It's crucial for Houston to prepare the next generation's workforce to succeed and fill jobs with capable talent. Educational First Steps/Facebook

Recent studies have shown that nearly half of students enter college with an undecided major and as many as 70 percent of students change their major at least once during their four-year program, and it is predicted that by 2030, there will be a deficit of 7.9 million tech workers alone.

In order to better prepare the future workforce, schools are encouraging career exploration through hands-on experience. The Village School has created educational partnerships throughout Houston to offer students options to find their interests and better prepare them for postsecondary success.

Educational partnerships

Students are prone to changing their majors because often they will go into a field with an impractical idea of what a specific career actually entails. With partnerships between education and industry, Houston is able to better equip students to enter college with a realistic view of what to expect in their major.

While career-focused partnerships are beneficial for students, they also play a huge role in recruiting valuable skilled talent for years to come. A good impression, good mentors and great experience goes a long way when students start job searching.

Tuning into Houston's workforce

High school is the time for students to explore different career options. When students are placed in an internship program as early as the high school level, they are able to see exactly what the day to day looks like while building a foundation of professional development as they start to think about their future. It's important for students to have a realistic vision of what a career looks like.

There are numerous businesses in Houston that are working with high school students to help them gain experience.

For example, a few of the businesses that have partnerships with The Village School include Houston Methodist Hospital, Pimcore, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and Cisco. Students are able to gain experience in a variety of ways including:

  • Working alongside surgical technicians and experience open-heart surgery and quarantined situations
  • Learning from cancer researchers who study nicotine addiction in children and the effects on brain development
  • Leveraging data analytics to develop software helping internal team members organize calendars at a leading SAP company

All students finished their internship with a better understanding of the workforce and the skills necessary to perform in a professional environment.

Finding opportunities for everyone

If students don't attend a high school that offers internships there are still opportunities to gain experience. Many businesses are open to job shadowing or having students volunteer a few hours a week to gain experience over the summer months. The opportunity for experience is out there and available and these opportunities will continue to grow and become more accessible for all students. Houston families and businesses must work together to ensure students know their options before entering college.

Educational partnerships benefit both students and the community. It's crucial for Houston to prepare the next generation's workforce to succeed and fill jobs with capable talent. Students are able to see that while they may not think they are interested in a specific field there are opportunities within the field that match their strengths and interests.

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TeKedra Pierre is the internship coordinator at The Village School.

From the rise of freelancers to Houston's data-driven future, here's what the Bayou City can expect to see when it comes to the future of the workforce. Pexels

Overheard: Experts weigh in on the future of the workforce in Houston

Eavesdropping in Houston

As the new decade approaches, there are a lot of questions about the future of the workforce in Houston. Will automation revolutionize jobs? Is technology evolving too quickly for training and education to keep up? And, can corporations adapt their work environments to account for the rise in freelancers?

At the launch of Houston's new General Assembly location, a panel of Houstonians moderated by Joey Sanchez of Houston Exponential addressed these questions and more earlier this month. The global digital skill development 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.

One of the big focuses of GA is increasing accessibility for these programs, and the organization will have several options for courses, including some that will be available online.

"People are getting left behind, and I think that's one of the things GA has put a lot of pride behind as we've gone into new markets is just increasing the diversity and accessibility into these opportunities," Eric Partlow, says regional director at General Assembly in Texas.

From the rise of freelancers to Houston's data-driven future, here's what the Bayou City can expect to see when it comes to the future of the workforce.

“Automation can be scary, and it can automate a plethora of repetitive tasks, but that frees people up to create new jobs that require more critical thinking and creativity.”

Grace Rodriguez, CEO and executive director of Impact Hub Houston. Rodriguez gives the example of how automation affected the banking industry. As ATMs were installed, it made it easier and cheaper for banks to open more branches, which ultimately led to hiring more tellers. "Rather than be afraid of automation, we should see it as augmentation," Rodriguez says.

“We have more access to data than we’ve ever had, and we still are trying to figure out what to do with it, and we don’t know yet. I think Houston’s set up to do a lot of really special things.”

