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Global education provider expands to Houston to address the city's digital skills gap

General Assembly — an international presence in digital education — announced an expansion to Houston. Getty Images

General Assembly — a global organization that offers programming for digital skill development — has announced its newest location in Houston.

"We're happy to announce that with our expansion into Houston, General Assembly now has a physical presence in the ten largest cities in the country," says Jake Schwartz, CEO and co-founder of General Assembly, in a news release. "Our launch today displays our commitment to expanding the accessibility of our educational programs to all Americans, and hopefully revolutionizing the future of work and education."

General Assembly will be located in the Ion Smart Cities Accelerator at 1301 Fannin St. The organization will launch a three-month software engineering program in January along with workshops and introductory courses before rolling out other part- and full-time courses in 2020.

"General Assembly's arrival in Houston will provide a huge boost to an already rapidly growing tech hub in the city directly, but also in the state of Texas overall," says Houston City Lead Gabriela Zahoranska in the release. "As the fourth biggest city in the country, the need for in-demand tech skills-training has grown expeditiously, and will help empower our community by giving them the tools they need to do the work they love."

The programming premieres today with a panel at Station. The new center's launch represents the 25th location for GA, and the company has new campuses planned for next year.

"In order to keep up with the rapidly changing technology landscape, today's workforce needs to be committed to life-long learning and upskilling," says Steven Rader, deputy director for the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation at NASA, in the release. "Organizations need to start pivoting to the emerging open talent (gig/freelance) workforce and associated platforms as a way to find and access the skills and technologies they need to stay competitive."

Jan E. Odegard, Deanea LeFlore, and Chris Valka have been named senior directors at The Ion. Photos courtesy of The Ion

The Ion, an entrepreneurship center being developed in the old Sears building in Midtown by the Rice Management Company, has named three new senior directors to its team.

Deanea LeFlore, Jan E. Odegard, and Chris Valka are the three newly named leaders of the organization, effective immediately. They join — and will report to — Gabriella Rowe, who was named executive director in October.

"To grow the Houston innovation system and spearhead our mission for the Ion we've hired three new leaders with fresh perspectives, ideas, and approaches," says Allison K. Thacker, president and chief investment officer of the Rice Management Company, in a news release. "Each individual has a unique connection to Houston and the Ion, and we're thrilled to have them join our effort to build on the culture of innovation across our city, and within the community we're cultivating at the Ion."

To focus on the Ion's Academic Partner Network, Jan E. Odegard has been appointed senior director of industry and academic partners. Odegard's background includes research and leadership at Rice University in computing. Odegard will also oversee The Ion's labs, which include human/robotics interaction lab, an immersive reality lab and an industrial prototyping lab.

Deanea LeFlore has been named senior director of community and corporate engagement. Like Rowe, LeFlore had a similar role at Station Houston before this new position. Before that, she spent most of her career working for the city of Houston and served under four Mayors over 17 years.

Lastly, Chris Valka, has been hired as senior director of operations, overseeing finance, accounting, human resources, operations, and facilities management. Prior to this position, Valka served in the president's cabinet overseeing a similar spectrum of responsibilities at the University of St. Thomas.

"As we prepare for The Ion's opening in early 2021, we are excited to welcome Deanea LeFlore, Dr. Jan E. Odegard, and Chris Valka, to our growing team," says Rowe in the release. "I am excited to see what this diverse group of experts will bring to our efforts to build an inclusive innovation hub in a tech-forward environment that promotes all that is great about Houston."

The 270,000-square-foot Ion building broke ground in July of last year and is slated to open in 2021. Recently, the organization announced its first programming partner — Rice University's Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, and select courses have already begun.