April 2022
Regional Unemployment Rate Decreases; Job Growth Seen in Construction, Hospitality
The regional unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) decreased slightly—from 5.2% in February to 4.4% in March—according to the April labor market report released by the Gulf Coast Workforce Board/Workforce Solutions. The figure represents a gain of 1,700 jobs, overall, in March. Major areas of growth included the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 4,600 jobs, and the construction sector, which saw a gain of 3,000 jobs. The construction sector typically sees growth of around 1% in March, so the monthly gain of 1.5% shows stronger-than-usual performance. However, business and professional services saw a loss of 9,300 jobs.

The unemployment rate in the Houston-Galveston region of 4.4% is greater than the statewide average of 3.9%, and the national average of 3.8%, and 151,604 residents are still looking for employment, according to Workforce Solutions.

See Workforce Solutions' Local Employment Statistics.
Texas Business Leaders Rely on Community Colleges
Community colleges have an undeniable impact on the Texas workforce and economy. The state’s 117 community colleges account for 90% of credit-bearing career and technical education credential awards. The higher pay given individuals with some college or an associate degree raised annual wages by over $27 billion, and the schools contributed about $9.8 billion annually to the Texas economy, according to the Texas Comptroller in 2020 (pre-pandemic). And yet, greater opportunity exists for employers to deepen their involvement with their local community and technical colleges.

In a virtual series of talks powered by the Business Leaders Advancing Skills in Texas coalition, employers across the state have been highlighting the critical role of community colleges in building a talent strong Texas. The first session, "The Indispensable Institution," presented an overview of national data around community college enrollment and both for-credit and non-credit programs and a conversation with the presidents of El Paso College, the Lamar Institute of Technology, and Temple College. The second session, "Employers Partnering with Colleges," engaged leaders of BASF, Bank of America, Baylor Scott & White Health, RAM Inc., and Samsung Austin Semiconductor who described real examples of how they have partnered with local systems to develop new talent and strengthen existing talent.

On May 3, the series will interview Dr. Harrison Keller, Commissioner of Higher Education, who will provide insights on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s strategic plan. It will continue with discussions focused on:
  • career navigation and student success, and how to improve it with quality credentials of value; 
  • dual credit and P-TECH;
  • lifelong learning and the trends; and,
  • workforce innovations in Texas and elsewhere.

The series will conclude with a capstone event with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Gulf Coast Workforce Leader, Innovator Temple Retires
April marked the end of an era for Houston’s workforce development community with the retirement of Mike Temple, longtime director of human services for the Houston-Galveston Area Council (Gulf Coast Workforce Board/Workforce Solutions). A strong and demonstrated leader, Temple served the region for 41 years driving innovation and growth to strengthen strategic workforce development initiatives and activities across the region.
Mike Temple stands inside a Workforce Solutions facility
Temple grew the Workforce Board to serve more than 30,000 employers and 200,000 individuals annually – the largest in the nation. He oversaw the integration of vocational rehabilitative services into Workforce Solutions to ensure there was a broad spectrum of services available to the disabled populations. He also supported the HEART program to provide better workforce outcomes for individuals with disabilities, and the integration of SNAP, TANF, childcare, veteran services and adult education into a cohesive workforce system, notes the Workforce Board’s Michelle Castrow. Temple helped bring together employers and workforce stakeholders to develop programs such as Workforce Connector between Workforce Solutions and United Way of Greater Houston’s THRIVE financial stability partners, Women in Construction with S&B Engineers and Constructors and United Way of Greater Houston for S&B and TD Industries, and Jacobs JumpStart with Jacobs Engineering and Lee College. And, he demonstrated the importance of labor market-driven decisions, leading to the Board's investment into hiring a principal economist and labor market analyst.

Temple was an original member of UpSkill Houston's executive committee, joining at its founding in 2014, and has continued serving on the board since. UpSkill Houston’s team and partners will miss Temple’s energy, voice, and leadership, and thank him for his dedication to the individuals who make up the region's workforce.
Talent Sourcing Strategy Incomplete Without STARs Strategy
American workers of all backgrounds are STARs—individuals who are skilled through alternative routes to a four-year bachelor’s degree such as through community college, military service, intensive training programs, and on-the-job training. STARs account for half of all white workers, nearly 60% of Hispanic workers, over 60% of Black workers, more than 60% of military veterans and nearly 90% of enlisted veterans, according to the non-profit Opportunity@Work.
During an UpSkill Works Forum held April 12, the organization’s co-founder and CEO Byron Auguste discussed how employers can re-think recruiting, hiring, and promotion practices to better leverage this skilled talent pool to their advantage – while also benefitting STARs and the overall workforce. Auguste explored skill adjacencies between lower wage and higher wage jobs that could indicate potential mobility opportunities for STARs and shared how employers can signal the skills they need from workers in specific roles to attract the qualified talent.

"If you don't have a STARs strategy, you don't really have a complete human capital strategy [or a] a complete talent sourcing strategy, " he said.

Watch a recording of the UpSkill Works Forum "Talent with Skills = Workforce STARs" here.
Houston Back on Track Launches Spanish Language Site
Houston Back on Track is committed to meet jobseekers where they are. Months ago, we created information cards in Spanish and English and began to circulate them in underserved communities in Houston. We saw the impact this made, so we redoubled our efforts to present a website that also offered both Spanish and English options. These changes are just the start of our expanded outreach that will be amplified by our new communications partner, Citrus Advertising. Houston Back on Track is on the move – stay tuned.

Kinder Institute, United Way to Explore ALICE Population
United Way of Greater Houston and Kinder Institute for Urban Research are set to collaborate on research to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by, and to improve outcomes for, families and individuals across the region who are struggling financially. This research partnership, focused on family stability in Greater Houston, opens opportunities to study barriers to success for the Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) population along with the impacts of programs and support, and is the first of its kind in the region, according to United Way. Both United Way and Kinder Institute are UpSkill Houston partners.

Rice's Oswald Tapped for National AI Advisory Committee
Fred Oswald is the Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences at Rice University
Dr. Fred Oswald, professor of Psychological Sciences and Management at Rice University, is one of 27 AI industry leaders from across the country appointed to the U.S. Department of Commerce's recently established National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Council (NAIAC). The new committee will provide President Joseph R. Biden and the National AI Initiative Office with recommendations related to AI competitiveness, the state of science around AI, and AI workforce issues, according to the department.

Oswald has served on UpSkill Houston's executive committee since 2019, bringing with him his unique expertise in how to develop, implement, and evaluate psychological measures within the contexts of employment testing, college admissions, educational technologies, school-to-work transitions, and workforce readiness.

See more from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
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