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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

 
 

This Houston staffing firm has tapped into tech to support the growing gig economy workforce. Photo via Getty Images

As the independent workforce continues to grow, a Houston-based company is aiming to connect these workers with companies that match their specific needs with a new digital platform.

FlexTek, a 14-year old recruiting and staffing company, launched a first gig site tailored to the needs of the individual worker. The platform, Workz360, is built to be able to manage projects, maintain quality control, and manage billing and year-end financial reporting.The company is also working to expanding the platform to provide infrastructure to assist independent workers with education, access to savings programs, tax compliance through vetted third-party CPA firms, and hopes in the future to assist with access to liability and medical insurance.

With a younger workforce and a shifting economy, the “gig economy,” which is another way to describe how people can earn a living as a 1099 worker, offers an alternative option to the corporate grind in a post-pandemic workscape. Chief Marketing Officer Bill Penczak of Workz360 calls this era “Gig 2.0,” and attributes the success of this type of workforce to how during the COVID-19 pandemic people learned how to work, and thrive in non-traditional work environments. The site also boasts the fact it won’t take a bite out of the worker’s pay, which could be an attractive sell for many since other sites can take up to 65 percent of profit.

“In the past few years, with the advent of gig job platforms, the Independent workers have been squeezed by gig work platforms taking a disproportionate amount of the workers’ income,” said FlexTek CEO and founder Stephen Morel in a news release. “As a result, there has been what we refer to as ‘pay padding,’ a phenomenon in which workers are raising their hourly or project rates to compensate for the bite taken by other platforms.

"Workz360 is designed to promote greater transparency, and we believe the net result will be for workers to thrive and companies to save money by using the platform,” he continues.

As the workforce has continued to change over the years, a third of the current U.S. workforce are independent workers according to FlexTek, workers have gained the ability to have more freedom where and how they work. Workz360 aims to cater to this workforce by believing in a simple mantra of treating your workers well.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about this, but we like the Southwest Airlines model,” Penczak tells InnovationMap. “Southwest Airlines treats their people very well, and as a result those employees treat the passengers really well. We believe the same thing holds true. If we can provide resources, and transparency, and not take a bite out of what the gig worker is charging, then we will get the best and the brightest people since they feel like they won’t be taken advantage of. We think there is an opportunity to be a little different and put the people first.”

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