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Houston addresses skills gap to bolster workforce

The Greater Houston Partnership recently announced details about UpSkill Houston, a comprehensive, industry-led approach to fill gaps in the Houston region’s workforce.

Written by OilOnline Press - June 24th, 2014 | 173 Views

Houston addresses skills gap to bolster workforce

The Greater Houston Partnership recently announced details about UpSkill Houston, a comprehensive, industry-led approach to fill gaps in the Houston region’s workforce. The UpSkill Houston action plan is a blueprint for leaders in the business community, educational institutions and social service organizations to build a quality workforce that meets employer’s needs and ensures that Houstonians have the skills and opportunities to enter the workforce and build successful careers. Houston currently does not have enough skilled workers to fill jobs that are readily available.

“Employers tell us every day they need more workers with better and more diverse skills. Helping people gain skills they need to compete for jobs will transform lives and strengthen our economy,” said Gina Luna, Vice Chairman of the Greater Houston Partnership and Chairman of JPMorgan Chase in Houston. “Through UpSkill Houston, we can ensure the supply of skilled workers required to sustain our booming business environment.  It will also provide great careers for our citizens and continued economic prosperity for the Houston region.”

The UpSkill Houston action plan was developed by the Greater Houston Partnership’s Regional Workforce Development Task Force.  Luna co-chaired the Task Force with Bruce Culpepper, Executive Vice President of Shell Oil Company, and convened a group of 79 representatives from industry, education and social services to collaborate and develop this plan. 

“The Gulf Coast is in the midst of an energy infrastructure construction boom, positioning our region for immense growth,” Luna said.  “UpSkill Houston is our strategic plan to make the most of this opportunity for our region, our city and its people.” 

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The action plan focuses on middle-skills occupations that require candidates to have more than a high school diploma but do not require a four-year degree. The Houston region is expected to have 296,000 openings in middle-skills occupations between 2014 and 2017, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.  

Bob Harvey, president and CEO of GHP, said, “The middle-skills challenge is incredibly complex, involving many moving parts and players throughout the system. The UpSkill Houston program demands a collaborative effort involving stakeholders from across our region to succeed. Hiring and training needs vary greatly by industry. These councils will identify each industry’s critical occupations and ensure the region’s training programs can meet the demand for workers in those critical areas,” Harvey said. 

The program will create seven sector-specific councils tasked to improve coordination between and among employers, community colleges, school districts, training facilitators and non-profits.  The seven key sectors for the Houston region are: advanced manufacturing, construction, healthcare, oil & gas, petrochemical, ports & maritime, and utilities. 

JPMorgan Chase’s committed US$5 million to workforce training in Houston as part of the company’s $250 million global New Skills at Work initiative, the largest ever private-sector effort aimed at addressing the skills gap.  At the event, Chase announced a $250,000 grant to the Partnership’s Opportunity Houston 2.0 campaign to support UpSkill Houston.  In addition, the company announced a $500,000 grant to Lone Star College to expand training opportunities for adults who currently have low-skill, low paying-jobs.  

A major element of the UpSkill Houston sector approach includes improved data sharing between employers and educational institutions to match hiring needs with curricula. Additional efforts include a public relations campaign to drive awareness about middle-skills careers and improve perception of these good-paying occupations.  The plan includes tactics to improve basic skills and employability of job candidates to ensure that they have the basic academic and communications skills to find, interview and successfully hold a job. GHP will work closely with United Way THRIVE to develop and execute the basic skills and employability component.

A full copy of the GHP report, “Addressing Houston’s Middle-Skills Job Challenge” is available for download at   

Photo: Greater Houston Partnership


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