tech jobs

Microsoft doubles down on partnership with the city of Houston by committing $1M to programs

Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that Microsoft has expanded its partnership with the city. Photo courtesy of Mayor's Office

Microsoft and the city of Houston have introduced a new program aimed at addressing technology skills development across Houston.

Accelerate: Houston is part of Microsoft's larger global skills initiative. Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the program at a press conference on Monday, August 24.

"More than two years ago, I announced our first transformative alliance with Microsoft — the first of its kind in the United States," says Mayor Sylvester Turner, according to a press release. "Today, I am pleased to say we are taking another leap toward strengthening Houston's global standing as a center for innovation and technology."

The Houston partners on the initiative include The Ion, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Kino-Eye Center, Upskill Houston, University of Houston College of Technology, and Space Center Houston

"Microsoft launched the Accelerate program at a time when closing the digital divide has never been more important," says Kate Johnson, president of Microsoft U.S., in the release. "We're thrilled to be joining Mayor Turner and an impressive group of partners in this effort to expand access to in-demand digital skills—and close digital skills gaps widened by COVID-19—through Accelerate: Houston."

Through this expanded partnership, Microsoft has committed $1 million into programs for The Ion, an entrepreneurship hub being built by Rice Management Co. and currently under construction in Midtown.

"With this digital alliance, one of history's most important and innovative technology companies becomes a key pillar of The Ion," says David Leebron, president of Rice University, in the release. "Microsoft will help implement the vision to make Houston's new innovation district a focal point for the future of energy, artificial intelligence, data science and smart cities."

Microsoft has previously partnered with Houston in a few ways, including partnering on The Ion Smart Cities Accelerator.

Susan Davenport, chief economic development officer with the Greater Houston Partnership, says the announcement shows that the city is on the right track for upskilling its workforce.

"As we have continued to navigate the global COVID-19 crisis and are steering the changes in our energy sector, we feel Microsoft's commitment validates the strong direction into which Houston is now moving," she says in a statement.

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Building Houston

 
 

After working with thousands of interns, Allie Danziger of Ampersand Professionals says she's now got a product to upskill and train new hires for employers. Photo courtesy of Ampersand

After seeing success with her internship training and matchmaking platform, Allie Danziger, founder and CEO of Ampersand Professionals, has expanded the concept to include a new hire training service that allows employers to better optimize the onboarding process and have a well-trained new staff member from day one.

In just over a year, Ampersand has worked with over 7,000 professionals through its original concept of upskilling and matching young professionals to internship programs. A few months ago, Danziger and her team expanded to include career development training for students first entering the workforce with the City of Houston's Hire Houston Youth program. Danziger says it was developing out the platform for this program that proved there was a need for this type of training.

"While we have focused on matching professionals with businesses for paid internships, we recognized a further gap with employers that have their own recruiting/talent acquisition teams, or just their own preferred way of bringing on entry-level talent, and didn’t have a need for our matching platform," Danziger tells InnovationMap. "But, they recognized the benefit of our proven training platform that pre-vets and de-risks their hires, and still wanted access to the training for their own hires."

The new program has evolved from training interns to new hires, so parts of the program that focuses on interviewing or applying for a job have been removed. Instead, the 8.5 hours of training focuses on networking, best practices for working with a manager and team, performance reviews, common software training, and more.

Danziger says usually new hires need the most experienced mentor or manager, but they don't usually get that support — especially when it comes to businesses that don't have their own built-out mentorship or training program.

"Ampersand’s new training product fills that gap — it gives employers of any size any easy solution to provide basic job readiness training to employees, access to our team of dedicated coaches, and a detailed report at the end of their training summarizing how their new hire did in the training and any trends recognized and tips for managing this employee based on what the platform uncovered," she says. "Businesses can also sign up for additional coaching sessions and customize training materials, as an add-on if interested."

The program costs the employer $100 per new employee, and checkout online takes less than a minute. Through both this program and the original internship program, Ampersand is constantly evolving its training content.

"These professionals are going through the same training experience that we have proven out over the last year, and we are constantly adding to based on data we see in the user experience," Danziger says.

Danziger recently joined the Houston Innovators Podcast discuss some of the benchmarks she's met with Ampersand, as well as the importance of investing in Gen Z hires. Listen to that episode below.


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