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Middle Skills Talent
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 Certain industries struggle with outdated perceptions about their work.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.

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

Workforce Development

Greater Houston Partnership Honored with 2024 EDO Award for Workforce Development

5/8/24
The Greater Houston Partnership was recognized for its workforce development work, winning Business Facilities' 2024 Economic Development Organization award in the large economic development organization category.  The economic development publication’s awards recognize economic development organizations “growing their communities” and recognizes “initiatives delivering results toward capital investment, job creation, quality of life and more.” Six other economic development organizations were recognized for their initiatives in the same category.  UpSkill Houston, set to celebrate its 10-year anniversary this fall, mobilizes the collective action of more than 200 critical business, education and community leaders developing the pipeline of skilled workers employers need and creating better pathways to opportunity for all Houstonians. As part of its mission, UpSkill Houston bolsters talent-driven economic development efforts across the Houston region in focus areas like life sciences, energy, as well as aerospace and aviation.  “We are excited about the recognition for the framework we’ve developed and we look forward to bringing our goals to fruition for the people of Houston,” said Peter Beard, SVP of Regional Workforce Development at the Greater Houston Partnership. “The future is very bright for all who contribute to our region’s dynamic economy.”  Educational partnerships have flourished in the Houston region in recent years, with examples like San Jacinto College’s EDGE Center, which partners with the Houston Spaceport to train professionals for roles in innovative space enterprises like Intuitive Machines, Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace. In 2023, the 105,572 square-foot Intuitive Machines Lunar Production and Operations Facility opened at the Houston Spaceport, ensuring direct access for these trainees to groundbreaking innovation at the forefront of the private space sector.  The strides made to bolster workforce development have already earned Houston further opportunities, with the Department of Energy taking notice. Houston’s selection as a clean hydrogen hub was spurred by collective investment in the workforce infrastructure from UpSkill Houston, the Houston Energy Transition Initiative (HETI), the Center for Houston’s Future (CHF) and Accenture. The effort aimed at mapping the anticipated 20,000 future local hydrogen careers and providing opportunity for energy transition inclusion and social mobility to disadvantaged communities.  UpSkill Houston has established itself as a game changer for regional economic development, producing workforce solutions in some of the most critical sectors of tomorrow. This impact will be seen as Houston continues to elevate its stature on the world stage as a destination for opportunity and prosperity for all.  Learn more about the UpSkill Houston workforce development initiative.
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Education

Houston Investing in Its Future Hydrogen Workforce with New Development Strategy

4/22/24
Addressing a growing skills gap by closing economic disparities will be critical as Houston’s hydrogen economy grows. To address this opportunity, the Greater Houston Partnership's UpSkill Houston initiative, Accenture and the Center for Houston’s Future (CHF) have launched a new workforce development initiative that aims to help people in disadvantaged communities (DACs) secure good jobs in the emerging hydrogen economy by bridging the skills gap through training and skill development. According to the executive summary, the strategy will target high-demand and good-paying, middle-skilled hydrogen jobs through a skill-matching process based on skill transferability, among other factors, as well as tailored learning journeys that will provide pathways from education to employment. This will require collaborating with key stakeholders across the hydrogen economy, including local industry employers, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations. The list of partners includes Air Liquide, Chevron, bp, Bloom Energy, Calpine, Dow, HIG, Linde, Shell, SLB, Brazosport College, Houston Community College, Lee College, Lone Stage College, San Jacinto College, United Way of Greater Houston and Gulf Coast Workforce Solutions. The learning journeys will help people increase their earning potential and provide career stability by having direct access to the hydrogen sector. “The future growth of the hydrogen industry in Houston and the Gulf Coast provides the region with the opportunity to collaborate with business and industry to rewire the talent pathways into the hydrogen sector and increase economic mobility and opportunity for residents of communities historically underserved.” - Peter Beard, SVP, Regional Workforce Development The consortium aims to work with community stakeholders and educational institutions to align career and technical education (CTE) in high schools with dual credit in community colleges. The ongoing collaboration with colleges and school districts will also support the development of shorter-term programs for adults.  The new initiative follows the U.S. Department of Energy’s selection of the Gulf Coast as one of seven regional clean hydrogen hubs, with operations centered in Houston. Brett Perlman, President of the Center for Houston’s Future, says employers must implement inclusive workforce strategies to fill the skills gap and mobilize a sustainably scaled workforce by recruiting talent throughout the community. Accenture’s research has found a high degree of jobs will be needed for hydrogen with highly correlated skills from other occupations and industries already in place. “Making this happen requires being very purposeful about the intersection of these opportunities and... working across the ecosystem,” said Mary Beth Gracy, Houston Office Managing Director of Accenture, during a stragey presentation. The findings also predict a steady rise in middle-skill jobs within Houston’s clean energy hydrogen economy over the next five to 10 years, especially in carbon capture and storage (CCS), as well as consistent growth in manufacturing, application, storage, distribution and production as demand and technology advances. Robert Nunmaker, General Manager – Hydrogen, USGC & Europe at Chevron, echoed the report's conclusions. "This region plays a key role in supplying lower-carbon hydrogen and ammonia, which will require a skilled local workforce that will be positioned to execute these projects.” According to research conducted by McKinsey and CHF, Texas - and the Gulf Coast region as a whole - are already the nation’s largest hydrogen producers with more than 1,000 miles of dedicated hydrogen pipelines and 48 hydrogen production plants. The region is also home to a diverse array of energy resources, including a large concentration of academic and industry-driven energy innovation, cutting-edge infrastructure, and a highly skilled workforce. Looking at the future energy mix, hydrogen is anticipated to be twelve percent of the total energy consumption by 2050, according to the IEA. In its Houston as a Hydrogen Hub – 2050 Snapshot report, the Center for Houston’s Future predicts that 170,000 potential direct, indirect and induced jobs could be created in the hydrogen economy, as well as an additional $100 billion for Texas’ gross domestic product. Learn more about UpSkill Houston. Read the full strategy.
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Energy

