October 2021
Strong September Job Growth Propels Recovery
Unusually strong job growth in September has propelled the region toward a recovery rate of nearly 70 percent from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated job loss, though this growth may be potentially exaggerated, according to the recent monthly job report from the Gulf Coast Workforce Board and Workforce Solutions. Nonfarm (not-seasonally adjusted) stood just below 3.1 million in September.

Major growth drivers included government (22,500 jobs) (public school and university staff), professional and business services (8,100 jobs), and mining and logging (1,500 jobs). Overall, the region saw a nonfarm (not-seasonally adjusted) net gain of 27,300 jobs. Removing government jobs from this increase reveals a much smaller gain of 4,800 jobs. Major losses were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (8,800 jobs). The area’s unemployment rate fell by 0.6% in September to a not-seasonally adjusted average of 5.5%. Currently, 10 out of 11 sectors show year-over-year growth.

Though job gains are promising, the region is still unlikely to see full job recovery until December 2022 and it remains critical that Houston’s employers, educators, and nonprofit organizations continue to develop programs that help residents build relevant skills needed by employers, increase awareness of good jobs in the regional economy, and provide financial and other supports to ensure the vitality of the region’s workforce and jobseekers.
Unprecedented Disruption Leads to New Outlook for Employment Recovery
What does more than a year of unprecedented labor market disruption say about Houston’s path to recovery? Gulf Coast Workforce Board Principal Economist Parker Harvey led the audience of the Oct. 25 UpSkill Works Forum through a lively discussion of data, trends, and why standard over-the-year growth measurements during the COVID-19 pandemic don’t tell the whole story when it comes to full employment recovery.

Harvey explored alternative measurement methods, like measuring the recovery in terms of absolute jobs needed to close the more than 100,000 job gap between current figures (3.1 million jobs) and those from February 2020, just before the onset of the pandemic (3.2 million jobs). He shared surprising growth in new or expanding businesses amid periods of job loss – 4,300 new businesses were established or new locations of existing businesses opened over the first year of the pandemic. And, he discussed specific and general hard skills that have been appearing more rapidly in job ads and ties to real wage growth since 2019 – many of these skills are digital skills or related to health care or warehousing or online shopping, which have all seen increases in demand during the pandemic.
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Harvey highlighted why he believes there's a good chance the region will reach February 2020 employment levels by December 2022 (and not December 2021). He also revealed a December 2022 forecast, showing likely job growth bringing the region's employment back to 3.2 million by that date. Professional and business services lead this growth, followed by leisure and hospitality; and transportation, warehousing and utilities.

Gulf Coast Workforce Board Chair Mark Guthrie discussed the board's work focused on building more and better jobs, higher wages, competitive employers and an educated workforce.
Digital Skills: Powering Houston's Future and Empowering its Workforce
Houston’s digital tech workforce is growing – and so is the need for workers with digital skills across the board. General Assembly (GA) was founded in 2011, when the country was coming out of the last recession and tech startups were rapidly emerging, traditional companies were seeking digitally skilled talent, and opportunities for people to acquire new skillsets to pursue careers in these sectors were not widely available. A decade later, amid the rapid digitization of work and workflows accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, companies again find themselves in need of tech talent and workers are seeking meaningful, rewarding work.

UpSkill Houston hosted Tom Ogletree, GA's vice president of social impact and external affairs, for an Oct. 14 UpSkill Works Forum called "Digital Skills: Powering Houston's Future!" that focused on how the organization works with employers to build programs around in-demand skills meeting both employer and workforce needs.
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Ogletree shared how GA allows students to gain an understanding of tech careers and in-depth courses before committing to them; bases programs in portfolio-building, experiential learning taught by industry professionals; and embeds student support like career coaching and financial assistance into programs to help students successfully transition into new career opportunities.
NextOp, DOD SkillBridge Program Helps Service Members Build Civilian Work Experience
When we think about people entering the workforce, we usually picture new graduates of high school, two-year, and four-year colleges. As Veterans Day approaches, we are reminded that each year more than 200,000 men and women leave the U.S. military and return to civilian life. Some former military members go to school, but many of them go to work.

With more than 250,000 veterans in residence, Houston has the the country's second highest veteran population. About 80 percent of military personnel are "middle-enlisted," and these individuals face additional challenges in an uncertain job market, according to the nonprofit NextOp. Many do not hold bachelor's degrees but do have skills that transfer well to civilian employment. NextOp, an UpSkill Houston partner, helps bridge gaps between industries and military talent through recruiting, developing, and placing high-performing middle-enlisted service members into industry careers. It helps service members convey their military accomplishments and skills into terms employers can recognize and value.

NextOp recently became an approved facilitator of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) SkillBridge program, which provides opportunities for service members to gain civilian work experience through specific industry training, apprenticeships, and internships as they transition into civilian life. The SkillBridge program allows service members to use up to the last 180 days of service to train and learn with an industry partner while continuing to receive military pay and benefits. The SkillBridge program allows employers to host skilled and diverse military talent, at no cost.

Programs such as this not only help service members gain civilian work experience but can also help employers understand how skills built through military service – managing a mission, resource allocation, and learning new systems, among others – are transferrable to business settings. It is important that employers recognize the skilled talent among Houston’s veterans, not just on Veterans Day, but all year long.
SERJobs: YouthBuild Program Applications Open
UpSkill Houston partner SERJobs is accepting applications for the next cohort in the YouthBuild program, which helps opportunity youth (aged 16 to 24 years old) earn their GEDs while building skills through on-the-job-training and volunteer activities and attain work-ready, National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER) certifications. The next cohort is slated to begin Nov. 15.

