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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 Certain industries struggle with outdated perceptions about their work.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.

“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

“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

“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

Workforce Development

Texas Mutual Helps UpSkill Houston, Partners Provide Vital Support to Workers, Job Seekers

4/8/21
The need to help individuals be prepared for good jobs in a changing and dynamic regional economy is more urgent than ever. Today's workers must also be resilient and adaptable to the shocks that come with working in a competitive, global economy.  Last year, unemployment in the greater Houston region topped 360,000 people at its peak, driving up the demand for effective career coaching and guidance by nonprofit organizations serving under- and unemployed individuals. Though the labor market has improved, an estimated gap of 250,000 jobs remains and full recovery may be up to three years away. In addition, students graduating high school and college during the recovery will encounter a soft labor market, just as graduates did in the wake of the Great Recession. Effective career counseling and coaching will assist students in identifying the education and workforce programs that are pathways to good jobs in the Houston region.  UpSkill Houston has secured grant funding from Texas Mutual Insurance Company to assist in creating a community of practice to strengthen the capacity and skills of these coaches whose work is critical to helping individuals succeed in the workforce. The Partnership’s UpSkill Houston initiative will use this financial support to equip career coaches, counselors and educators with information and tools to help displaced workers, job seekers and the region’s students navigate good career pathways and transitions. Texas Mutual is supporting the Houston region with a total of $385,000 in grants to UpSkill Houston, United Way of Greater Houston through its THRIVE program and BakerRipley Community Developers to support programs and initiatives that help individuals develop career skills and address other workforce issues. UpSkill Houston works with United Way THRIVE partners and BakerRipley to provide financial literacy education, workforce training and critical supports to the region’s asset limited income constrained employed (ALICE) population and other individuals and families in need. "Supporting and strengthening Houston's workforce, as Texas Mutual has done, is vital to lifting up the entire city as it continues to grapple with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic," said Peter Beard, Partnership senior vice president of regional workforce development and leader of UpSkill Houston. "This grant to UpSkill Houston will help individuals looking for work have access to the tools and coaching needed to navigate and attain job stability." Texas Mutual, a leading provider of workers’ compensation in the state, has been an UpSkill Houston partner since 2018 and has demonstrated its commitment to workforce development efforts by funding relevant organizations. These grants are among the nearly $2.9 million Texas Mutual has distributed to community organizations across the state. "We have a deep commitment to building a stronger, safer Texas, and through our partnerships with organizations across the state, we’re able to deliver on that commitment," said Jeremiah Bentley, vice president of marketing and community affairs at Texas Mutual. “These grants help us maintain our mission while, more importantly, assisting people who need it the most. Helping individuals develop career skills and addressing other workforce issues—from child care to food access—is something that Texas Mutual knows is an important part of being good corporate citizens." Read full press release here.   UpSkill Houston is the Partnership’s nationally recognized, employer-led initiative that mobilizes the collective action of employers, educators and community-based leaders to strengthen the talent pipeline the region’s employers need to grow their businesses and to help all Houstonians develop relevant skills and connect to good careers that increase their economic opportunity and mobility. Learn more and get involved.
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Education

Houston Employers Partner with Education to Invest in Future Talent

3/18/21
This winter, Brazosport ISD announced a new major giving campaign to support career and technical education (CTE) programs and named Dow Chemical as its first major campaign backer. The company has pledged $2.5 million toward the district’s $5 million goal, according to the district. Dow has been a longtime supporter of the district’s Systems Go Rocketry Program and FIRST Robotics teams, providing both monetary grants and Dow mentors to work with students. These will be housed in the new CTE Center, according to the company. It has also supported district CTE programs through its “Project Lead The Way” and “Dow Gives Education Grants” programs to help the district offer new engineering and cybersecurity pathways, and for various STEM projects, respectively. Dow’s commitments are recent examples of major Houston-area employers investing resources into K-12 career and technical education programs to improve facilities and opportunities for the region’s students. These investments illustrate the commitment of employers in strengthening the pipeline of local talent and building viable pathways from the classroom to good careers, especially for craft trades with high-demand projections over the next several years. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) lists electricians, welders and cutters, HVAC mechanics and installers, and pipefitters among its top 10 targeted occupations statewide; engineers of various types, software developers and network and computer systems administrators join the list in the Gulf Coast region. Education programs that expose students to these and related trades and allow students to get a literal feel for the work and industry can help students make informed career decisions. In 2019, MAREK launched its MAREK Construction Academy program in partnership with Houston ISD and Houston Community College (HCC) allowing high school juniors and seniors to earn dual high school and college credit and gain valuable, on-the-job training through paid summer internships. Students gain experience installing drywall and framing along with blueprint technology and other skills. Students who complete the program graduate high school with National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) industry credentials, an OSHA certification and an opportunity to work with MAREK, along with a high school diploma and a Certificate Level 1 in Construction Management Technology from HCC. The program was modeled on a similar electrician “pre-apprenticeship” program between TRIO Electric, HCC and Spring Branch ISD that has since expanded to Alief ISD in the Houston region along with school districts in Austin and Fort Worth. S&B Engineers and Constructors is taking a different approach to engage students in career exploration and education. During the 2019-20 school year, volunteers from S&B spearheaded a committee of volunteers from major employers including Turner Industries, Dow and Worley, among others, to hold an industrial craft competition in partnership with seven area school districts as part of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. This competition, piloted last year but now an established part of the Rodeo, challenges student teams to construct industrial skids. Students learn through the months-long exercise how to use technical skills common to industrial construction, including how to follow plans, submit requests for information (RFIs) and meet industrial safety expectations. The project helps teachers keep up with industry practices and standards, as well. 3DE by Junior Achievement creates a partnership between education and business and fundamentally changes the high school instructional model. The 3DE model, launched within Houston ISD this school year, builds student-centric education around a series of real-world questions presented by sponsor companies, such as Accenture, Deloitte and Quanta Services. Sponsors serve as mentors as students work through the case-study projects, and students complete internships or consultancies with employer sponsors during their senior year. The model will be introduced into a second district school next school year. (Related: Re-Imagining Education and Career-Connected Learning — How Junior Achievement is Driving Opportunity for All) Dow, MAREK and S&B Engineers and Constructors are employer-champions among the more than 130 employer partners in the Partnership’s nationally-recognized, employer-led UpSkill Houston initiative, which mobilizes the collective action of employers, educators and community-based leaders to strengthen the talent pipeline the region’s employers need to grow their businesses and to help all Houstonians develop relevant skills and connect to good careers that increase their economic opportunity and mobility.   Get involved with the UpSkill Houston initiative.  
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Employment