Eric Partlow, regional director at General Assembly in Texas. When asked about the future of the workforce in Houston, Partlow says it's all about the data. Partlow also wants to set up GA so that its providing the right education for Houston jobs — every market is different, he says. "If we're not teaching what businesses here are needing, then we need to pivot to adjust that."

“We’ve been working in the background to help make Houston a hub for serious gaming."

Chad Modad, chief technology officer of Accenture's Houston Innovation Hub. Modad explains that serious gaming is taking the engaging aspects of mobile design and video games and applying this technology — along with AI and machine learning — into the things you have to do everyday at work. "We'll always be a hub for industrial enterprises, so applying this across that spectrum of problems, that's where I think we're headed," Modad says.

“The more I get into the democratization of work, the more I get really excited about the possibility of the future and where we can go.”

Steve Rader, deputy director for the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation at NASA. When asked about what he wants to see in Houston, Rader advocated for the city to be a more welcoming environment for freelance workers, since more and more people are leaving the corporate structure for these types of positions. Houston can set itself up to be a great ecosystem for this, Rader says.

Houston has the most energy efficiency jobs out of other metros in Texas, which has the second-most energy efficiency jobs in the country. Getty Images

New report finds that Houston leads in Texas for energy efficiency jobs

Workforce growth

The Houston metro area has plugged into the power of jobs linked to energy efficiency. In fact, the region is home to more than one-fourth of Texas jobs that fall into this category.

A new report shows the Houston area leads all of the metros in Texas for the number of jobs tied to energy efficiency. The report tallied 43,730 Houston-area jobs connected to energy efficiency, compared with 41,235 in Dallas-Fort Worth, 15,872 in Austin, and 12,860 in San Antonio. The report was produced by the nonprofit groups E4TheFuture and E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs).

The number of energy-efficiency-oriented jobs across Texas rose by 5.3 percent last year to 162,816, according to the report. That puts Texas second among the states, behind California, for the total number of jobs in energy efficiency. Energy-efficiency workers account for 17 percent of all energy workers in Texas, the report says.

Of the energy-efficiency jobs in the Houston area, 15,806 are in the congressional district of U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Houston Republican. That's the highest number of any congressional district in the state. Crenshaw's district includes Houston, Spring, and Atascocita.

"Energy jobs are critical to our economy and must be a priority when considering any industry regulation coming out of Washington," Crenshaw says on his website. "We have to unleash the power of the Texas energy sector and become the world leader in energy that we are meant to be."

The report defines jobs in the energy-efficiency sector as those involving goods and services that reduce energy use by improving technology, appliances, buildings, and power systems. Among these positions are construction worker, architect, manufacturing sales representative, and HVAC specialist.

The report, released September 16 at the annual meeting of the National Association of State Energy Officials, highlights the economic potency of energy efficiency.

"While politicians argue over the direction of our energy transition, the economic benefits of improving energy efficiency continue to unite America's business and environmental interests," Pat Stanton, director of policy at E4TheFuture, says in a release. "Not only is expanding America's energy efficiency key to solving multiple climate policy goals, it is now integral to businesses' expansion plans — saving money and creating local jobs that cannot be outsourced."

In 2018, energy-efficiency businesses added 76,000 net new jobs, representing half of all net jobs created by the U.S. energy sector (151,700). About 28,900 energy-efficiency businesses operate in Texas, with the bulk of those in the construction and manufacturing industries.

The expansion of the energy-efficiency sector aligns with push by the Greater Houston Partnership to ramp up the region's focus on energy technology and renewable energy. This year, the partnership estimates, the Houston area will add 1,900 jobs in the energy industry.

Some of the new breed of energy-efficiency workers in the Houston area could come from San Jacinto College's new $60 million Center for Petrochemical, Energy, and Technology in Pasadena. The center's first students began classes in August.

"We all know energy efficiency saves consumers and businesses money with every month's power bill," Bob Keefe, executive director of E2, says in a release. "We should also remember that energy efficiency is creating jobs and driving economic growth in every state — and doing so while also helping our environment, not hurting it."

Energy-efficiency workers are helping the environment by, for instance, building LED lighting systems, retrofitting office buildings, upgrading outdated HVAC systems, and designing power-sipping appliances.

