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Manufacturing Employment
213,100+

Houston has one of the largest manufacturing workforces in the country

UpSkill Houston Fuels a Stronger Economy with Greater Opportunity

Employers across Greater Houston are looking to hire qualified residents for good-paying careers that require skills beyond high school, but less than a four-year college degree. Nearly 1 million such positions exist, and the number is projected to grow. Yet employers face difficulties finding workers to fill these occupations. 

Through research, analysis, and engagement with critical stakeholders, UpSkill Houston understands the barriers to attracting, training, and placing qualified workers in these careers. UpSkill Houston brings stakeholders together and helps them:

UpSkill Houston challenges employers, educators, community-based leaders, and public officials to join us in accelerated, collective action to grow the skilled workforce Houston needs to compete in the global, 21st century economy and create opportunity for all Houstonians. 

UpSkill Houston has emerged as a leader for bold change by orchestrating the direct impact necessary to create a pipeline of skilled workers for the region’s employers and better pathways to prosperity for the region’s residents. Our progress, approach, and framework have served as the inspiration or model for workforce development initiatives in Texas and across the country. Learn more here. 

 

Factors Affecting the Growth of a Skilled Workforce

Employers across Greater Houston are looking to hire qualified area residents for good paying, rewarding careers that require skills beyond high school, but less than a four-year college degree. Of the more than 3.1 million workers in Greater Houston, more than 920,000 or 30 percent are employed in occupations meeting these criteria. The region’s recent overall rapid job growth included meaningful growth in these occupations, and this trend is expected to continue over the next five years.

Yet employers are facing difficulties finding workers with the skills and education to fill these positions. There is a strong push for students to pursue four-year college degrees. Certain industries struggle with outdated perceptions about their work. Effective career guidance for these careers is lacking. Also, current workers who are unemployed or under-employed face multiple challenges as they seek to upskill and reskill into these occupations.

Further, Houston’s economy and industries are being reshaped by technology and other global forces at a more rapid pace than ever before, impacting talent needs. As technology affects all jobs — creating new ones, augmenting others, and automating some — digital skills will increasingly be a requirement in all occupations. In addition, employers are placing a premium on soft and noncognitive skills.

Upcoming Event

UpSkill Houston Facilitates Workforce Conversations

UpSkill Houston launched its UpSkill Works Forum Series to foster workforce development discussions and actions across greater Houston’s employer, education and non-profit communities by presenting conversations with regional business, education and community leaders, policy makers and high-profile thought leaders on the key workforce issues the greater Houston region confronts. The series supports and advances the initiative’s work to help employers identify the key skills they need for workers to be successful, provide relevant information about careers and pathways, and drive effective career guidance.

UpSkill Houston Unites Partners to Overcome Barriers

The Greater Houston Partnership believes that broad and meaningful employer leadership is necessary to bridge the divide between employers’ demands and workforce needs. The Partnership committed to address the region’s skills gap by establishing the UpSkill Houston initiative to help employers find the right talent when and where they are needed and to help individuals gain the right skills and credentials to access the good jobs employers offer. 

Since 2014, UpSkill Houston has mobilized leaders from more than 200 prominent businesses, K-12 districts, community colleges, community-based organizations, and public agencies to work collectively to understand — and overcome — the barriers to attracting, training, placing, and growing qualified workers in good careers that are vital to the region’s global competitiveness.

Already UpSkill Houston and its partners have demonstrated how, working collectively, they can prepare incoming workers for good careers in vital industries, reskill incumbent workers for changing occupations, create shared prosperity for area families, and enable high-demand industries to thrive. 

Examples of efforts by UpSkill Houston and it partners to address talent pipeline challenges, include: 

ATTRACT: Working initially with partners in the construction, health science, petrochemical, and transportation industries, UpSkill Houston has created a series of videos and resources that showcase for students, parents, and workers seeking new opportunities a variety of good careers that don’t require a four-year college degree. The videos are available at UpSkillMyLife.org. 

TRAIN: MAREK recently partnered with Houston Independent School District and Houston Community College (HCC) to enable high school students to earn industry-recognized Level 1 certificates from HCC and drywall credentials through work experience at MAREK by the time they graduate with their high school diplomas. MAREK’s pre-apprenticeship program is patterned after a similar program developed by TRIO Electric with HCC and Spring Branch Independent School District. 

PLACE:  Since its founding in 2014, NextOp has placed approximately 2,100 “middle-enlisted” veterans — most without a four-year college degree — in meaningful careers, by connecting employers’ need for job-ready candidates with service members’ ability to succeed at a different mission, with different resources. NextOp helps employers recognize veterans’ talents and notice them in a candidate pool, while coaching veterans to describe their skills in a way employers value. 
 

