Skip to main content
Manufacturing Employment

Houston has one of the largest manufacturing workforces in the country

Business Executives and Employers Lead the Way

The Houston region has experienced incredible growth over the last few years, and its economy has been recognized globally as one of opportunity. But in Greater Houston, as in many regions around the globe, too many people lack the skills or credentials they need to compete for 21st century jobs and too many businesses and employers are unable to find the workers they need, when and where they need them.  These skills and people gaps have reached critical proportions among Houston’s 1.4 million “middle-skills” jobs – advanced technical and craft careers that require education and skills development beyond high school but less than a four-year college degree.

The Greater Houston Partnership’s UpSkill Houston initiative helps address the regional skills gap and people gap.  With business executives and employers leading the way, UpSkill brings together industry leaders, educators, community organization representatives and government officials to build a strong talent pipeline for critical careers and to provide opportunities for residents to share in the region’s economic prosperity.

Since its founding in 2014, UpSkill Houston has become inextricably linked with the region’s global competitiveness, and its success hinges on business leadership.  If you are up for putting talent first in your business and in Greater Houston, join the Partnership’s UpSkill Houston initiative.

Engaging Peers and Expanding Champions

Business, education, and community-based organization leaders share the value of partnering through UpSkill Houston to strengthen the region’s talent pipeline.

Collective Action and Common Language Help Align Cross-Sector Efforts

Though UpSkill Houston is employer-driven, educational institutions and community organizations play crucial roles in its collaborative efforts. Employer leadership and collective action are keys to the initiative’s success, as is common language.

UpSkill Houston encourages different groups addressing the same problem to establish a common goal, align their efforts, pursue separate tactics, and share results. UpSkill Houston breaks down barriers and fosters a broad dialogue that brings all sectors of Houston’s economy together to create a singular vision and powerful solutions to expand the talent pipeline to the benefit of citizens and industries across the region.

This approach has reinforced existing efforts, while spurring new coalitions, and it’s working in not just one area but in multiple industries that are coming together.

Creating a Societal Mind Shift

For years, the traditional path from high school to four-year college to a career has been presented as THE path to success. Unfortunately, that path, alone has left a critical gap in our workforce.

By highlighting well-paid, rewarding careers that require less than a four-year college degree, UpSkill Houston presents an alternative path to success. By working with industry leaders, educators, and representatives of community organizations, UpSkill is pushing toward a societal mind shift—success does not require a four-year college degree.

Thanks in part to state education standards, students in the region's independent school districts are beginning to explore careers before high school. Also aiding in the societal mind shift, educational institutions, businesses, and community organizations are coming together to present education that's meaningful to students and meaningful to the economy. UpSkill Houston supports both efforts.

UpSkill Houston provides resources to help introduce students and parents to careers that offer stability, and opportunity for growth, and only require education and skills beyond a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree.
This website presents comprehensive information on numerous good jobs that don’t require a four-year degree, the training and educational requirements for them, and their salary ranges. This information is presented in slightly different formats for career seekers, educators, and UpSkill Houston partners.
This site introduces prominent area employers to students, parents and educators through compelling stories focused on employees and their paths toward careers that don’t require a four-year degree. The stories serve to change the perception that the traditional path from high school to a four-year college to a career is the best path to success.
Jobseekers can use this tool to match their skill sets with the occupations that industry employers need plus learn about educational training opportunities from local community college partners. The website is sponsored and operated by Gulf Coast petrochemical employers and supported by JPMorgan Chase.

In order to continue improving our talent pipeline that can sustain our growing economy, it is essential that employers continue to lead the way on initiatives such as UpSkill Houston. Employers are in the best position to know how many workers they need, what skills and competencies are required for those workers to be successful, and the sources of proven talent. Educational institutions, community organizations, and government agencies then can tailor their programs and support for workers based on collaborative efforts with employers.

By uniting these powerful forces – industry, education, community, and government – UpSkill Houston helps create the talent pipeline Greater Houston's regional economy requires while helping individuals build careers that improve their lives.

"Businesses who want to get their name out and sales professionals who want to increase their sphere of influence won't find a better organization to connect than GHP."

