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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 Certain industries struggle with outdated perceptions about their work.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

Biotechnology

What Does the Word Manufacturing Mean to Houston?

1/12/22
For generations, the word manufacturing was synonymous with places. In Detroit, it meant automobiles; in Ohio and Pennsylvania it meant steel. More recently, in the Silicon Valley and the Research Triangle in North Carolina, it means tech and biopharma. But what does manufacturing mean to Houston?  Houston has long been known as a global energy capital, and the energy industry has certainly played an integral role in driving the economic engine of the Texas Gulf Coast region, and greater Houston, specifically. Fifty years ago, a claim of a diversified Houston economy may have seemed far-fetched. But that is no longer the case. Energy companies across the value stream – upstream (extraction), midstream (transportation and storage), and downstream (refining and manufacturing) – have and continue to grow and create jobs, attracting workers and interrelated businesses to the region; this has generated a complex and far-reaching integrated supply chain of small and mid-size manufacturers and fabricators, vendors, and fixers that support the still-critical energy industry, but also industries that have grown up around it, including health care, transportation, and, more recently, technology.  Today, the greater Houston region is home to more than 6,400 of these manufacturers, which produce a spectrum of products ranging from petrochemicals and plastics to food to medical devices and pharmaceuticals – all worth more than $82 billion annually and making the Houston Metro the second-largest U.S. metro in terms of manufacturing GDP. These companies employ a skilled workforce including nearly 230,000 industrial workers (and growing), making it the country’s fifth largest manufacturing workforce. While economies once overly dependent on a homogenous manufacturing sector work to regain their past prosperity, Houston has a diversified economy, and it relies on a broad manufacturing sector for support. Houston doesn’t necessarily have – or need – a signature marketable manufacturing focus to attract talent and promote job growth. But, in an ever-evolving and more complex global economy, having the diversification of products and services that Houston does is a blessing. As a major logistics hub for the Americas, the Houston region’s ports, railroad network, and airports is an important asset supporting the region’s manufacturers. Houston’s diverse manufacturing base creates a natural hedge as fluctuations in the industries driving the broader American economy continue to ebb and flow. This diversity also presents myriad opportunities for vendors and customers to explore the boundaries of new markets, and for creators and startups to become the next big things as the economy evolves. Manufacturing’s presence also means less risk to outsourcing, low-cost competition, transient workforces, and consolidation. These, in turn, mean more stability long-term, and more jobs. Manufacturing in Houston means biopharma, medical devices, electronic equipment and parts, energy and plastics, logistics and transportation, and food and beverage production – and with a continually increasing population combined with an expanding port of Houston to support these varying areas of manufacturing, the underpinnings are there for continued growth moving forward. In Houston, manufacturing means makerspaces and innovation. It means good jobs. It is multifaceted and evolving all the time, and its future is bright. Learn more about Houston’s manufacturing industry here. The Partnership’s UpSkill Houston initiative serves as a regional backbone to bring together business, education and community leaders, and the public workforce system to develop a skilled workforce and create good pathways to opportunity for all. Learn more and get involved.  
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Employment

