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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 Certain industries struggle with outdated perceptions about their work.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.

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

Employment

Jobseekers Linking In to Employment Opportunities

10/4/21
By the summer of 2021, the Houston region had recovered 58% of the roughly 361,400 jobs shed in spring of 2020. Despite this gain, largely in areas including leisure and hospitality; professional and business services; and trade, transportation, and utilities, the region’s recovery lags behind the national rate of 75%. If Houston’s current growth trends hold, economists project the region's labor market will likely experience a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels as early as December 2022. So for the balance of 2021 and well into 2022, companies will continue to seek workers and Houstonians will go on searching for good employment.  Over the summer, the Partnership’s Houston Back on Track job recovery initiative explored how the pandemic affected Houstonians looking to re-engage in the region’s workforce. Today’s job seekers have a mix of education, work background, and life experience. Despite being tenacious, hopeful and motivated, they find navigating job search and application systems challenging.  LinkedIn has the potential to be instrumental in this recovery and helping connect job seekers with employment opportunities. Widely viewed as a professional networking platform for white collar workers, LinkedIn holds the promise of being the lynchpin between Houston employers with needs across their businesses and talent regardless of education or work background – including workforce newcomers, entry-level workers, career-changers, and jobseekers excluded by automated resume selection processes.  Going Social for Job Searches Accenture and Harvard Business School’s Managing the Future of Work initiative recently explored the phenomena of “hidden workers” in the workforce and their potential for filling much-needed jobs. These people are ones who want to work but are shut out of the workforce for one reason or another or those employed but could work more hours under the right circumstances, such as veterans, caregivers, and immigrants and refugees, among others. The Partnership’s research supports these findings. Harvard and Accenture note that, with repeated rejections, workers are apt to grow frustrated and stop looking for work. The study showed that 40% of employers use social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to seek talent for "middle skill" jobs but less than 30% of hidden workers in the middle skills space use social media to seek employment. Additionally, only 42% of hidden workers in middle skills space know how to effectively use social media to increase their employability. Platforms like LinkedIn can help workers such as these promote themselves and their skills, learn about industries, and draw the attention of recruiters.  The Power of LinkedIn  LinkedIn allows users to provide information about themselves through profiles, build a network of connections, and share and engage with comments, photos and videos, and articles in a news feed, and search for and apply for jobs. Likewise, companies can share information about their organizations and opportunities, and recruiters and talent acquisition managers can use the platform to seek talent.  Profiles contain space for a banner photo, a headshot, a personal statement, work history, educational background, skills, volunteer experience, accomplishments, references, and interests – all of which combine into a personal sales piece that can be a go-to for recruiters and talent acquisition managers. “I've seen situations where candidates have sent their resumes across and the recruiters go straight to LinkedIn,” said former recruiter Schirell Sidney. “I have seen some recruiters that may not be as likely to call a person if they didn't have a LinkedIn profile.”  Sidney now works as a senior program manager with United Way of Greater Houston and will help Houston’s jobseekers use the platform to connect to good careers through the Houston Back on Track initiative.  Recruiters can search for talent with specific skillsets; users who have these skills listed on their profiles will appear in search results. Regina Mellinger, founder, owner, and president of the staffing firm Primary Services — a Houston Back on Track employer partner — said staffers and employers can work backwards and use the listed skills and previous work experience of high-performing employees to seek out new talent with similar skills and employment backgrounds.   A jobseeker can use their profile’s summary area to address a career change or resume gap, use the designated areas to list courses and certifications, even highlight volunteer work and passions. Important real estate on their profile also includes the profile picture and the cover photo. Use those to further extend the personal brand message, said Jill Chapman, a senior performance consultant for Insperity.   Users can follow companies that interest them and individuals they aspire to be like to learn about companies, organizations, and industries; this can be particularly beneficial for job candidates who are new to an industry or area of work. Chapman said interacting with these profiles and participating in industry discussions shows employers that a candidate is involved and interested in the area. An Opportunity for Dialogue and Learning  The platform may also help streamline communication between recruiters and candidates or other jobseekers. Recruiters can send direct messages to job candidates or potential candidates and users can message recruiters or other users to ask questions about an industry, company, or opportunity. Mellinger and Sidney acknowledged that LinkedIn’s internal messaging service can be frightening at first because uses may be wary of talking directly with recruiters. However, a user’s current employer cannot see messages and recruiters are happy to answer questions and discuss opportunities. Microsoft’s LinkedIn Learning platform provides additional advantages for jobseekers. The online learning platform offers a rich selection of courses and modules of varying lengths in a wide range of areas of professional development. Not only can users use the platform to learn and build skills, but they can add completed courses to their LinkedIn profiles. Learning through – and posting about – these courses can show how a candidate, and especially a career-changer, is working to bridge a skills gap, Chapman said, and signal to potential employers a candidate’s valuable growth mindset and ability to learn, take on new challenges, and develop professionally. Sidney believes posting these courses can also help unsure jobseekers build confidence – the sharpened skill gives them something to brag about.  “Anybody that’s afraid of LinkedIn has got to give it a try because they've been missing it, they are missing out,” she said.   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 here. Houston Back on Track is a job recovery initiative that helps connect workers displaced by the pandemic to coaching support, wraparound services, and short-term education they may need to help them get to the ‘front door’ of companies with good opportunities for long-term employment in in-demand roles. Learn more here.
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Digital Technology

