Skip to main content
Manufacturing Employment

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 Certain industries struggle with outdated perceptions about their work.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 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 

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


Hire Houston Youth Program Helps Create Strong Regional Workforce

Earlier this year, Houston City Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the launch of the fifth year of the City’s Hire Houston Youth summer internship program along with a new target employment goal. Turner has called on Houston employers to offer 20,000 jobs to young Houstonians.  Each job is an opportunity for Houston’s business and non-profit communities to help prepare young talent for successful careers in our region’s competitive global economy. Businesses can offer employment opportunities or financial support to help non-profits and other organizations provide summer job opportunities.    Bob Harvey, President and CEO of the Partnership, spoke during the launch event. He urged businesses owners and employers to invest in developing the region’s young talent by participating in the program.  “It’s truly incumbent upon the business community to recognize the importance of giving these young people this opportunity,” Harvey said. “There’s really no excuse for businesses in Houston not to get behind this effort and continue to let it grow. It’s really making a difference in Houston.” The program has grown significantly since it was launched in 2016, when employers provided more than 1,100 youth with summer jobs. In 2019, youth had access to more than 11,400 employment opportunities, most of which were within the private sector. The Partnership’s UpSkill Houston initiative champions career-connected learning programs along with opportunities for hands-on career exploration. These summer career experiences help young people recognize multiple pathways into good careers, learn skills they can apply toward earning credentials or certifications, and connect with mentors. Through summer employment, young talent forge professional relationships with industry experts who can impart valuable industry-related or occupation-specific wisdom. Summer employment also exposes young Houstonians and, by extension, their parents, to the wealth of good career opportunities they might not otherwise come to know. Hire Houston Youth internship opportunities are open to Houston residents 16 to 24-years-old. Internships must last at least seven weeks. Employers are encouraged to pay at least $9 per hour, although many choose to pay more, according to Mayor Turner. The Partnership, its UpSkill Houston initiative and the Houston Mayor’s Office will be hosting a luncheon on March 16 to encourage the business community to take part in the program.  Employers can sign up and donate to the program at As part of its work to advance Houston’s position as a great global city, the Greater Houston Partnership is strengthening our region’s future through its Houston Next strategy, which focuses on creating a strong, diverse 21st-century economy; ensuring a great quality of life; and supporting opportunity for all. The Partnership’s UpSkill Houston initiative works to ensure Greater Houston has the skilled workforce to advance our global competitiveness while empowering Houstonians to follow pathways to prosperity and opportunity.  
Read More
Economic Development

Partnership Members Drive Powerful Impact

The Greater Houston Partnership works alongside our 1,100 members to make the greater Houston region one of the best places to live, work and build a business. When companies and organizations join the Partnership, they invest in making Houston greater.  In January 2019, the Partnership launched Houston Next, a strategic plan to advance Houston as a great global city, one that centers around driving a strong, diverse, 21st century economy; ensuring a great quality of life; and offering opportunity for all.  Beyond investing in the Partnership’s mission, much of the Partnership’s efforts are made possible by the active engagement of members in our work.  Below is a snapshot of the impact made possible by our members in 2019.  Driving a Strong, Diverse, 21st Century Economy In 2019, the Partnership and its regional allies assisted in more than 50 economic development projects, which resulted in $1.1+ billion in capital investments and the creation of approximately 3,158 jobs. Along with business and civic leaders including Mayor Sylvester Turner, the Partnership led four major business recruitment trips to Silicon Valley, San Francisco, New York City and London. Participants attended 33 company prospect meetings and networked with nearly 200 business leaders. The Partnership also extended global ties, welcoming 133 delegations from more than 4 countries. Partnership Economic Development and Public Policy Committees, which are comprised of hundreds of members, also guided and assisted in the recruitment of targeted companies across key verticals and addressed policy issues carrying tax and fiscal consequences. Ensuring a Great Quality of Life The Partnership took tremendous strides toward improving the quality of life of Houstonians in 2019, particularly when it comes to building a more resilient Texas. During the 86th Legislative Session, the Infrastructure and Resiliency Advisory Committee helped advocate for recovery and resilience funding, which resulted in the passage of Texas' first flood planning, recovery and resilience package. That legislation secured $2 billion in state funding, which will draw down approximately $5 billion in federal funding for statewide recovery and resilience.  The Transportation Advisory Committee also worked to improve local transportation infrastructure by advocating for voters to approve METRO’s bond referendum. The approved measure grants METRO $3.5 billion in bonding authority, which when combined with a potential match of $3.5 billion in federal funds and $500 million in other available local funds, will allow for up to $7.5 billion in transit network development. These projects will be crucial for the growth and mobility demands of the Houston region for the next several decades. Supporting Opportunity for All Human capital is the greatest asset our region possesses. As the Partnership works to support a strong, diverse economy, it is paramount that the growth we achieve is powered by Houstonians who are seeking opportunity to improve their own lives and that of their families. Significant achievements were made in 2019 on the forefront of improving our region’s public education system and pipeline for our future workforce.  Prior to the 86th Legislative Session, the Public Education Advisory Committee developed five school finance reform principles that the Partnership believed were important to any school finance reform legislation this session. Guided in part by those principles, the Legislature passed the most consequential public school finance reform since 1993 with the passage of House Bill 3. The measure unlocks more than $400 million in new state funding for the Houston region, provides funding specifically for economically disadvantaged and English language learner students, increases funding aimed at improving third grade literacy rates, and significantly reduces the local burden of funding public education. It should be noted that House Bill 3 included most of the Partnership’s principles in the final reform legislation.  The Partnership is also advancing efforts to increase the talent pipeline for the skilled workers needed to fill positions that require education and skills beyond a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree. On this front, UpSkill Houston worked to engage 130 employers and more than 65 education, community, and workforce organizations over the past five years to offer effective career guidance and coaching at key decision points and to connect workers with skills-based education and hiring platforms. Member Engagement In addition to investing in making Houston greater, Partnership members have many opportunities to convene, learn, do business, and make an impact with other members. In 2019: 10,250 business and community leaders attended 20 major events featuring high quality thought leader expertise  4,216 members were brought together for 75 Program sessions, delivering enriching conversations, educational workshops and valuable content 1,460 members participated in 28 Council meetings across 10 key topic areas 1,529 members convened for 83 Committee meetings making an influence in 19 areas critical to the region’s growth Click here to read the full Partnership Impact Report. Click here to see the Partnership’s Membership Directory.  To learn more about membership with the Greater Houston Partnership click here, or contact
Read More
Digital Technology

