Growing Houston innovation hub announces new workforce partnership
Houston's The Ion announced this week that it will partner with New York-based Per Scholas as its new workforce development partner.
The partnership is part of the Ion District's Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that was approved by Houston City Council in late 2021. The $15.3 million agreement aimed to ensure that the 12-block innovation hub developed by Rice University, which is home to the Ion, would benefit all Houstonians, expanding tech jobs while also committing to preserving affordable housing and creating opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses.
Per Scholas was founded in 1995 and works to advance economic mobility for individuals through its tuition-free training programs, which focus on in-demand tech skills. According to the company, more than 80 percent of those who complete Per Scholas training programs find full-time employment within a year of graduating, and about 85 percent of Per Scholas graduates are people of color.
“Per Scholas is thrilled to join the Ion District and offer our tuition-free tech skills training in Houston,” Plinio Ayala, president and CEO of Per Scholas, said in a statement. “There is such synergy in our approach to innovation and equity. I’m confident that together, we’ll increase opportunity and unlock potential for both individuals and companies that call Houston home."
Per Scholas currently has a campus in downtown Dallas and virtual operations in Houston. It operates out of 20 locations in the U.S.
In addition to announcing the new partnership, the Ion District also released an update on its CBA one year after its launch.
“We’re committed to making Ion District and Ion a catalyst for opportunity, not just for the tech community but city-wide,” Sam Dike, who oversees the CBA’s implementation, said in a statement. “We are proud of the progress thus far. It’s a testament to the community stakeholders who came together to recommend the greatest areas of impact and need. However, this is just the beginning.”
According to the announcement, Ion District is now home to more than 300 businesses. In the next year, the district aims to continue to implement the inclusive hiring, community building, housing affordability and other practices outlined in the CBA.
The organization outlined a few accomplishments in the statement, including:
- Escrowing $5 million at Unity National Bank, the only certified Minority Depository Institution (MDI) in Texas
- Contracting opportunities for Ion District Garage, worth $16.9 million, to 19 minority- and women-owned businesses
- Investing in women and minority tech accelerator and innovation programs, including three DivInc accelerator cohorts
- Commencing first year of funding for selected housing counseling providers which were: Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation, Houston Area Urban League and Tejano Center for Community Concerns, to serve the Third Ward, Kashmere Gardens, and Magnolia Park neighborhoods
- Opening multiple local restaurants at the Ion and in the Ion District that are owned and operated by minority and women chefs and operators
- Selecting a consulting firm to recommend strategic pathways to achieve MWBE objectives
- Conducting 10 public outreach events with over 500 minority- and women-owned firms attending
- Hosting over 130 community-focused events, including Activation Festival, BlackStreet, and additional monthly programming and events accessible to the community
Earlier this month The Ion announced 10 new tenants that were either relocating or expanding their presence in Houston, bringing the total space leased to 86 percent, according to a news release.