YouthBuild is a national program by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and is administered by SerJobs – the only administrator in Houston. SERJobs has long partnered with the St. Bernard Project, which allows young adults to learn construction skills while giving back to the community, and is adding a new partner, Work Texas!, this cycle. It will also offer new pathways in customer service and logistics in addition to its traditional construction pathway.

New cohorts begin roughly every three months, and SER provides eight months of support for cohort members to earn their GED.
C3 to Show Female Students #SHEBuildsHouston
Career Camp Returns in March 2022

Construction Career Collaborative (C3) is busy planning its second major “career camp” for women entering construction – #SHEBuildsHouston – a day for female middle and high school students to explore a spectrum of construction industry careers, try hands-on construction activities, learn safety techniques, and meet with industry professionals from a range of employers and roles.

#SHEBuildsHouston will be held March 3, 2022, at Alief’s ISD’s Center for Advanced Careers. C3 and its partners look to host 1,500 students from Alief and Spring Branch independent school districts throughout the day. The event will also support scholarships from the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). Women make up about 8.5% of Greater Houston’s construction industry workforce, and only 4.2% of workers in construction occupations are women.
C3 We Can construction camp in 2019. Phot by Aldine IDS and used by permission from C3
Photo from Aldine ISD, used with permission by C3

C3, NAWIC and other partners are committed to introducing the construction industry and its wealth of craft and business careers to young women with the aim of helping more women understand these opportunities and navigate the pathways into them. In October 2019, over 1,000 female Aldine ISD students participated C3’s inaugural camp – called WE Can – offered in conjunction with NAWIC Houston Chapter, and Aldine ISD.
C3 is currently seeking sponsors and volunteers to make the day a success. Interested employers and individuals can contact Eb Sadek at ebrahim@d3.org for more information.
Houston Back on Track Targets Near Northside
Since Houston Back on Track was announced a few weeks ago, the Partnership’s workforce recovery effort is building momentum toward a significant impact in and around Houston. What was once a strategic concept to connect the dots between job seekers and great employers is now on the cusp of changing lives on Houston’s Near Northside.

Along with community partner Wesley Community Center and several allies assisting in outreach, Houston Back on Track is days away from the pilot effort in this community. Other neighborhoods and community partners will follow as the recovery model is rolled out across the region. Results are anticipated before Thanksgiving, with a clear runway for takeoff into the new year.
Scholarship & Aid Programs
Aid for Child Care Extended to Service Industry
Workforce Solutions has extended a scholarship to cover the full costs of childcare for a full year to service industry workers, including those employed by restaurants and bars, retailers, and in the entertainment or recreation industries. The scholarship will help workers maximize earnings while boosting businesses struggling to recruit and retain workers.
NAWIC Aid Supports Future Construction Professionals
Students pursuing careers within Houston's robust construction industry can earn between $500 and $2,500 in scholarships from the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC)'s Founders' Scholarship Foundation (NFSF).

NFSF offers undergraduate scholarships to students enrolled full-time in a construction-related degree program with at least one term remaining in a course of study leading to a degree or associate degree in a construction-related field. Its trade scholarships are open to applicants enrolled in a construction-related training program approved by the Bureau of Apprenticeship Training, community college, technical school or equivalent, and working toward a construction-related craft or trade. In addition, the NAWIC Houston Chapter funds the Grace Dockal Memorial Scholarship, awarded through NFSF to local students in need of financial aid. NAWIC strives to strengthen and amplify the success of women in construction industry, but NFSF scholarships are not gender-specific.
Workforce Development Events & Opportunities
  • Multiple Dates: Job Fairs and Hiring Events; Workforce Solutions maintains this calendar of upcoming job fairs, skill-building sessions and hiring events for adults, young adults and parents
  • Multiple Dates: Workforce Solutions Young Adult Events; Workforce Solutions will host several young adult hiring events throughout the fall
  • Oct. 30: Houston Black College Expo™; Students can connect with resources and services to help them prepare for, enroll in and graduate from degree and certification programs
  • Nov. 4: State of the Houston Region; County judges and business leaders will discuss efficient government, emergency preparedness and coordination, and plans for the future during this Partnership event
  • Nov. 4-7: Hiring Red, White & You Virtual Job Fair; This hiring fair from Workforce Solutions and partners spans four days and features live chats with employers and employer and veteran service organization virtual exhibition booths
  • Nov. 17: Illuminate Houston; The Partnership's Illuminate Houston series highlights business leaders who challenge conventional thinking about the future
  • Nov. 18: 26th Annual Golf Classic; Houston's premier golf tournament supports the Partnership and the Greater Houston Partnership Foundation
  • Nov. 16: Reinvent Your Career: General Assembly Texas Open House; General Assembly's virtual open house is an opportunity to learn about part-time upskilling courses, meet program graduates, and explore partnerships
  • Dec. 1: 2021 Houston Region Economic Outlook; This Partnership event offers perspectives on the region’s economy and a future outlook and will feature a presentation by a leading expert on the national economy and a panel of local experts
  • Dec. 1: Transitioning to a Data First Approach: Analytics for All; This free, hour-long General Assembly event will help audiences to leverage data and build digital literacy skills
Add Your Workforce Events To Our Calendar!
Are you holding a workshop, training, or speaker event to help inform and strengthen workforce development programs? Are you hosting an industry educational event for students, parents, or adult jobseekers? Do you have and upcoming job fair or hiring expo?

We want to share your opportunities to help students and jobseekers prepare for and connect with good career prospects across our region. Please send your events scheduled for the months of December 2021 and January 2022 to UpSkill@Houston.org for inclusion in an upcoming UpSkill UpDate.
Resources & Readings
Led by and for employers, UpSkill Houston builds the pipeline of skilled workers to grow the regional economy and provide opportunity for all Houstonians.
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