Connecting the Dots to Help Get Houston Back on Track

9/27/21
Houston, like most places in the world, is forever changed by the pandemic that broke in the spring of 2020. The metro region lost 361,400 jobs in the ensuing recession, making it worse than the jobs lost in the Great Recession and the oil bust in the 1980’s. Houstonians and our local economy have been hurting ever since, and though much progress has been made, we have only recouped about 60 percent of those lost jobs. More needs to be done to help and support people and employers. It is worth reminding ourselves how we got here. The COVID-19 epidemic has been a disrupting event like few of us have seen. It shut us down and stressed our hospital systems almost to the breaking point. We worried about the sick and grieved over those who we lost. Our workforce suffered as millions of people stayed home and away from work. Many stayed away for a long, long time, even after employers began to open their doors again. The employment gap has hindered our recovery and put us on pause in a way we haven’t seen in our lifetime. Effects of the pandemic have disproportionately impacted and displaced women, communities of color, and workers with low levels of educational attainment.  The Partnership has for years worked with member organizations and local governments to make greater Houston a metro that could thrive by building a strong, diverse 21st century economy, offering a great quality of life, and ensuring opportunity for all.  When the pandemic threatened to upset this path, the Partnership tapped two community leaders, Matt Morris and Chase Robison, to provide key leadership and work with its Regional Workforce Development division to help chart a path forward. The idea for Houston Back on Track was born. During an UpSkill Works Forum on September 8, our first stakeholders announced Houston Back on Track as the job recovery initiative that promises to connect the dots between displaced workers and our employer partners. Through key partnerships and new ways of combining and coordinating our collective efforts, Houston Back on Track will provide job seekers with the necessary support and resources they need while searching for their next great role and career in healthcare, customer service, transportation/distribution. This alliance of community partners, education providers, and employers is a game changer that should help put Houstonians back to work in jobs with great opportunities for upskilling and growth. Houston Back on Track is supported by organizations and companies committed to making positive change. On the employer side, we are proud to have the support of: HCA Houston Healthcare, Houston Methodist, Mustang CAT, Primary Services, and Silver Eagle Distributors. These companies are seeking to hire hundreds of new employees through this effort. Our community partners will provide career coaching and wraparound services to help prepare job seekers for these roles. They are Wesley Community Center, Houston Area Urban League, Change Happens!, WorkFaith, LISC Houston, and United Way of Greater Houston. While some of these community partners will provide critical preparation and training for clients directly, we will also tap into the expertise and services of our education providers: Lone Star College, Houston Community College, and San Jacinto College. Finally, we will offer online training through LinkedIn Learning, a platform that provides a rich selection of courses in many areas of professional development. This alliance is designed for impact and will scale in the coming months. We know our challenges are great. Fears about contracting the virus are still keeping a gap between people and jobs. This is not our only variable. Many people have reconsidered what they want from their careers, and they are hoping to make a change in industry and occupation. Others want more stability, higher wages, and better benefits than they had before the pandemic. There are impacts that are still unknown to us, but one thing is certain: many job seekers will build off their existing skills and develop new skills as they move into the roles they want. It may be that our work is cut out for us, but we are committed. The partners behind Houston Back on Track are dedicated to not just connecting the dots, but also to helping improve lives. A great job can change the trajectory of an entire family. Our efforts are underway, and we will grow and scale in coming months. Our work starts with employers who need to hire qualified, entry-level workers in occupations with pathways for growth. Join Houston Back on Track if your company is committed to charting a new path forward for Houstonians displaced by the pandemic. Good results are coming.   Connect with the Houston Back on Track team by visiting HoustonBackOnTrack.org or contacting BackOnTrack@Houston.org. 
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Economic Development

