January 2021
Uneven Job Gains, Continued Losses Underscore Urgency in Upskilling
December 2020 Employment Report

The Houston area has regained a significant amount of the jobs it lost since last March, but recovery has been uneven between economic sectors and full recovery may not be achieved for several years. This is according to the December 2020 regional labor market data and information report released last week. Employment gains and continuing losses have acute implications for workers, jobseekers and workforce development initiatives in the region.

By December 2020, the Houston area had recovered roughly 60 percent of the 350,000 jobs lost over the preceding March and April, according to Parker Harvey, an economist with the regional workforce development agency and member of UpSkill Houston’s executive committee. This rate of recovery remains impressive compared to previous downturns where a return to pre-recession employment levels took three to four years. Nonetheless, given the ongoing effects of the pandemic for the foreseeable future, the current recovery rate is likely to improve only moderately with each new jobs report making for a full recovery in three to five years according to various predictions.

Upskilling Critical for Displaced Workers, Economic Recovery

Coming into the new year, it is clear that one of the region’s more important challenges will be upskilling and redeploying the more than 150,000 residents who remain without jobs due to the pandemic and the economic recession. This will require us to focus on upskilling these displaced workers into new occupations and to earn a living wage. We expect the skills requirements for many occupations will have changed in light of the pandemic and the increased use of technology. As many of us know, the longer individuals remain unemployed their skills will atrophy and it will be harder to connect them to the services and skills programs they will need.

Over the next few months, the leadership of the Partnership and UpSkill Houston will be working with key business leaders and employers, community colleges, community-based organization, and the public workforce system to address this challenge in order to support a stronger economic recovery for the region.
Partnership Outlines Steps to Grow Economy
During its Annual Meeting January 26, the Partnership outlined steps needed to grow Houston's economy in a post-pandemic world. Amy Chronis, Houston managing partner for Deloitte and 2021 Partnership board chair, highlighted during the event the need for Houston to drive a technological renaissance. Chronis charged companies and organizations to consider their commitment to innovation, use Houston's global diversity as an innovation driver, and think about how they're empowering the next generation of innovators and ensuring that all Houstonians have access to that possibility. This includes examining how Houstonians can prepare for the high-paying, skilled careers of tomorrow.

The Partnership also shared its accomplishments in 2020 and provided an update on its strategic plan designed to advance Houston's position as a great global city. The plan focuses attention on three core areas: building a strong, diverse 21st century economy; offering a great quality of life; and ensuring opportunity for all.

See Annual Meeting highlights and remarks here.
Panel: Digital Transformation Critical to Houston's Growth
Partnership Chair and Houston Managing Partner for Deloitte Amy Chronis moderated a panel focused on digital transformation
Fostering a business climate that supports digital transformation is critical for the region's future growth and a Partnership priority in the new year. The impacts of this transformation on key regional industries and the region's workforce was the focus of a panel held as the Partnership outlined its priorities for the new year.

Panelists included Walid Ali, director for Artificial Intelligence and Technical Solutions from Microsoft’s AI, Sustainability and Market Development Team; Peter Beard, Partnership senior vice president of Regional Workforce Development and leader of the UpSkill Houston initiative; Nate Clark, principal for Deloitte Consulting and leader with Deloitte Digital; and Werner Schaefer, vice president in the Sales and Marketing Group and general manager of the Network and Communications Sales Group at Intel Corporation. The discussion was moderated by Amy Chronis, managing partner of Deloitte LP's Houston office and chair of the Partnership's board of directors.

Panelists weighed in on the adoption and accelerated use of digital technologies, the digital divide in terms of infrastructure and availability of devices, and the intellectual capital needed to fuel the region's digital transformation. Beard described the increasing need for employers to communicate to the region's education systems the technical, digital and essential skills they need their workforce to have. He highlighted how UpSkill Houston partners Brazosport College, Houston Community College, Lone Star College and San Jacinto College are preparing a talented workforce by partnering with business and industry leaders to build and offer programs aligned with the skills and technologies workers will need as the transformation continues. "Talent is going to be our key chance for long-term competitiveness in Houston," Beard said.

