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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."

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Building Houston

 
 

Kyle Judah is executive director of Rice University's Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Photo courtesy of Lilie

When Kyle Judah accepted his position as executive director at Rice University's Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, he had spent less than 48 hours in the city of Houston. In fact, his first two months in the role have been spent completely remote and out of town.

Still, his limited in-person interaction with the city and with Rice made an impact.

"One of the things I found so exciting about what's going on in Houston right now that, quite frankly, was incredibly attractive about the opportunity to come and join Lilie and Rice was that Houston has these big pillar companies in energy and health care and all these critical areas that the world, the economy, and the society needs," Judah says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "That's all in Houston right now."

Judah and Lilie's goal is to help identify the innovation happening on campus at Rice and bring it to the world. And, he says, Rice as a whole has a huge place in the greater Houston innovation ecosystem. The challenge is identifying what industries Houston and Rice have an opportunity to disrupt.

"We can't just copy and paste what works for the Bay Area or what works for Boston," he says. "We have to figure out what is going to be the authentic right sort of centers of excellence for Rice and for Houston — areas like energy, health care, space. It just so happens that these areas that Houston and Rice have historically done better at than anyone else — those happen to be the most grand challenges for all of humanity."

Another priority Judah has leading Lilie, which was founded at Rice in 2015, is to make sure opportunities are available for everyone. This month, the university launched the Rice Experiment Fund — a $500 semesterly stipend available to all students. The funds are meant to be used on early market testing and experiments, which can be prohibitive obstacles for students.

"We want to make sure that the diversity of entrepreneurship at Rice speaks to the diversity of the city in our backyard," says Judah, adding that diversity and inclusion is at the top of mind for programs like this.

Judah shares more on where he plans to lead Lilie and his early impressions on Houston's startup scene in the podcast episode. Overall, he's found it extremely welcoming.

"I found that everyone here wants Houston to win," he says. "We're really playing as a broader collective, and that's incredibly special."

You can listen to the full interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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