 

UpSkill Houston and its partners have built a strong foundation, yet there is more work to be done. We need employers to articulate, with a collective voice, the skills and competencies they need in their workers. We need educational partners to adapt and improve curricula and prepare students for the good jobs that don’t require four years of college. We need community-based organizations to continuously improve their programs that prepare their clients for these good jobs.
Through UpSkill Houston programs, regional leaders share ideas with national thought leaders, such as Joseph B. Fuller, Harvard Business School professor and co-director of the school’s Managing the Future of Work project.

“We all go to lots of meetings where we talk about what needs to be fixed but rarely do individuals own the work to make something happen. It’s very impressive how UpSkill Houston has been able to bring everyone together to accomplish common goals.”


Linda Aldred
Texas Children’s Hospital

“The minute I heard there was an opportunity to leverage what the Greater Houston Partnership was doing to make our industry better and our company better, joining UpSkill Houston was a no-brainer.”


Daniel M. Gilbane
Gilbane Building Co.

“I am sitting in Alief Independent School District watching my students' lives change because of efforts like this.”


HD Chambers
Alief Independent School District

“UpSkill Houston helped us build relationships across sectors and made sure we were all talking about the same issues.”


Brenda Hellyer
San Jacinto Community College

Continued National Acclaim for UpSkill Houston

UpSkill Houston has been cited as an exemplar by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Talent Pipeline Management Initiative, the Communities that Work Partnership of the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Aspen Institute, the Global Cities Initiative of the Brookings Institution and JP Morgan Chase, and United Way Worldwide. UpSkill Houston has hosted business and community leaders from Phoenix; Detroit; Tampa Bay, Fla.; and Buffalo-Niagara, NY to learn about our employer-led approach. Our work has been featured in The Houston ChronicleHouston Business JournalForbesThe Hill, and U.S. News & World Report. Our partners have received extensive coverage for their workforce development and educational advancement efforts from local and national press.

Recent News

Education

UH’s Khator Discusses New Challenges and Big Achievements During State of Education

12/1/22
Meeting the needs of a new generation of students while preparing them for a competitive and evolving workforce are just a few of the challenges discussed during the Partnership’s fourth annual State of Education event this week.  The region’s education leaders and influencers gathered to hear from one of Houston’s most prominent higher education leaders, Renu Khator, Chancellor of the University of Houston System and President of the University of Houston. Chancellor Khator shared some of the knowledge she’s gained through her impressive career, including the years she’s spent advancing the University of Houston, the city’s largest public university.  During her keynote address, Khator reminded attendees that a strong education system is essential to Houston’s ability to remain competitive with a talented workforce and is directly tied to long-term success. “Education is the best opportunity and promise we can make in order to make a socially just, equitable society,” she said. Under Khator’s leadership, UH has joined the Big 12 and recently celebrated the opening of the new Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine. Khator spoke on the ways she is ensuring the University of Houston is working to drive innovative education solutions that are critical not just to our region's workforce, but also the broader future of our community. She said she’s also focused on breaking financial barriers for students to provide high-quality, accessible education and is working toward changing perceptions of higher education.  With three Tier One universities offering premier learning education opportunities, it is no surprise that students seek out Houston. Khator said Houston’s strong higher education system is evident as more students than ever are staying in Houston postgraduate, evolving into industry leaders who will shape our city in the years to come.  In addition to the success of this progression, Khator discussed some challenges, such as finding ways to engage with younger generations and reaching individuals who debate whether higher education is an option for them. Efforts such as Houston GPS help offset challenges by providing resources for public schools and addressing achievement gaps early on, particularly in low-income neighborhoods. Click to expand “Higher Education is needed more today than at any time in history,” Khator said. “We know that higher education provides the best opportunity for transforming lives and generations.”  Despite challenges, the mission for higher education remains consistent: to prepare students not just for the workforce, but a competitive workforce. And to not just teach students but prepare them for a career that will help them make a positive impact on their communities.   From energy transition initiatives to world class research centers, UH’s priorities are aligning with Houston’s and helping propel the city forward. “Great communities build great universities, and great universities build great communities,” Khator said.  Houston-area colleges and universities educate nearly 425,000 students and graduate more than 56,000 students annually. Partnership President and CEO Bob Harvey said Houston is “one of the few places in the world that offer the concentration of higher ed opportunity supported by a growing economy and the many attributes of the great global city.” Over the past seven years, four-year institutions in and around the Houston area have seen 10% growth—a remarkable figure in light of the pandemic, Harvey said. The region is home to 31 universities and colleges, including three Tier 1 universities: the University of Houston, Texas A&M University and Rice University.
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Economic Development

