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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 Certain industries struggle with outdated perceptions about their work.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.

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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

Economic Development

‘Just-in-Time Hiring’ a Luxury of the Past in Post-Pandemic Economy

5/25/21
Gone is the luxury of "just-in-time hiring" and hoping to find talent for immediate needs, according to Tamla Oates-Forney, senior vice president and chief people officer for Fortune 500 company Waste Management.  “We have to be more intentional about determining what we’re going to need and when we’re going to need it, when we need to hire, and the skills we need to develop,” she said during a Partnership Restart Houston event focused on upskilling and reskilling the region’s workforce for the post-pandemic economy. Louise Wiggins, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) partner and managing director, joined Oates-Forney in the conversation, moderated by Peter Beard, Partnership senior vice president of regional workforce development and leader of its UpSkill Houston initiative. Wiggins presented three trends emerging from the ongoing digital transformation of work and reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic with big implications for businesses and organizations large and small: Skills are becoming obsolete more quickly, requiring individuals to re-invent themselves by obtaining new skills. The growing integration of automation and AI is changing what jobs are needed and how those jobs are done. The pace of change has accelerated, making it harder to predict what jobs will be in demand in the future. These trends mean companies must strategically and proactively prepare for an unknown future by focusing on upskilling employees for expanded career pathways and by reconsidering their value propositions. The Partnership’s UpSkill Houston initiative can help employers work together and strengthen talent pipelines for their industries and businesses. Prepare for Diminishing “Half-Life” of Skills The introduction of personal computers and other subsequent technologies during the digital age rapidly accelerated the rate at which some skills, linked to outdated technologies, became obsolete and needed to be replaced. The pandemic quickened the pace.  As Wiggins explained, this “half-life” of skills decreased from 10 years in the 1960’s to two-and-a-half to five years today. Now, working individuals will have to develop new skills and capabilities or “re-invent” themselves three or four times over a career, she said.  But workers are willing to learn.  Findings from a new study from BCG and the corporate online recruiting alliance The Network, include that more than two of every three workers globally are willing to retrain for new jobs, and this willingness is not limited to particular industries or job types. The pandemic emerged amid concerns among workers across industries, job fields and geographies of being replaced by technology; the study shows that anxiety has grown for more than 40 percent of workers globally. More than 70 percent of workers in job roles that faced the greatest risk of replacement – and that felt the worst displacement due to COVID-19 – indicated a willingness to retrain. (UpSkill Houston’s “Navigating the Changing Nature of Work” report discusses this risk within the greater Houston region.) Oates-Forney described how the pandemic-driven adoption of digital technologies are playing out across Waste Management. Distancing rules altered the way drivers clocked in and out; they no longer line up to use a time clock but instead track their time using mobile devices (and learned how to do so), she said. The company evaluated whether jobs could be conducted remotely, in the office or through a hybrid model and some, such as customer service roles, were shifted to remote-only, generating the need for new tools and systems to assess productivity, Oates-Forney said. Waste Management proactively considers the skills it needs within its workforce and approaches career development in terms of movement through a lattice rather than up a ladder. It supports building transferrable skills for broad movement versus "deep domain" building to facilitate progression in one area, Oates-Forney said. It recently partnered with Guild Education to help manage education assistance benefits programs for employees, and partners with community-based organizations to provide supports and wraparound services employees may need to achieve success. Though Guild Education, which focuses its work on frontline workers of Fortune 500 companies, can be a good solution for building skills development programs at scale, companies can also look to community colleges, online courses and community partners to build training and development programs. Reconsider the Value Proposition Focusing on workforce skills, education and support like childcare assistance can help companies offer a strong value proposition to prospective and incumbent workers in competitive labor markets, such as Wiggins described in sectors that experienced high worker layoffs and furloughs at the start of the pandemic but are now trying to reopen. Employers will need to highlight what makes them different and emphasize how a lower wage role is part of a pathway to something bigger, she said. Waste Management’s approach to mobility through career lattices is one example; extending education benefits to employees – and to their families – is another. Additionally, these emphases will help companies drive an equitable recovery, as the pandemic disproportionately sidelined women, Hispanic and Black workers, and workers with less education than a bachelor’s degree.    The pandemic has also pushed managers to lead with more humility, transparency, and compassion. “The past year has accelerated and amplified so many needs in terms of reskilling and upskilling and provided resources and funding [to support them].” Wiggins said. “The other thing that it's taught us is to have compassion for one another and to bring compassion into the workplace.”   To view a recording of this presentation, members can log into the Membership Portal at the top right of this screen. To learn more about membership with the Greater Houston Partnership click here or contact membership@houston.org.  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 how.  
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Digital Technology

