April 2021
Jobs Report: Nearly Half of Losses Recouped; Support of Displaced Workers Remains Critical
The Houston region continues to see job growth, with employment in March increasing by 34,200 jobs over February figures, indicating that overall, the region has recovered just shy of 50 percent of jobs lost a year ago, according to the Gulf Coast Workforce Board.

The top three drivers of month-over-month job growth came from leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and construction, according to the board's March Employment Situation report. The report also showed a regional unemployment rate of 8.0 percent, down from 8.4 percent in February.

These job gains are encouraging, however the region's unemployment rate of 8.0 percent lags behind the Texas rate (7.2 percent) and the national rate (6.2 percent). Roughly 271,000 area residents remain unemployed.

Regionally, no economic sector has returned to positive year-over-year growth: trade, transportation, and utilities comes closest, missing the mark by about 1,000 jobs. Significant upticks in retail trade and above average improvement in transportation, and warehousing, and utilities account for this growth, according to employment analysis.

The need to support Houston's displaced workers is paramount. UpSkill Houston has been a visible advocate for programs and initiatives to help individuals return to the workforce. In Austin, it has advocated for the creation of a permanent Tri-Agency Workforce initiative to align education and workforce efforts, and it has supported the Texas Reskilling and Upskilling through Education (TRUE) Initiative, an investment that would help Texas community colleges provide quick and relevant reskilling and upskilling credentialing opportunities. It continues to support career counselors and organizations in greater Houston that provide critical upskilling opportunities and other services individuals need to be successful in the changing economy.

See the full March Employment Situation Report.
Texas Legislators Consider Key Workforce, Education Measures
During the month of April, state legislators advanced key workforce- and education-focused legislation.

Committees in both the Texas House and Senate heard public comments on proposals to make permanent recent temporary collaborative work of the Texas Education Agency (TEA), Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) to strengthen the state's talent pipeline and improve workforce development outcomes. Under this initiative, the three entities are required to: identify and be held accountable to statewide workforce goals; designate career pathways for occupations aligned with current workforce needs and for forecasted high-growth careers and skills; and evaluate career education and training programs based on outcomes of program participants.

Peter Beard, Partnership senior vice president of regional workforce development and leader of the UpSkill Houston initiative, testified before both committees in support of the measure. The Partnership offered amendments, which were accepted.

Learn more about the Tri-Agency initiative in the Partnership's Houston Report.

The House Committee on Education is considering a bill that would create Texas Reskilling and Upskilling through Education (TRUE) Initiative to support workforce education at public junior colleges. TRUE will accelerate job seekers’ transitioning to the workforce while simultaneously building an educational structure that supports the Texas economy across the state’s diverse regions.

Beard and Dr. Brenda Hellyer, chancellor of San Jacinto College and an UpSkill Houston executive committee member, both testified in favor of the plan. Hellyer also chairs the Texas Association of Community Colleges.

Learn more about the TRUE initiative in the Partnership's Houston Report.
Aligning statewide education and workforce bodies will improve workforce development outcomes
The House unanimously approved legislation to create a statewide broadband office and plan to increase connectivity, address access and affordability, and map gaps in both. The Senate Committee on Transportation is considering a similar bill. Senate and House bill differ in one major aspect: The Senate version places the office in the University of Texas System and the House version within the Comptroller's Office.

The House passed a $300 million clean-up that accounts for unintentional oversights and necessary additions related to the school finance reform bill that was passed last session. Amendments adopted with this legislation create a tiering system that corrects the weighted funding for CTE courses in small to mid-size schools; and clarify that associate degrees obtained in high school must be from postsecondary educational institutions approved by the THECB.

Follow the 87th Legislative Session through news from the Partnership's Public Policy team.
'Practical Guide' Demystifies the Unspoken Rules of Work
Navigating work can be mystifying, especially if left for individuals to figure out through trial and error. But a new book pulls back the curtain on the secrets – the unspoken rules that insiders know but outsiders don’t – that underpin a successful career in any industry or job role.

In "The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right," author Gorick Ng, a first-generation college student, Harvard career counselor, and one-time outsider, distills lessons from CEOs, managers and early-career professionals learned through decades of trial and error into a practical guide that offers everyone the tools to stand out and be a high performer – at any stage of their career.