Education & Workforce Council: Supporting an Inclusive Energy Workforce Recovery 

9/20/21
Eighteen months ago, record job losses were recorded across the Houston region. Nationally, unemployment due to the effects of COVID-19 in 2020 disproportionately affected communities of color, women, and workers with a high school diploma or who had attended some college or held an associate level degree. As of this summer, roughly 58 percent of jobs lost in March and April 2020 in Houston have been regained. During the Partnership’s September Education & Workforce Council, Peter Beard, Partnership senior vice president of Regional Workforce Development, Jose Beceiro, Partnership senior director of Global Energy 2.0, and Dr. Allatia Harris, vice chancellor of Strategic Initiatives at San Jacinto College, shared initiatives underway that support inclusive job recovery and workforce development, and the transition of oil and gas workers to new, Energy 2.0 roles in the wake of the pandemic and changing energy market. Getting Houston Back on Track Beard discussed the Partnership’s work with employers, nonprofit partners in United Way of Greater Houston’s THRIVE network and others, and community colleges to develop the new job recovery initiative Houston Back on Track. This initiative connects workers displaced by the pandemic to coaching support, wraparound services, and short-term education they may need to help them get to the ‘front door’ of companies with good opportunities for long-term employment in in-demand roles. At present, employment areas comprise of healthcare, transportation and warehousing, and customer service and support, including for information technology areas and within Energy 2.0 companies. The initiative is seeking additional employment partners.  “We have a huge opportunity in Houston to come together and work with our neighbors and with our education and community partners to create pipelines into the roles that our employers need to have filled,” Beard said. Leveraging a Strong Energy Workforce Despite the pandemic and a downturn in the energy market, Houston remains a vibrant, global, and leading energy economy, and Beceiro shared how the Partnership and the region have been able to leverage its energy workforce to attract Energy 2.0 companies. “We're seeing a trend now of non-traditional or new energy tech projects and companies finding a home in Houston to take advantage of the energy talent that we have,” he said. Houston and the Partnership have recently recruited energy transition incubators and companies, such as Greentown Labs and Unity Global, attracted to the region due to its tech and energy talent. Displaced oil and gas workers are finding new opportunities within new, rapidly growing energy sectors including hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and renewable energy areas including solar, wind, and battery energy storage, he said noting how skill sets could transfer from one industry to another. Cloud service providers have recently sought talent from Houston’s oil and gas sector, too, he said. Building Talent for the Future San Jacinto College recognized that its students were facing more challenges, from funding and childcare needs to food insecurities; Harris described how the college helped meet those needs through a variety of initiatives and funding opportunities including the 21Forward Scholarship, the Promise @ San Jac program, grants for childcare assistance, and a fast track tuition discount for credit and non-credit programs that prepare students for in-demand careers.  Harris noted an uptick in workforce program enrollments and an unprecedented, 60 percent increase in enrollment for college preparation and development courses such as reading and writing, developmental math, and college readiness. She hypothesized that the change was related to the shift from traditional classroom settings to online or non-traditional settings in high schools.  “We’re just going to have to work harder to find the ways to build those basic literacy skills so that the students can master the other skills that prepare them to be what our employers need them to be,” she said. Seeking and Retaining a Skilled Workforce Employers increasingly need a workforce with digital skills, who can manage spreadsheets and customer relationship management systems, and are proficient in business management programs and software. They also understand that employees can learn various technical skills on the job, so they’re seeking talent with the soft skills that show that they can learn and grow, Beard said. He pointed to a trend of employers investing into talent in new ways, like through tuition benefits to support learning and growth that make employees more versatile and that, in turn, help with retention. Beceiro added that employers see how a good quality of life plays into recruiting and keeping talent. San Jacinto’s students represent the future workforce. They’re eager to learn and can learn but, Harris said, like the workforce across various age groups, they need confidence that things will be okay and they need support. “The future is bright, but there’s a lot of work and a lot of caring [needed] for us to get there,” she said. Learn more about the Partnership’s Houston Back on Track job recovery initiative here. See how the Partnership is leading the global energy transition here.
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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
2021
Getting Houston Back on Track
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AUG
2021
Understanding & tapping into today's talent and tomorrow's
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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
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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
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NOV
2020
Spotlight on higher ed, adult learners
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OCT
2020
Re-imagining career-relevant education; Student awareness of good careers
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SEP
2020
COVID-19 & innovation in career exploration; Talent Finance initiative
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AUG
2020
New "My Life As..." career stories; Houston expands digital alliance; talent finance discussions
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JUL
2020
Navigating the changing nature of work; Reskilling through higher ed
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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
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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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