Collaboration Key to Preparing Energy Transition Workforce, Experts Say

8/10/23
As energy companies and the Houston region look to prepare and develop the workforce necessary to support the energy transition, experts say collaboration among companies, educational institutions, the federal government and other organizations is fundamental. Experts from across the Houston region discussed how organizations and companies are preparing the workforce of the future during a panel discussion at the Greater Houston Partnership’s UpSkill Works Forum on Aug. 3.  According to a BCG analysis, most Houston-based oil and gas workers will rely on just nine capability sets by 2050. “To ensure they have the right mix of competencies for the future, oil and gas companies will need to carry out a skills-based mapping exercise, starting with defining the expertise and capabilities needed to succeed in their chosen business areas, markets, and geographies,” a BCG publication on the energy transition states. Maria Suarez-Simmons, senior director of energy policy for Energy Workforce & Technology Council, encourages companies to take a “holistic view” of the occupations they offer and adjust them to the needs of the future of energy. Saurez-Simmons added that energy companies should create messaging that communicates there are opportunities for all, not solely engineers. Scott Marshall, senior group director for the people team in the Americas at Worley, said “We are in the transition today”, adding that companies should start reaching out to students at a much younger age to showcase available career paths if they are going to meet the demand.  Worley offers several early career programs, including a global graduate development programs and STEM workshops for children.  Stacy Putman, manager of advocacy, leadership, workforce development and strategic projects at INEOS, shared how INEOS collaborates with schools, working with K – 12th-grade teachers to educate them on opportunities in sustainability, energy transition and manufacturing. Putnam also stressed the importance of being involved in an employee’s career journey. In alignment with this strategic evolution, a growing number of companies are adopting skills-based hiring as a means to diversify their talent pool. This shift from the traditional reliance on four-year college degrees highlights the need for specialized skills aligned with the demands of the energy transition. Raul Camba, managing director and Latin America lead at Accenture, helps energy companies navigate the energy transition but also focuses on the industry's adaptability within its operations, strategies and workforce. Camba said another tool to close the skills gap is to identify adjacent skills or related and transferable skills a worker already has and build upon them. Camba said forums like this one where employers can openly share the tools and resources they're utilizing will help companies find innovative solutions and colleges and universities design programs based on the region's needs. Experts say the strategic alliance among industry, education and government serves as the cornerstone for building a skilled, resilient and future-ready energy workforce in Houston. Join the Partnership for a conversation on September 14 on how companies can develop partnerships with educational institutions. Learn about the Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Initiative and UpSkill Houston.
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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

SEP
2022
Getting Houston Back on Track, Plus Education that Prepares the Workforce of the Future
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AUG
2022
Energy Transition & Opportunity for Workforce Equity Evolution
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JUN
2022
Addressing Texas Skills Needs & Tapping into Workforce STARs
View
MAY
2022
Higher Education & Workforce Recovery
View
APR
2022
Community Colleges & Sourcing Skilled Talent
View
MAR
2022
Internships, Career Exploration & Workforce STARs
View
JAN
2022
Expanding Equitable Career Opportunities
View
DEC
2021
2022 Employment Forecast, Building Talent & Reviewing Higher Ed Funding
View
OCT
2021
Labor Market Update; Skilling Opportunities for Veterans, Young Adults & More
View
SEP
2021
Getting Houston Back on Track
View
AUG
2021
Understanding & tapping into today's talent and tomorrow's
View
JUL
2021
Houston a leader in innovative recovery initiatives
View
JUN
2021
Apprenticeships and developing the future workforce to aid recovery
View
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
View
MAR
2021
Unemployment revisited; Legislative update; Employer-education partnerships
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FEB
2021
Texas plans recovery efforts, builds workforce strategies
View
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
View
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
View
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
View
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
View
DEC
2019
UpSkill Houston drives action, looks ahead to the future
View
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