Robust Cloud Talent a Built-In Competitive Advantage

5/20/21
One of the most powerful tools a business can have at its disposal is the ability to make quick decisions when presented with new information. As work environments and the jobs that drive the region’s economy continue to change, the ability to make these decisions faster will become even more imperative to stay competitive. Managing an effective cloud solution and having the internal talent to maintain and run a cloud system will become table stakes to run the business of the future. Cloud architects, cloud engineers, data and analytics administrators, and security specialists are in great demand, and the potential for remote work in these spaces will make the market an even more competitive one, further enhancing the need for businesses to emphasize this need not later, but today. Every company with IT needs is impacted by cloud. According to the Computing Technology Industry Association’s (CompTIA) Cyberstates 2021 sector assessment, more than 60 percent of Houston’s tech workers are employed by non-tech sector companies. New demands for cloud systems and capabilities are driving demand for talent with specialized skills and, in many cases, opportunities for businesses to upskill current employees who already understand the culture and business. Cloud services, and why businesses need them At its most basic level, the core benefit of a cloud service is that it enables a company's IT resources to be available on demand, configurable, and shareable using remote servers as compared to traditional on-premises systems. This allows businesses to strategically reimagine how to operate and remain profitable and reallocate resources to other areas that otherwise would have been swallowed up by the time, labor, and equipment. In turn, this allows employees to accomplish day-to-day tasks without the burden that comes along with the costs of maintaining these systems. This isn't something that will happen in the future: This is the current way of doing things by many leading businesses. Many common teleconferences platforms, shared data sources, document control models, and customer resource management tools are often currently cloud based. Use of these platforms and tools was only accelerated by the pandemic, particularly in healthcare where urgent needs for additional capacity was met by cloud solutions already being implemented. These trends will continue, as is always the case when technological change begets adaptation and normalization with secondary users who are slower to adapt to these business practices. The future of cloud is real time, analyzable, understandable, and decision-oriented data and business resources. Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, and robotics capabilities will only enhance and accelerate the need for businesses of all sizes and stature to understand and harness the power of cloud-based systems. Providing talent solutions for increasing cloud demand Cloud solutions providers recognize a current lag in readily available talent and know-how to maintain viable cloud systems and have taken active steps address the shortfall. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, and other cloud providers offer short term, low-cost training certifications on cloud essential skills and competencies that can keep a company’s incumbent workforce competitive and up-to-date on what it will take to keep cloud services working but also, proactively, make cloud a tool for improving the bottom line. Certification courses run the gamut from self-paced modules to instructor led classes, but providers are increasingly partnering with local colleges and universities, broadening opportunities for individuals to upskill and develop these high-value skills. Locally, Houston Community College, Lone Star College and the University of Houston are AWS Academy training partners that offer AWS curriculum. To increase the pool of skilled cloud talent and its diversity, educational institutions are partnering with community organizations to extend their reach and develop the skills needed by employers. For example, Houston Area Urban League’s Urban Tech Jobs Program 2.0 partners with the University of Houston who provides the AWS cloud practitioner and solutions architect courses for the Urban League’s clients. In making certification courses widely available to individuals, community organizations are helping build a more robust and diverse tech talent pool. CompTIA’s recent Workforce and Learning Trends report indicates that companies are renewing focus on worker resilience, with 42 percent of human resources professionals surveyed anticipating new efforts on upskilling and reskilling current employees. Forty-one percent said their companies will have a new emphasis on communication and on emerging tech skills for remote work. The accelerated nature of technological change by its very nature would indicate companies need to be as proactive as possible in staying ahead of what is to come in mitigating for the disruptions that follow. This is particularly imperative when it comes to maintaining a workforce capable of supporting the systems at the heart of any business model. As the line between labor and AI continues to blur moving forward, a business with a trained, experienced workforce will have built in competitive advantages when going to market. Building and maintaining a well-versed cloud organization will be good for business tomorrow, and the resources are currently available to make that happen today.   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 how.
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Economic Development

