when the graduates don't have skills, the colleges really need to know,” she said. Ultimately, job placements, rather than enrollments, should be the primary metric for success, she said. She acknowledged the importance of community colleges in preparing students to transfer and earn bachelor’s degrees, but urged the schools to make sure those students, too, graduate with workplace skills including business communication, business math and some familiarity with the labor market and their career interests. Measuring success in terms of job placements would encourage community colleges to improve how they prepare students to navigate careers, she said. But what of today’s workforce and individuals displaced by the pandemic? Jacoby warned that individuals who entered the workforce five or 10 or 20 years ago may have as little knowledge of the current labor market or what they’re aiming for than a traditional student. Displaced adults need help in these areas, too, and don’t find it at many community colleges. Jacoby believes the less time a displaced worker stays out of the workforce (and the less time skills have to become stale), the better. The United States has not been particularly good at training displaced workers, she said, citing the lack of career navigation supports and meaningful partnerships between employers and training providers. Employers who anticipate layoffs can perform skills assessments for employees so they know how these skills could map to a different job or what type of training the employee needs to change jobs. During an UpSkill Works forum in November, guest Matthew Daniel, principal consultant with Guild Education, shared ways employers could structure education programs to support upskilling to achieve better educational and skills development outcomes. “All jobs are going to change,” Jacoby said. “Name a job. It’s different than it was six, nine months ago and it’s going to be different in another nine months.”   Related: Higher Education Gains from its Role in the UpSkill Houston Collaboration The UpSkill Houston initiative's UpSkill Works forum series engages business and community leaders, policy makers and leading thinkers on the key workforce issues our region and nation confront. View all past UpSkill Works Forums.
Read More

Related Events

Executive Partners