The Greater Houston region burst out of the Great Recession of 2007-2009 with economic momentum. By 2013, the metropolitan area was on the brink of unprecedented growth, with almost $20 billion in investment in new plants and facilities recently announced. Employers, however, were concerned that the region was unprepared to meet the demand for talent that would inevitably ripple through the ongoing expansion.
The Greater Houston Partnership convened the Regional Workforce Development Task Force (RWDTF). The RWDTF quickly focused on the middle skills segment of the job market as a major challenge for the region. With support from TIP Strategies, the task force formulated a five-year action plan. The resulting recommendations centered on four gaps in the workforce development system: 1) Awareness. Potential workers were not aware of the opportunities in the middle skills segment or held inaccurate perceptions of the jobs; 2) Basic skills & employability. Many potential workers lacked basic hard and soft skills needed for any middle skills job; 3) Coordination. The landscape of programs and organizations with a focus on workforce is broad and varied, but also fragmented; and 4) Data. The lack of accurate, reliable data created a disconnect between demand and supply. To address these gaps, the resulting strategic action plan took a sector-based approach to create a more demand-driven workforce system. To begin, the organization hired a vice president of workforce development and prepared to launch its first sector council.