Lisa Bogany
Workforce Solutions

"We’re getting the skills we need, and we’re changing the trajectory of people’s lives.”

Bob Catudal

“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

"Houston has a huge amount of raw ingredients needed to launch a startup -- top tier universities, affordable cost of living, tremendous wealth, large corporations -- so the creation of a startup hub in Houston has just been about aligning all these elements under one roof that provides entrepreneurs with the tools they need to succeed."

Lawson Gow
Founder & CEO, The Cannon

“Now the expectation in Houston is that if you’re doing anything around workforce—whether you hire, train, or help people find jobs—you’re part of UpSkill Houston.”

Carolyn Watson
Vice President, Relationship Manager, Global Philanthropy, JPMorgan Chase

Continued National Acclaim for UpSkill Houston

Since its founding, UpSkill Houston has laid a strong foundation, steadily built the necessary infrastructure, and begun to experience results in closing the people gap and the skills gap in Houston's regional economy.  

Upskill Houston continues to receive national recognition for its work. Its efforts have been cited as exemplary 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, the Aspen Institute, the Global Cities Initiative of the Brookings Institution, JP Morgan Chase, and United Way Worldwide. 

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner also has recognized UpSkill Houston’s efforts.

The initiative has garnered positive media coverage by The Houston Chronicle, the Houston Business Journal, Forbes, and U.S. News & World Report.

Recent News

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

Interactive Expos Give Students Real World View of Career Paths, Help Break Down Stereotypes

Elba Rivera wanted to attend a recent Lift & Move USA interactive career expo so she could learn how cranes work. The Spring High School junior with an interest in engineering knew how to make models of cranes, but not how to use them.  “They have a lot more technology in them than I thought there would have been needed,” she said after a morning of rotating through the expo’s stations featuring equipment, demonstrations, and industry professionals. She also learned that cranes cost a lot more and require more safety measures to operate than she’d thought.  Rivera was one of about 500 high school and post-secondary students from across the region who spent a day this November at Lift & Move’s expo. Hosted by Liebherr USA’s Houston sales, service, and repair facility, the expo provided an opportunity for young people to learn about specialized transportation, crane, rigging, and machinery-moving operation equipment and careers. Lift & Move USA is organized by the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association, the SC&R Foundation, the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, and the publisher KHL. The group holds interactive learning events across the country, but this was its first in Houston. Organizations and companies that put together or participate in hands-on career expos like Lift & Move, the 2019 Construction Career Exposition, and C3’s WECan event can be instrumental in helping students make informed decisions about career pathways and education after high school. Interactive expos allow students to ask questions of industry professionals, try out equipment or use simulators, participate in mock job interviews, and learn about the credentials and skills needed to enter an industry. Such expos can be powerful opportunities to broaden a young person’s knowledge or understanding about an industry or career type, especially for roles that are in high demand but have little visibility. And, these expos can change perceptions of and combat stereotypes around an industry. C3’s inaugural WECan event, organized in partnership with the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and Aldine Independent School District, was developed specifically to introduce young women to careers in construction and companies that support the industry with tools or safety equipment. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2017, nearly 30,000 women worked in the construction industry in Greater Houston, accounting for about 9 percent of the industry.  Construction is a traditionally male-dominated industry with an aging workforce looking to attract a new younger and more diverse generation of workers. WECan demonstrated that women can participate – and thrive – in construction careers from sales to management to labor. About 1,000 female Aldine students attended, met with, and learned from construction leaders. For Kyus Ivan Gordon, a senior at Pasadena Independent School District’s Dr. Kirk Lewis Career & Technical High School, Lift & Move offered a chance to meet industry professionals and learn about job opportunities, many of which require specialized skills and industry credentials but not a bachelor’s degree. That point wasn’t lost on Gordon. “I learned you don’t have to have a college degree to run the cranes. They will train you here to be a certified operator,” he said, adding that he plans to join the military and then work in a construction or mechanical engineering field. Gordon said he would tell his friends who didn’t attend Lift & Move one thing: “They missed out.” Learn more about UpSkill Houston and workforce development efforts in the Houston region.   
Read More
Executive Committee
Sector Leadership
UpSkill Houston Team

Major Funding Partners

Executive Partners