"State energy officials understand that energy efficiency and the jobs that come with it [are] an integral and important part of the overall economy," David Terry, executive director of the state energy officials group, says in a release. "Policymakers at the state and federal levels will hopefully keep the size and reach of energy-efficiency employment in mind as they plan for the future."

Only D.C. is more overworked than Houston. Photo by Shobeir Ansari, Getty Images

Houston clocks in as No. 2 most overworked city in the nation

STEP AWAY FROM THE DESK

A new study on work-life balance proves Houstonians work harder than almost anyone else in the country.

Mobile technology company Kisi set out to determine which major U.S. cities offer the best work-life balance, and which ones could use an adjustment, by examining work intensity, society and institutions, and livability. Overall, the Bayou City ranks fourth-worst for work-life balance (No. 37 out of 40), but even more sobering is how overworked our residents are.

According to the study, Houston is the second-most overworked city in the nation, behind only Washington, D.C. Fifteen percent of Houston workers work at least 48 hours a week, the highest figure in the study, and, on average, the Houston workforce stays on the clock 43.7 hours a week. While local workers arrive at work later than most Americans (9:56 am), they are on the road much earlier, commuting about 30 minutes just one way, the study says.

The Bayou City also falls to the bottom of the list — No. 39 — for institutional and societal support. Houston ranks low across the board, from healthcare and access to mental health to LGBT and gender equality.

Houston redeems itself — somewhat — at No. 20 for livability, which takes into account overall happiness, safety, and access to wellness and leisure. This allowed Kisi to determine "whether their residents can enjoy their environment after office hours," the study says.

Houston is by far the most overworked market in Texas, but the Lone Star State could stand to improve its work-life balance. Dallas and San Antonio also rank in the bottom 10, Nos. 32 and 31, respectively, and while Austin comes in at No. 18 overall, 15 percent of its workers are on the clock 48 hours or more a week, too.

Those who want to "work smarter rather than harder," says Kisi, should consider San Diego, California, which boasts the best work-life balance in the nation. Globally, that honor goes to Helsinki, Finland, which scores a perfect 100 in the report.

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Chevron's Houston-based venture group taps two companies for its startup-focused program

energy tech

Chevron's corporate venture arm that invests into energy tech innovation and supports startups within the industry has tapped two companies for its Chevron Technology Ventures Catalyst Program.

Entech Solutions and mIQroTech have both recently been named new partners in the program, which allows the startups support and guidance during growth and acceleration from Chevron and its network.

Norway-based Entech Solutions AS has developed itsSuperstage Pinpoint Stimulation to address high intensity stimulation in increasingly long horizontal wells, according to a press release. The product aims to improve production performance and lower costs.

"Collaboration with Chevron will allow us to demonstrate Superstage efficiencies in a variety of basins worldwide," says Anthony Kent, co-inventor of Superstage and Entech's General Manager for North America, in the release.

"Working with a leading global operator gives us access to expertise needed to standardize this robust and versatile hardware technology," he continues.

Meanwhile, Tampa, Florida-based mIQroTech is addressing pipeline leak concerns within the energy industry by using artificial intelligence and internet of things. The startup joined the Catalyst Program in July.

"Our goal is to deliver a transformative change to the global oil and gas industry," says founder and chief executive officer, Meade Lewis, in a press release.

"Better data, analytics, and intelligence will add efficiencies to pipeline operations and empower more informed and faster decision-making. We appreciate that Chevron recognizes our potential to deliver solutions to enable safer delivery of oil and gas," Lewis continues.

The company, which has received investments from Plug and Play, Ocean Capital, Republic, and Harvard Business School Alumni Angels, and more, will focus on growing its team and customer base.

Chevron also recently contributed to Houston-based ThoughtTrace's $10 million series B round in May and signed on as a partner for the Houston expansion of cleantech accelerator Greentown Labs.

Houston entrepreneur creates a new digital platform to help connect freelancers to clients

calling all creatives

By 2027, freelancers will account for the majority of the American workforce — and Houston is already well represented by the freelance space.

According to a recent study, Houston is home to 117,260 skilled freelancers who generated more than $4.1 billion in revenue in 2018. This burgeoning environment for freelancers presents many opportunities for innovations in the tech world, as one Houston entrepreneur has already discovered.