Ng’s thinking was shaped by a visit to Houston in 2019 as part of a Harvard delegation exploring programs that offer pathways into meaningful careers and how academic programs are aligned to meet industry standards and needs. Ng attended an UpSkill Houston executive committee meeting and heard employer partners impart the universal importance of soft skills but lament the absence of a “toolkit” of effective ways to teach these skills. The repeated calls for a “toolkit” inspired Ng to write a practical guide based in experience learned over decades of trial and error.
Guide for getting ahead levels the playing field for workforce 'outsiders'
Image courtesy of the author
“The Unspoken Rules” contains frameworks, checklists, and talking points – and overall, concrete strategies – that can be applied to inevitable workplace situations and questions, leveling the playing field for anyone to have a fulfilling career.
Order “The Unspoken Rules” online, or learn more at Gorick.com
UpSkill @ Work
UpSkill Houston Recognized in National Workforce Development Playbook
The need for workers to upskill and stay in stride with the accelerating pace of technological change has grown evermore apparent as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic that drove national unemployment rates to historic highs.

It is against this backdrop that UpSkill Houston’s model for employer engagement is being exemplified in a new workforce development playbook designed to help local leaders across the country develop successful programs to change economic conditions for workers who do not hold four-year bachelor’s degrees.

“A New Path Forward: Place-Based Solutions for a Stronger Workforce Ecosystem,” released in April by the non-profit Accelerator for America, presents four actionable best practices for local leaders and stakeholders to follow as they develop their own workforce ecosystems. The playbook calls for a demand-driven approach to workforce development placing employers central to closing the existing gaps between their workforce demands and workers’ employment needs and inequities that have only been widened by the effects of the pandemic.

The guide spotlights Bryant Black, the Partnership’s director of regional workforce development, along with a case study exemplifying UpSkill Houston's replicable model of employer engagement. Peter Beard, Partnership senior vice president of regional workforce development and leader of UpSkill Houston, appears in an accompanying playbook video.

See Accelerator for America's "A New Path Forward" playbook. Read more in the Partnership's Houston Report.
Texas Mutual Supports Houstonians Through UpSkill Houston, Partners
Effective career coaching is needed to help workers and students prepare to succeed in a dynamic, competitive global economy and to navigate pathways to good jobs. UpSkill Houston supports coaches by equipping them with good information about pathways and programs that align with the future of work.

Texas Mutual Insurance Company is supporting this work through a grant awarded to UpSkill Houston that will aid in the creation of a community of practice to strengthen the capacity and skills of career coaches, career counselors and educators. The award is part of a combined $385,000 in grants the company awarded to UpSkill Houston, United Way of Greater Houston and BakerRipley to support programs that address workforce issues. The company has distributed nearly $2.9 million to community organizations across the state.

"Supporting and strengthening Houston's workforce, as Texas Mutual has done, is vital to lifting up the entire city as it continues to grapple with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic," said Peter Beard, Partnership senior vice president of regional workforce development and leader of UpSkill Houston.

Texas Mutual, United Way and BakerRipley are all UpSkill Houston partners and deeply involved in the initiative's work to help all Houstonians build relevant skills and connect with good careers that increase their economic opportunity and mobility.

Read more from the Partnership's Houston Report.
HCC Opens New Student Path to Profession
Houston Community College has opened a new opportunity for students to gain real-life job skills through paid work opportunities with for-profit businesses.

Called HCC Path to Profession, this new, experimental program allows enrolled students to receive Federal Work Study (FWS) funds for career-related positions such as internships, apprenticeships, and other employment with a variety of businesses with opportunities that tie back to one of HCC's Centers of Excellence. This program allows students to work up to 40 hours a week at a business other than HCC and earn $15 an hour – paid by the college. (Students would be employed by the college but conduct work for a partnering business.) The only HCC students who are not eligible for the program are those enrolled in occupational skills award (OSA) programs.

HCC is seeking business partners and interested students. Admission (for both) is rolling.

Learn more about HCC Path to Profession program.
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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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