How Accenture Expands Houston Opportunities with Apprenticeships

12/13/21
When the global professional services company Accenture wanted to expand and equip its workforce to meet future needs and tap into new talent sources, it turned to a well-known model for developing talent with the right skills: the apprenticeship. Apprentice programs are work-based-learning models that combine paid work with education and mentorship. Accenture developed a robust apprenticeship program for many in-demand roles in cybersecurity, digital, data analytics and cloud migration to name a few. Apprentices work both within Accenture’s internal IT group and on client-facing work at the firm's offices across the country, including here in Houston. “As we were looking to skill more people for jobs of the future, one of the re-thinking things we were doing was looking at our talent pipeline and realizing that there was this untapped potential there,” said Mary Beth Gracy, Accenture’s Houston office managing director.  Accenture re-defined and restructured some roles to fit the earn-and-learn apprenticeship model and purpose. Gracy said this included reviewing whether a four-year bachelor’s degree was truly needed for each role. The result was not a “rip-and-replace” change to hiring or to roles, but rather a mechanism to add the apprenticeship model to the mix, she said.  The company’s apprenticeships last 12 months, and during that time, apprentices are working and getting paid. They also receive coaching and support from Accenture mentors who enhance the educational aspect of the apprenticeship model. Accenture does not require apprentices to have bachelor’s degrees (though a high school diploma or equivalent is required); it does seek candidates who are curious about business and technology and want to constantly learn, who can look at problems both analytically and creatively, and have demonstrated teamwork and collaboration while at school, in another job, or in the military.    Apprenticeships have a long association with specific trade and craft careers in areas such as construction, extraction, manufacturing, maintenance, and production. The apprenticeship model, however, is being embraced by more industries for a wider range of roles because it is a proven model for developing talent to unique employer specifications, including technology, as Accenture has done. Research conducted by Harvard Business School and Burning Glass Technologies (now Emsi Burning Glass) shows that the apprenticeship is a known pathway into just fewer than 30 occupations, but the model has ‘room to grow’ to almost 50 other occupations in areas as diverse as financial services, tax preparation, customer service, and human resources. Nearly half of these are occupations that do not require a bachelor’s degree (i.e., tax preparers, customer service representatives), and more than half are ones for which a bachelor’s degree is preferred but call for requisite skills can be obtained without one (i.e., claims adjusters, computer support specialists). The Harvard-Burning Glass report sets out criteria employers can use to identify occupations around which apprenticeships could be built: they are not heavily licensed, they require a relatively narrow cluster of skills, they generally require a worker to hold a high school diploma (equivalent) or an associate degree, they tend to have higher-than-average worker stability, and they pay a living wage. Apprentice programs are assets to employers – and should be treated as such (as opposed to as an expense), report co-author Joseph B. Fuller, of Harvard’s Managing the Future of Work initiative, told the audience of an UpSkill Works Forum held by the partnership’s UpSkill Houston initiative this past June. Apprenticeships develop talent to employer specifications and have been used effectively to open pathways to good jobs to new talent pools. In addition, they boost engagement among incumbent employees because it highlights an employer’s commitment to bringing in  talent and to “lift people up,” he said.  And that’s where Accenture has found success in its apprentices, said Accenture’s Gracy. The company has extended full-time job offers to the majority of apprentices upon program completion; these individuals have shown that they have the right skills and the right fit with the company’s culture, Gracy said. But the program’s real accomplishment has been in expanding opportunities for new talent and bringing them seamlessly into the company. Apprentices are fully integrated into Accenture’s workforce – some in internal roles and some in client-facing roles – with no obvious distinction made between the apprentice and other employees. “To me, that’s the real success. We’re bringing in candidates that would not traditionally have had access to these jobs and they’re thriving in careers alongside everybody else,” she said.  Gracy’s advice to employers planning to start an apprentice program is simple. Start small (as Accenture has in its locations) prepare to provide extra counseling and educational aspects that are an apprenticeship’s hallmark, and talk to other employers who have developed and implemented their own programs. Employers are excited to talk about their programs and share how they were built, she said.  Accenture and the professional services firm Aon have created a community of employers, educators, and nonprofits here in Houston eager to support the growth and development of new apprenticeship programs. This group – the Greater Houston Apprentice Network (GHAN) – is eager to help organizations define visions for their apprenticeship programs, identify best-fit roles for apprenticeships within their organizations, and develop and execute their program models.  Accenture and Aon introduced their first apprentice network in Chicago in 2017, and developed a national playbook for professional apprenticeships. They have worked together to form other apprentice networks across the country including in Washington, D.C., Northern California, Minnesota, and Philadelphia. They launched the GHAN in the fall of 2021 with support from the Partnership and the UpSkill Houston initiative. GHAN founding members include Amazon Web Services, Dow, Texas Mutual Insurance, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Worley. Employers interested in designing and implementing an apprenticeship program can reach out to the GHAN here. UpSkill Houston is the Partnership’s nationally recognized, employer-led initiative brings together business, education and community leaders, and the public workforce system to develop a skilled workforce and create good pathways to opportunity for all. Learn more and get involved 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

DEC
2021
2022 Employment Forecast, Building Talent & Reviewing Higher Ed Funding
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OCT
2021
Labor Market Update; Skilling Opportunities for Veterans, Young Adults & More
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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
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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
View
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
View