Talent Developers Have New Pipeline to Employers

7/25/22
Talent developers across greater Houston have a new tool to help them directly connect clients without bachelor’s degrees to employers specifically seeking to hire them. The tool, Stellarworx, is a robust talent marketplace designed exclusively for jobseekers Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STARs) – those other than a bachelor’s degree. Stellarworx is now available to help the Houston region’s 1.6 million STARs jobseekers join candidate pools for good jobs through a new collaboration between the nonprofit social enterprise organization Opportunity@Work, the American Petroleum Institute, Chevron, and the Partnership through its UpSkill Houston initiative. “We know that talent developers can struggle to identify players who are actively hiring STARs and spend months build relationships with employers and compete for a limited number of jobs available for STARs,” said Opportunity@Work’s Nicole Daniels in a recent meeting hosted by UpSkill Houston. “The employers on Stellarworx have chosen to come to us because they want to embrace skills-based hiring and they want to hire STARs, and they recognize the diverse skills and perspectives that STARs bring to the table.” STARs account for about 70 million workers nationwide (60 percent of the American workforce) and cut across all demographics and people groups, according to Opportunity@Work. They have developed skills employers seek and value through avenues including community college, military service, and on-the-job training, but are often screened out of talent searches because they do not hold a bachelor’s degree. Thanks to degree requirements used as proxies for skills – or what is called “the paper ceiling” – these workers only have access to about 26 percent of all new jobs created. The paper ceiling has long-lasting effects on workers’ earning power, as it takes a STAR 30 years to reach the wages of a recent college graduate.  Stellarworx is helping change this by providing talent developers an easier way to have their clients recognized by employers hiring for good jobs with good pay and opportunities for career advancement. All jobs posted on Stellarworx come with a minimum wage of $20 per hour, and they all must lead to a career pathway. The talent marketplace: Uses skills-based matching to identify employers and jobs best suited to enrolled STARs. Offers talent developers a one-stop-shop to aggregate labor market supply and demand information. Supports a healthy feedback loop between talent developers and employers to drive better client outcomes long term. Provides talent developers data and insights to track their clients’ career searches. The Stellarworx talent marketplace was launched in late 2020 is currently operating in three U.S. cities (and counting). More than 110 employers utilize the platform to find talent from its 2,100 talented STAR users. Opportunity@Work, which developed the platform, works to rewire the labor market open pathways for STARs to work, learn, and earn to their full potential.  “If they have the skills to do the job, they should be able to get the job,”  the organization’s Bridgette Gray said. Talent developers who are interested in learning more can contact Opportunity@Work’s Nicole Daniels directly at nicole@opportunityatwork.org.   Related: Recognizing Workforce STARs a Competitive Advantage The Partnership’s UpSkill Houston initiative works to strengthen the talent pipeline employers need to grow their businesses and to help all Houstonians build relevant skills and connect to good careers that increase their economic opportunity and mobility. Learn more.
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Economic Development

Partnership, United Way Build Coaching Community 

7/12/22
United Way of Greater Houston and the Partnership’s UpSkill Houston initiative have convened the first cohort of career coaches from across the region to provide professional training to strengthen their capacity and skills. The cohort evolved from discussions among United Way of Greater Houston’s workforce coaching network and UpSkill Houston leaders around how to empower area residents and students to navigate a rapidly changing labor market successfully. The cohort will advance work already underway by United Way and UpSkill Houston to provide coaches additional support and to build a coaching community of practice. Training is being offered through the Skilling America learning platform and is meant to help greater Houston coaches explore new, innovative ways to work with and support clients to obtain better jobs and careers and improve their economic mobility. Effective career coaching and guidance is a key pillar of UpSkill Houston’s long-term strategy to help all Houstonians develop relevant skills and connect to good careers that increase their economic opportunity and mobility. Skilling America’s e-learning platform provides competency-based training on coaching tools, technology, data, and methods complete with a resource library and community forum space for coaches to connect with peer navigators. The standardized training sets forth a common language and offers best practices and will help the region’s coaches support clients struggling to navigate the workforce system, rebounding from life events, and looking to upskill and advance into better careers.  “Developing a shared language and approach to career coaching is critically important as we build a collaborative community of practice. Our vision is that, regardless of size and resources, all agencies will be equipped to provide the same level of quality services throughout the region. This platform helps us get there,” said Aaron Sturgeon, senior financial literacy program manager with United Way of Greater Houston. Houston’s cohort will work through the courses and meet as a professional learning community to discuss the concepts and lessons, and how to apply them in coaching settings.   The training modules can be helpful for new coaches but also as a tool for agencies to leverage, David Fernandez, program manager with The Alliance, a Houston non-profit serving refugee, immigrant and other underserved populations, and United Way workforce coaching work group facilitator, told the cohort. “The platform modules were designed by practitioners for practitioners, he said, with much of the information “immediately actionable and relevant to the work that you’re doing,” he said. Skilling America is a national initiative born out of training piloted by Hope Street Group and Goodwill Industries Inc. The use of the platform in Houston was proposed by Goodwill Industries of Houston and assessed by United Way workforce coaching network leaders. United Way and the Partnership’s collaboration to provide additional training for coaches is partially funded through a grant from Texas Mutual Insurance.    The Partnership’s UpSkill Houston initiative works to strengthen the talent pipeline employers need to grow their businesses and to help all Houstonians build relevant skills and connect to good careers that increase their economic opportunity and mobility. United Way of Greater Houston, Goodwill Industries of Houston, The Alliance, and Texas Mutual Insurance are among the initiative’s more than 200 employer, education, and non-profit partners across the region. Learn more.
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Executive Committee
Sector Leadership
UpSkill Houston Team

