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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

 
 

Houston innovators podcast episode 140

What Houston can expect from its rising innovation district

Sam Dike of Rice Management Company joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the past, present, and future of Houston's rising Ion Innovation District. Photo via rice.edu

Last month, the Ion Houston welcomed in the greater Houston community to showcase the programs and companies operating within the Ion Innovation District — and the week-long Ion Activation Festival spotlighted just the beginning.

The rising district — anchored by the Ion — is a 16-acre project in Midtown Houston owned and operated by Rice Management Company, an organization focused on managing Rice University's $8.1 billion endowment.

"We're chiefly responsible for stewarding the university's endowment and generating returns to support the academic mission of the university," says Samuel Dike, manager of strategic initiatives at RMC, on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Part of those returns go to support student scholarships and student success — as well as many of the other academic programs."

"The university sees a dual purpose behind the investing," Dike continues, in addition to focusing on generating returns, RMC's mission is "also to be a valuable partner in Houston's ecosystem and pushing Houston as a global 21st century city."

RMC saw an opportunity a few years back to make an investment in Houston's nascent innovation and tech ecosystem, and announced the plans for the Ion, a 266,000-square-foot innovation hub in an renovated and rehabilitated Sears.

"In some ways innovation is not necessarily about creating something completely new — it's oftentimes building upon something that exists and making it better," Dike says. "I think that's what we've done with the building itself.

"We took something that had really strong bones and a strong identity here in Houston," he continues, "and we did something that's often atypical in Houston and preserved and repurposed it — not an easy logistical or financial decision to make, but we believed it was the best for Houston and for the project."

Now, the Ion District includes the Ion as the anchor, as well as Greentown Houston, which moved into a 40,000-square-foot space in the former Fiesta Mart building, just down the street. While RMC has announced a few other initiatives, the next construction project to be delivered is a 1,500-space parking garage that will serve the district.

"It is not your typical parking garage," Dike says. "The garage will feature a vegetated facade with ground-floor retail and gallery space, as well as EV charging spaces and spaces to feature display spaces for future tech. It's going to be a nice addition to the district."

The new garage will free up surface parking lots that then will be freed up for future construction projects, Dike explains.

He shares more about the past, present, and future of the Ion and the district as a whole on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.



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