A recording of the discussion will be available on the Partnership's YouTube channel in the coming days.
Executive Committee Recognizes New, Former Members
UpSkill Houston thanks David King, former workforce development manager of INEOS Olefins & Polymers USA, for his leadership and dedication to the initiative's work to improve awareness of good careers and development of a strong talent pipeline within our regional economy. He retired from INEOS in December. King was visible advocate of workforce development with the petrochemical manufacturing industry in greater Houston and beyond; He recently chaired the PetrochemWorks steering team, was vice chair of the North American Process Technology Alliance (NAPTA) board of directors, and frequently appeared in interviews and articles discussing the industry and opportunities it offered.

UpSkill Houston enthusiastically welcomes Stacy Putman to the executive committee representing INEOS along with Madeline Burillo-Hopkins, of Houston Community College; Toby Gustavus, of Gulf States Toyota; Lacy McManus, of Amazon Web Services, Holly Sexton, of Accenture; Scott Tanley and Stephen Toups, both of Turner Industries; and Roy Watson, of Chevron Phillips Chemical Co.

The executive committee provides leadership and strategic oversight to the UpSkill Houston initiative and focuses on improving the skilled talent pipeline employers need to grow their businesses and helping Houstonians connect to good careers that increase economic opportunity and mobility.
In Memorium: Beverly L. Barnes
UpSkill Houston says goodbye to its longtime communications consultant Beverly L. Barnes. Barnes passed away in January from complications of ovarian cancer. Barnes began working with UpSkill Houston in 2014 through her Washington D.C.-based firm BeverlyBarnes Communications, and over the years helped shape and give voice to the initiative's story and awareness campaigns.
Beverly Barnes of BeverlyBarnes Communications advised the UpSkill Houston initiative
Barnes aided the development and launch of the "What Are You Up For?" campaign's "My Life As..." career awareness video and resource series (and although she mostly worked behind the scenes, appeared in launch/introduction videos for that campaign). She contributed heavily to UpSkill Houston's 2016 "Building Momentum" report and its 2020 reports "Middle Skills Matter to Greater Houston" and "Navigating the Changing Nature of Work," and advised on various other high-profile projects.

Barnes was a graduate of Yale University and an alumna of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She served in the Clinton administration as chief of staff in the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Public Affairs and then in the White House as deputy assistant to the president/deputy press secretary and senior advisor to the White House chief of staff. Barnes was a senior vice president of the Fannie Mae Foundation, where she met Peter Beard. Her career also included work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute among other philanthropies.

The UpSkill Houston initiative benefited significantly from her guidance and expertise, and she will be missed by its team.
Brookings Toolkit to Help Texas Align Higher Education with Industry Needs
The Brookings Institution's Workforce of the Future initiative (WoF) has created a new tool that offers targeted information on high-value occupations to help educational institutions align course offerings with local labor market needs. Aligning educational programs and offerings with industry needs can help Texas advance initiatives to improve educational attainment among residents and help Texans gain skills and credentials and re-enter the workforce. As we recover from the pandemic, the need to upskill has only increased as the economy and needs of employers have changed with the greater need for digital skills and use of automation technologies.

The Texas Workforce Development Toolkit is powered by data sourced from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), and Burning Glass Technologies. The toolkit features growth projection and occupational value metrics, with data and analytics broken down by Texas workforce regions. It also provides data around the educational attainment of Texans who have applied for unemployment insurance.

Access the toolkit online here.
Coach Connect: Skill & Industry Resources, News
UpSkill Houston has launched a newsletter of tailored information to support the work of educators and career counselors and coaches to help students and adults navigate the good careers that increase their economic opportunity and prosperity.

