Greater Houston Partnership (GHP)

UpSkill Houston

UpSkill Houston: An Industry-led Collaboration Working to Close the Skills Gap

UpSkill Houston supports our industries' efforts to develop the talent they require for economic competitiveness and ensures our residents share in our region's prosperity.

The Challenge: Houston's Skills Gap

The Houston region has experienced incredible growth over the last several years. Led by a resurgence in energy, petrochemicals, manufacturing, life sciences, and construction, the region's economy has been widely acclaimed as one of opportunity. However, leaders from across the business community have identified one of the region's most pressing issues as finding qualified workers for good jobs vital to the success of our industries.

Houston's skills gap has reached critical proportions among "middle-skill" jobs—advanced technical and craft careers that require more education and training than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree. Of Houston's 3.6 million jobs, 1.4 million – or approximately 40 percent — are considered advanced technical and craft careers.

The mounting challenge for greater Houston's industries equals potential advancement for its citizens. UpSkill Houston helps to ensure that unemployed and underemployed workers as well as young people in Greater Houston have the skills and opportunities to build successful careers, stabilize their families, and improve their lives.

Our Response: An Unprecedented, Industry-Led Collaboration

In June 2014, the Greater Houston Partnership created UpSkill Houston—among the nation’s first business-led collaborations working with education and community stakeholders—to close Houston’s skills gap by aligning collective efforts to pursue three fundamental objectives:

  • Attract unemployed and underemployed Houston residents and youth to advanced technical and craft careers across the region—in part by raising awareness of and changing perceptions about these careers.
  • Train individuals in the technical and employability skills necessary for success—using curricula built around industry demand and aligned across the sector for portability.
  • Place and retain these workers on career paths that reward those who continue to upgrade their skills and mentor those who need a little support.
The Greater Houston Partnership launched UpSkill Houston in mid-2014

The Greater Houston Partnership launched UpSkill Houston in mid-2014.

UpSkill Houston breaks down barriers, fosters open dialogue, and creates a singular vision to power solutions that prepare Houston’s workforce for good paying advanced technical and craft careers in high demand across the region.

Upskill Houston's Approach

Seven sectors critical to the region's economy: Construction, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Oil & Gas, Utilities, Petrochemical, Port & Maritime

With business executives and employers leading the way, UpSkill Houston seeks to increase the number of area citizens trained for rewarding careers in seven sectors critical to the region's economy.

Members of UpSkill Houston's Executive Committee at one of their bimonthly meetings

Members of UpSkill Houston's Executive Committee at one of their bimonthly meetings to strengthen coordination and set policy.

UpSkill Houston provides resources, structure, and convening opportunities to foster region- and sector-wide collaboration among employers and educational institutions, as well as training and service providers (community-based organizations and government agencies). This approach encourages different groups addressing the same problem to establish a common goal, align their efforts, pursue separate tactics, and share results. It has helped reinforce existing efforts and spark new coalitions.

A governing executive committee brings together a broad spectrum of players and keeps UpSkill Houston on course. The executive committee strengthens coordination among initiative participants, considers new services, sets policy positions, and designs experimental prototypes. Sector councils, organized by business for business, oversee industry-specific tactics to build the talent pipeline for future success.

Key Accomplishments to Date

Since its founding in June 2014, UpSkill Houston has laid a strong foundation, steadily built the necessary infrastructure, and begun to experience results in closing the skills gap in Houston's regional economy.

PENNY PRITZKER visits LyondellBasell's training center

PENNY PRITZKER, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, visits LyondellBassell's training center while in town for an UpSkill Houston meeting.

A highly active employer-led petrochemical sector council has helped significantly increase enrollment in petrochemical courses at community colleges and raise completion rates for degrees and credit and non-credit certificates for technical programs. A growing construction sector council has implemented several successful prototypes for identifying, training, and placing workers in middle-skill positions in industrial and commercial construction. Meanwhile, UpSkill Houston has engaged partners in the health care industry to establish that sector council. Through, the industry helps individuals explore the great careers in petrochemical manufacturing and industrial construction.

The initiative also launched, a comprehensive tool to help change perceptions and improve awareness about middle-skill careers across the region. The website provides information on numerous middle-skill jobs, training and educational requirements, salary ranges, and career pathways. In addition, Upskill Houston continues to receive national recognition for its work, including from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Talent Pipeline Management Initiative and the U.S. Department of Commerce and Aspen Institutions Communities That Work Partnership.

Click here for a complete list of key accomplishments.

Major Funding Partners

The momentum we've built for UpSkill Houston couldn't have been achieved without many committed partners working toward a two-part goal: a stronger Houston economy and prosperity for its residents. UpSkill Houston's major funding partners are:

Greater Houston Partnership logo
JP Morgan Chase
United Way logo
Phillips 66 logo

The investors in Greater Houston Partnership Opportunity Houston 2.0.

Get Involved: What Are You Up For?

Are you up for closing Houston's middle-skills gap and accelerating economic vitality in the region? Then join UpSkill Houston. Work with leaders from industry, community-based organizations, community colleges, K-12 school systems, philanthropy, and government agencies to expand the pipeline of skilled talent for high-demand industries. There is power in unity; no one player can address this issue alone.

UpSkill Houston seeks leaders like you to:

  • Participate in an existing sector council or help create a new one
  • Commit to training or upskilling your workers.
  • Help students and teachers become familiar with the good jobs in your industry through the "My Life As" campaign.

Getting involved in UpSkill Houston will:

  • Raise your company's profile.
  • Connect you to other leaders engaged in this vital effort.
  • Position you to help expand the talent pipeline for the benefits of citizens and industries across the region.

Right now:

  • The petrochemical and construction sector councils are eager to add employers committed to recruiting, training, and hiring workers for middle-skill jobs in these industries.
  • A health care sector council is expanding and recruiting executives from regional hospital systems, health care institutions, and colleges providing health care education and training to develop the council’s plan of action.

YOU are needed and can make a difference.
Contact us to get involved.


The Greater Houston Partnership Salutes Our Executive Partners