Led by a resurgence in energy and petrochemicals, the greater Houston region experienced an extended period of unprecedented growth. With almost $20 billion in investment in new plants and facilities announced along the Gulf Coast, the region was in an enviable position. Employers, however, were concerned that the region did not have the talent needed to fuel this expansion.
To confront this challenge, the Greater Houston Partnership launched the Regional Workforce Development Task Force (RWDTF). The 79-member task force engaged high-level executives from the region’s largest employers, including JP Morgan Chase, ExxonMobil, and AT&T, as well as professionals representing an array of public and nonprofit organizations. The group quickly identified the middle skills segment of the job market as an urgent need. With support from TIP Strategies, the RWDTF formulated a five-year strategic action plan to address four gaps in the workforce development system: awareness (potential workers were not aware of the opportunities in the middle skills segment or held inaccurate perceptions of the jobs); basic and employability skills (many potential workers lacked basic hard and soft skills needed for any middle skills job); coordination (the landscape of applicable programs and organizations was broad and varied, but also fragmented); and data (a lack of accurate, reliable data created a disconnect between demand and supply). To address these gaps, the action plan took a sector-based approach to create a more demand-driven workforce system. The organization made quick progress on implementation, hiring a vice president of workforce development and launching its first sector council within months of the plan’s adoption in 2014.