Five Digital Literacy Skills and How Businesses Can Assess Them

5/11/21
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations to adopt technological alternatives to in-person meetings, gatherings, and operations in a matter of weeks, rapidly widening the breadth of tasks that required some degree of digital know-how. Even before the pandemic, the pace at which companies and industries were adopting automation technologies and integrating the use of digital productivity tools and platforms into daily tasks was accelerating. It is clear that workers – regardless of their industry, occupation or education level – will need to have a strong degree of digital literacy and/or master an array of digital skills in order to hold, or remain in, jobs in the workforce. The 2020 UpSkill Houston report “Navigating the Changing Nature of Work” explores how increased digitalization and automation will also heighten the risk of disrupting or shifting job tasks and skill requirements for greater Houston’s so-called “middle-skill” workforce. The report demonstrates that more than half of the region’s middle-skill jobs face above average automation risk, including occupations such as production, construction, repair, and transportation. The report details which middle-skill occupations require high levels of digital skills and which do not. (Sales and office support, technicians and drafters, and IT and computer-related occupations fall on the high side; construction, production, and transportation do not.) Many workers, it says, will need to upskill to acquire the digital and essential skills employers will require to participate in the evolving digital economy. How can a company or organization make sure its workers have the right skills and how can educational institutions and workforce training providers ensure that they are equipping students with the skills they will need to be successful? The Markle Foundation’s Rework America Business Network initiative has developed a framework to help employers address five identified baseline employability digital literacy skills without which a jobseeker will “increasingly likely to be ineligible for most modern employment.”  These skills are: Problem solving using technology; like identifying the correct data for resolving problems; Interaction with computers and mobile devices; like typing or knowing how to search for a file; Data entry and basic tools; like using Microsoft’s Word program or typing an email; Data security and safety; like being able to identify various threats to your computer and your data stored on it; and Data ethics; like having the ability to explain intellectual property and copyright. Markle adds to these two additional employability skills around occupation-specific tools (like using Adobe Photoshop for one job or 3-D modeling programs for another) and analytics and data manipulation (like how to yield data visualizations). It also notes three more basic, pre-requisite skills of cultural literacy (like global awareness), mindsets (like having a growth mindset or an improvement mindset), and foundational skills (like literacy, numeracy, and communication). Markle’s framework helps employers categorize the skills workers need, which will help them communicate those needs to educators and training partners. First, companies and organizations must define what digital literacy means to the organization. Then, they must be able to assess the skills employees have or that future job candidates may have. Next, they should identify roles that are digitizing most quickly or where the biggest gaps in digital skills exist and create an upskilling pilot program. Organizations should work with leaders and managers in the pilot to identify occupation-specific skills that might not be captured in the definition of baseline digital literacy that was established. Next, organizations should select a partner – an upskilling provider, such as a community college or community-based organization, or consulting firm or other support organization– to implement the upskilling program. Finally, organizations should determine key metrics to track, assess and evaluate them before and after training. By investing the time to define the baseline digital skills needed for occupations within their organizations and by working with partners to upskill their workforce, greater Houston’s employers can help ensure that the regional economy remains globally competitive well into the 21st century and that residents have the ability to develop relevant skills that increase their economic opportunity and mobility. The UpSkill Houston initiative helps employers and their talent acquisition teams address skills gaps by building talent pipelines for occupations that require less than a four-year college degree and by partnering with organizations working with displaced workers to upskill themselves into new roles. 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

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

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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Executive Partners