The email, called Coach Connect, features insights into the skills employers need their workforce to have and shares employment insights for specific industries. It also spotlights resources and tools that educators and coaches can share with students or clients and their families. Coach Connect will be produced six times a year, each edition featuring a different industry. It is part of our work for drive effective career guidance.

The January/February newsletter highlighted the automotive and transportation industry along with employers Group 1 Automotive and the Sterling McCall Group. It called attention to the spectrum of workforce skills and education and the career exploration game Middle Galaxy, from Texas OnCourse.

Celebrating Career & Technical Education Programs
This February, UpSkill Houston will join employers and educators across the country in celebrating CTE Month®, and we encourage you to do the same.

Career and technical education (CTE) can prepare students for good careers in areas including health care, energy, IT, transportation, construction among other industries critical to our region's economy and global competitiveness. Some of the region's most high-value occupations are those that fall into a CTE cluster area, according to the Texas Workforce Development Toolkit. What's more, according to the U.S. Department of Education:
  • 96 percent of secondary CTE concentrators graduated;
  • 95 percent of CTE concentrators met performance goals for math skills;
  • 91 percent of CTE concentrators met performance goals for reading/language arts skills.

Employers can highlight on social media platforms and other channels good careers within their organizations, and educators and organizations can promote their CTE and related programs - and their benefits - to students, parents and potential students.

Visit the Association for Career & Technical Education® (ACTE®) website for CTE Month information, social media content, logos and more.
UpSkill in the Community
The Friedken Group, Gulf States Toyota Drive Career Awareness with BridgeYear, Boys & Girls Clubs Partnership
UpSkill Houston partners The Friedkin Group, Gulf States Toyota and BridgeYear have forged a new partnership to connect underserved youth to family-supporting career pathways. This new initiative, fully funded by The Friedkin Group, exposes young people to affordable education pathways through engaging, hands-on learning simulations that excite students about their future.

This initiative seeks to accomplish three goals: 1) excite youth about the careers Gulf States Toyota needs most through a custom BridgeYear auto technician Career Test Drive® Kit simulation; 2) provide BridgeYear's socially-distant career exploration program at zero-cost to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, which is building out its workforce development program; and 3) train local educators on various vocational programs available for youth so all students can access pathways towards stable employment.

Together, these partners are inspiring Houston's underserved youth to pursue successful career pathways the city's workforce needs most - strengthening both community and economy for decades to come.

Learn more about this partnership here.
C3 Builds Resource Library for Educators, Counselors
UpSkill Houston partner Construction Career Collaborative (C3) has curated a library of videos, customizable worksheets, activities and other resources for educators, career counselors and parents to use to introduce K-12 students to construction industry careers. This spectrum of educational and engaging resources come from the American Institute of Steel Construction, Build Your Future and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and Texas-based Vaughn Construction among other sources. The library also contains session recordings from C3's recent career awareness event that focus on craft trades, employability skills and career development.

“Creating a library of resources that allows teachers to quickly engage students with content regarding construction ensures that the upcoming generation is given more opportunities to explore construction as a viable career option,” C3 director Angela Robbins-Taylor said of the library. Employers with resources to contribute are invited to contact C3's Diane Aguilar at diane@c3.org.

See the library at c3.org/education.
Learning Opportunities & Events
  • Multiple Dates: Job Fairs and Hiring Events; Workforce Solutions maintains this calendar of upcoming job fairs and hiring events for adults and young adults
  • Feb. 4, 11 & 18: HISD Seniors to Success 2.0 CTE Month Mini Sessions; Employers with immediate openings or career-ready information to share can connect with HISD seniors during these virtual job fairs
  • Feb. 12: Future of Texas; Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Dade Phelan will discuss priorities for the new legislative session and their impacts on the Houston region during this fireside chat with Partnership Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy Lindsay Munoz
  • Feb. 25: HISD Seniors to Success 2.0 Virtual Town Hall; Employers with immediate openings or career-ready information to share can connect with HISD seniors during this virtual town hall
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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