UpSkillHouston.org

Career information for job seekers, educators and partners.

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UpSkillMyLife.org

Video series introducing careers and the pathways to entry.

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PetrochemWorks.com

Tool to match skills with careers in the petrochemical manufacturing industry

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Major Funding Partners

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Additional Resources

Find reports and other information and resources tied to UpSkill Houston. 

This report highlights the disruption that greater automation and increased requirements for digital skills is causing for regional workers and the importance of helping workers build digital skills and identify career progressions for occupations that can lead to economic opportunity.

A recent labor market report underscores the long-term and critical role of middle-skill occupations in positioning the Houston region to be competitive in the 21st century and creating economic opportunity for its residents.

This series presents conversations with business and community leaders, policy makers, and leading thinkers on the key workforce issues confronting the Greater Houston region.

Business, education, and community organization leaders highlight how participating in the Greater Houston Partnership's UpSkill Houston initiative has strengthened workforce development efforts through collaborative action.

This labor market study highlights the prevalence and growth of middle-skill jobs within Greater Houston’s economy and analyzes how automation and increased digital skills are transforming the nature of work.

This video from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation shows how UpSkill is leading the way to close the skills gap using lessons learned in supply chain management.

UpSkill Houston's "My Life As" campaign provides stories of workers in high demand, growth opportunity careers.

By contributing to the Employer Champion Campaign, companies are setting Houston on a better path and improving the skilled workforce and economy for generations to come.

A comprehensive look at the work and results of UpSkill Houston.

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View Past Editions of the UpSkill Update Newsletter

SEP
2022
Getting Houston Back on Track, Plus Education that Prepares the Workforce of the Future
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AUG
2022
Energy Transition & Opportunity for Workforce Equity Evolution
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JUN
2022
Addressing Texas Skills Needs & Tapping into Workforce STARs
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MAY
2022
Higher Education & Workforce Recovery
View
APR
2022
Community Colleges & Sourcing Skilled Talent
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MAR
2022
Internships, Career Exploration & Workforce STARs
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JAN
2022
Expanding Equitable Career Opportunities
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DEC
2021
2022 Employment Forecast, Building Talent & Reviewing Higher Ed Funding
View
OCT
2021
Labor Market Update; Skilling Opportunities for Veterans, Young Adults & More
View
SEP
2021
Getting Houston Back on Track
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AUG
2021
Understanding & tapping into today's talent and tomorrow's
View
JUL
2021
Houston a leader in innovative recovery initiatives
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JUN
2021
Apprenticeships and developing the future workforce to aid recovery
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MAY
2021
How employers will view talent and skills in post-pandemic economy; Plus UpSkill Works Forum returns
View
APR
2021
Employment recovery; Secrets to Starting your career right revealed
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MAR
2021
Unemployment revisited; Legislative update; Employer-education partnerships
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FEB
2021
Texas plans recovery efforts, builds workforce strategies
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JAN
2021
Economic recovery underscores urgency in upskilling
View
NOV
2020
Spotlight on higher ed, adult learners
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OCT
2020
Re-imagining career-relevant education; Student awareness of good careers
View
SEP
2020
COVID-19 & innovation in career exploration; Talent Finance initiative
View
AUG
2020
New "My Life As..." career stories; Houston expands digital alliance; talent finance discussions
View
JUL
2020
Navigating the changing nature of work; Reskilling through higher ed
View
JUN
2020
COVID-19 impact on Houston’s workforce; HCC unveils job-connected training portal
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MAY
2020
COVID-19 presents short-term problems, long-term opportunities; New funding for workforce development announced
View
APR
2020
UpSkill Houston partners on animated soft skill series
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MAR
2020
COVID-19 and workforce disruption
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FEB
2020
Career coaching outcomes examined; Transportation leaders eye education programs
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JAN
2020
Putting talent first and making Houston a great global city; Connecting with jobseekers
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DEC
2019
UpSkill Houston drives action, looks ahead to the future
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NOV
2019
UpSkill benefits from elite fellowship program
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OCT
2019
Embracing change to create a competitive edge; Leadership reviews new 5-year plan
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