Need for Hiring Houston Youth Critical in Wake of Pandemic

3/15/21
The COVID-19 pandemic drove unemployment to record highs across the greater Houston region and the country, disproportionately among Hispanic, Black, Asian, women and younger populations, and presented significant challenges for employers to offer traditional summer jobs and internships to young Houstonians. It was against this labor market backdrop and the knowledge that COVID vaccines were rolling out that City of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the kick-off of this year’s Hire Houston Youth initiative with an appeal for employers to register summer jobs and internships but also year-round opportunities for young Houstonians. Turner cited data from the Aspen Institute highlighting the disparate impact of the pandemic on unemployment among Hispanic individuals, Black Americans, Asian Americans, but also among white young adults.  “Our emphasis on our youth is even greater than before,” Turner said during the launch event, held at the Workforce Solutions – Northline career office.  The City plans to hire up to 500 youth this summer to work 32 hours a week for up to eight weeks, Turner said. It will pay its young workers $10 an hour, although other employers can offer different compensation. Successful City candidates will receive six hours of job-readiness training and receive guidance from career coaches. Summer opportunities offered through the Hire Houston Youth initiative should begin by June 14 and conclude by August 5 and can be virtual (remote) or in person. The job board for youth candidates opened March 15 and will remain open through April 16, but employers can still register opportunities at HireHoustonYouth.org. Mark Guthrie, chair of the Gulf Coast Region Workforce Board and executive committee member of the Partnership’s UpSkill Houston initiative, echoed Turner’s commitment to supporting employment opportunities for youth: The board recognizes that starting with young workers is valuable and yields a high return on investment, he said. “Summer jobs create the opportunity for young people to develop essential workplace skills they will carry throughout their careers,” Guthrie said, listing skills including showing up for work; communicating with customers, co-workers and supervisors; problem solving; and teamwork. Summer employment can also expose students to otherwise unknown occupations, he said.  Guthrie noted the that the COVID-19 pandemic drove the region’s unemployment rate up to 8 percent – compared with the pre-pandemic rate of 3.9 percent – with even higher unemployment rates for teens and young adults.  “Unfortunately, even in a good job market, teens and young adults have limited work opportunities,” Guthrie said. By enrolling in the program, employers can help ensure that young people don’t miss out on the all-important experience that comes with a summer job. The UpSkill Houston initiative recognizes the value of internships, pre-apprenticeship and other career-connected learning programs in helping students and young people connect with good careers. These programs help participants understand various, less visible, roles and occupations within an industry or organization; identify multiple pathways into industries, businesses, or specific occupations; and develop skills they can use to earn credentials or certification and build their careers. They can also provide a basis for young people to build meaningful relationships with mentors. Summer internships can be very real on-ramps to careers, as Darryl Samuels, of construction development company D. Samuels & Associates, LLC, said during the kick-off event. Samuels has hired four of five former interns who have graduated college. (Several more former interns are working their way through high school or college, he noted.) Samuels said the program helped him introduce students to careers and opportunities within the construction industry. Hire Houston Youth began in 2015, when the City offered 450 internships. By 2019, it had grown to include more than 10,000 opportunities, mostly within the private sector. The City adapted its program last year due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic but, by partnering with JPMorgan Chase, Workforce Solutions, University of Houston, Houston Community College and Lone Star College, was still able to provide almost 120 youth with 10 weeks of paid instruction and work to combat COVID in various communities, Turner said. Turner has not set a hiring goal for this year as he has in years past, but he hopes the program will regain momentum. “A lot of young people want to work, but they also need the opportunity to work,” he said. Learn more about how employers can get involved at HireHoustonYouth.org, and can post opportunities 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

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

MAR
2021
Unemployment revisited; Legislative update; Employer-education partnerships
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FEB
2021
Texas plans recovery efforts, builds workforce strategies
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JAN
2021
Economic recovery underscores urgency in upskilling
View
NOV
2020
Spotlight on higher ed, adult learners
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OCT
2020
Re-imagining career-relevant education; Student awareness of good careers
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SEP
2020
COVID-19 & innovation in career exploration; Talent Finance initiative
View
AUG
2020
New "My Life As..." career stories; Houston expands digital alliance; talent finance discussions
View
JUL
2020
Navigating the changing nature of work; Reskilling through higher ed
View
JUN
2020
COVID-19 impact on Houston’s workforce; HCC unveils job-connected training portal
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MAY
2020
COVID-19 presents short-term problems, long-term opportunities; New funding for workforce development announced
View
APR
2020
UpSkill Houston partners on animated soft skill series
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MAR
2020
COVID-19 and workforce disruption
View
FEB
2020
Career coaching outcomes examined; Transportation leaders eye education programs
View
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
Executive Partners