Upskilled Workers Vital to the Trillion-Dollar Space Economy

Thousands of aerospace industry experts, government leaders and entrepreneurs from around the world gathered in Houston this week for SpaceCom, the international Space Commerce Conference and Exposition.  The central theme of this year's event was what industry leaders are calling the "trillion-dollar space economy." In other words, what's needed most to prepare the workforce, present and future, for this new economy?  Industry and educational leaders from around the country attempted to answer this question at one of the conference's break-out sessions.  Here are three key takeaways from that panel discussion:  The Trillion-Dollar Space Economy is Here Now "The idea of the trillion-dollar space economy is not a hypothetical concept that is way off in the future," said panelist Lon Miller, Senior Vice-President and General Manager of Jacobs. "My company is in the middle of it right now." Miller explained that last year alone, Jacobs, an international technical professional services firm, hired nearly 300 new employees to fulfill roles in engineering, science and technology for their contract with Johnson Space Center in Houston.  Panelist Muge Wood, the Director for the Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) in Houston, agreed. She pointed to the consistent need for specialists in cloud computing, data science and cybersecurity in the tech industry.  Upskilled Workers Play a Vital Role  Across the U.S., regions are seeing a critical need for workers to fulfill middle-skill careers. These are jobs that require advanced education and skills beyond high school, but less than a four-year college degree.  Experts say this need will only grow as the space industry turns into a trillion-dollar economy. "We have a critical need that is currently a tough skill to get, [which] are skilled technicians. They are are a premium right now," said panelist James Reuter, Associate Administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters. To help build this workforce, San Jacinto College is working alongside industry leaders around the Houston region, as well as the Greater Houston Partnership, to help develop the marketable skills and provide these workers with the educational background they need to be successful. "You can get a certificate, you can get associates degree, or you can get a four-year degree, but how does that tie into the workforce and what is really needed? With the work we are doing, we have to have those conversations with the workforce," said Brenda Hellyer, Chancellor of San Jacinto College District. Preparing the Workforce Starts in Elementary School  Experts argued the space economy is growing at such an exponential rate that it's no longer viable to wait until students are upperclassmen in high school or in college to begin recruiting. The panelists said their organizations are starting to recruit in elementary school. "There is a very high demand for STEM skills, so the first thing you don't attract those people after they are in college, you attract them as elementary students. We have to reach them out there and beyond," said Reuter.  Reuter said that going into the elementary schools to show children at a young age that there are multiple avenues to success, especially in the STEM fields, is key to growing the workforce. Panelists added that these elementary school programs also keep students engaged throughout their school career and have a much higher chance of not only graduating high school but going on to continue their education. San Jacinto College has begun pre-k and elementary school programs that help instill critical thinking and math skills that often hold them back in high school. "We are changing the way we talk to them. We used to not talk to kids until 10th or 11th grade, but now we have backed it up," explained Hellyer. "We put the thought process that you can do more you can be more, and we do it through the whole process because you cannot wait until 9th through 12th grade that they can do this--they can break that cycle."  Learn more about UpSkill Houston and workforce development efforts in the Houston region.
Read More
Executive Committee
Sector Leadership
UpSkill Houston Team

Career information for job seekers, educators and partners.

Learn More

Video series introducing careers and the pathways to entry.

Learn More

Tool to match skills with careers in the petrochemical manufact...

Learn More

Major Funding Partners

Executive Partners