for the kids

City of Houston launches annual career development and internship program for young adults

The city tapped key partners for the initiative, including a Houston startup. Photo courtesy

City officials and business leaders in Houston are recruiting employers to collectively offer at least 12,000 paid jobs and internships this summer for local 16- to 24-year-olds.

Organizers on March 8 kicked off this year’s Hire Houston Youth initiative. It encourages employers in the public, private, and philanthropic sectors to bring aboard youth for summertime jobs and internships.

One of the program's partner is Ampersand, a Houston-based startup and tech platform that has designed a career-readiness curriculum for this age group. In partnership with the City of Houston, Ampersand customized a portion of its curriculum to upskill and prepare young Houstonians for the workforce across 35 lessons, five modules, and four hours of content — all of which provide essential job skills ranging from email best practices to mental health management in the workplace.

Employers can sign up for Hire Houston Youth online. The deadline for youth to apply for jobs or internships through this program has been extended from March 11 to April 8.

“Employment plays a pivotal role in reducing gender, ethnic, racial, and other social inequalities,” Mayor Sylvester Turner says in a news release. “Therefore, providing meaningful employment experiences for our youth is in the best interest of all, including young people, their communities, and Houston as a whole.”

In 2021, as the city coped with the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hire Houston Youth offered more than 9,500 opportunities. This year, Turner hopes the program can produce at least 12,000 jobs and internships, and as many as 15,000.

The National League of Cities recently awarded a $150,000 grant to Hire Houston Youth. In addition to the grant, Houston will receive assistance from National League of Cities staff and other experts to advance the city’s efforts to expand STEM career opportunities for marginalized young people.

The unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. ranks as the highest among all age groups. In the pre-pandemic year of 2019, the national unemployment rate for the 16 to 24 age group stood at 8.4 percent. No other age group had an unemployment rate above 4.1 percent in 2019.

The jobless rate for people of color and lower-income people in this age group has historically been higher than the overall rate for that age group.

The pandemic exacerbated unemployment woes for 16- to 24-year-olds in the Houston area around the country. Data compiled by the Schultz Family Foundation and Mathematica shows that during the peak of the pandemic, youth unemployment rates in the Houston area ranged between a low of 12.6 percent from July to December 2020 and a high of 16.1 percent from January to June 2021.

The Measure of America project estimates that more than 4.1 million Americans in the 16-24 group are neither working nor attending school. In Harris County, 13.4 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds in Harris County met that definition in 2017, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

“The years 16-24 are crucial for the development of human capital — through activities such as education and workforce preparation that pay dividends in the form of higher wages, lower unemployment, and other benefits later in life. Yet even before the pandemic, many young people were disconnected from school and work and the economic opportunities that follow,” the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas says in a 2021 report.

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Building Houston

 
 

You can now hop online and invest in this promising cell therapy startup. Photo via Getty Images

A clinical-stage company headquartered in Houston has opened an online funding campaign.

FibroBiologics, which is developing fibroblast cell-based therapeutics for chronic diseases, launched a campaign with equity crowdfunding platform StartEngine. The platform lets anyone — regardless of their net worth or income level — to invest in securities issued by startups.

The funding, according to a press release, will be used to support ongoing operations of Fibrobiologics and advance its clinical programs in multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease, wound care, extension of life, and cancer.

"We're excited to partner with StartEngine on this campaign. StartEngine has over 600,000 investors as part of their community and has raised over half a billion dollars for its clients," says FibroBiologics' Founder and CEO Pete O'Heeron, in the release.

"This is an exciting time at FibroBiologics as we continue progressing our clinical pipeline and developing innovative therapies to treat chronic diseases," he continues. "This new funding will fuel our growth in the lab and bring us one step closer to commercialization."

The campaign, launched this week, already has over 100 investors, at the time of publication, and has raised nearly $2 million, according to the page. The minimum investment is set at around $500, and the company's indicated valuation is $252.57 million.

In 2021, FibroBiologics announced its intention of going public. Last year, O'Heeron told InnovationMap on the Houston Innovators Podcast of the company's growth plans as well as the specifics of the technology.

Only two types of cells — stem cells and fibroblasts — can be used in cell therapy for a regenerative treatment, which is when specialists take healthy cells from a patient and inject them into a part of the body that needs it the most. As O'Heeron explains in the podcast, fibroblasts can do it more effectively and cheaper than stem cells.

"(Fibroblasts) can essentially do everything a stem cell can do, only they can do it better," says O'Heeron. "We've done tests in the lab and we've seen them outperform stem cells by a low of 50 percent to a high of about 220 percent on different disease paths."


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