Yared Akalou, founder-and-CEO of Alcove Group and self-described designer-focused entrepreneur, released his third innovation catering to freelancers of the Houston area. His digital solutions platform, IAmOther50, assists freelancers with securing new clients by sharing their personal stories rather than just submitting their professional experience, it uses videos and articles to promote the work of a freelancer and connect them to their next client.

"I am really on a mission," Akalou tells InnovationMap. "I have been talking about the future of work for over a decade now. The paradigm will change to viewing work as a service, so it is important to tell a freelancer's story through a more engaging and novel way."

At first glance, the digital platform seems like a departure for Akalou who in 2017 founded Alcove, a portable laptop case that serves as a private workspace for freelancers to use amid coffee shops or coworking spaces. However, IAmOther50 serves as a distinctly separate yet integral part of his innovation landscape.

"These projects have been a combination of my focus and research," says Akalou. "My new platform works hand in hand with Alcove, supporting the mission to help people stay productive from anywhere."

The digital platform serves to capture the brand of the freelancer along with their personality and experience. It lives at the intersection of popular social media platforms and professional platforms such as LinkedIn, except just for freelancers in the Houston area. Currently, any freelancing professional in the Houston area can join for free by filling out a survey that customizes their goals for their profile.

"IAmOther50 provides information in a contextual way," says Akalou. "We have this guiding principle of delivering value even before the prospective client contacts the freelancer for an interview or potential position. It's about going beyond just a resume of what you've done and showcasing how you add value right now."

Akalou, who is also one of the mentors in The Ion Smart and Resilient Cities Accelerator, is focused on elevating the professional profiles of many freelancers, including those outside the Houston area. He is aiming to grow the platform to a self-service platform that can connect freelancers to clients all over the biggest metropolitan areas soon.


AI-optimized teams are a game changer for energy companies, this Houston expert says

guest column

The speed and scale of change in the business world had been on a fast track, with technology enabling bigger and bolder advances within shorter time frames.

Enter 2020: a global pandemic struck, and here in the Gulf Coast region, we were also hit by an energy industry downturn. The effects of both these crises have touched nearly every sector and revealed the factors that are essential to effectively managing through economic recovery. In a time of extreme challenges, two areas — human talent and technology — are now more important and intertwined than ever.

Earlier this year, Deloitte released its 2020 Global Human Capital Trends report, "The social enterprise at work: Paradox as a path forward," which addresses the intricacies of this issue. The survey was conducted before the pandemic took hold only to see its findings on the future of work play out in real time as companies respond to COVID-19 and the economic toll it's taking.

The rise of the superteam

Despite some dramatic predictions about machines replacing humans, many organizations, including oil and gas companies, are looking to integrate artificial intelligence into teams of people. These "superteams" of human talent and AI may enable organizations to reinvent themselves to create new value and meaning. For organizations that still view AI mainly as an automation tool to reduce costs, connecting AI initiatives with efforts to craft more effective teams is a first step toward enabling humans and machines to work together in new, more productive ways.

In the report, 60 percent of respondents said their organizations are currently using AI to assist, rather than to replace, workers. An additional 58 percent explained that they are using it to improve consistency and quality because superteams can allow organizations to both transform the nature of their output and create worker capacity. Furthermore, 66 percent of respondents believed that the number of jobs would either stay the same or increase as a result of AI's use in the next three years.

Drilling down on the energy sector

As the oil and gas industry reels from the dual effects of a global health crisis and oil price shocks, most organizations are focused on recovery, but forward-looking companies are devising strategies for better integrating technology into their operations.

The value of superteams is clear: they offer the promise of enabling organizations to reinvent themselves while giving employees the potential to further their careers by learning sought-after skills. It's no surprise, then, that many oil and gas companies are rethinking how the future of work may play out within their operations. For example, as outlined in Deloitte's Tech Trends 2020 report, a growing cohort of AI-powered solutions is increasing the need for technology that understands and responds to humans. This might take shape via a field worker being equipped with digital tools to provide real-time support for maintenance and upgrades. Augmented reality applications could offer the employee context-based instructions and the ability to connect with remote workers for live support.

This is just one example of how superteams can transform the sector; there are many other ways that humans and technology can work together to drive organizational value.

Working together to shape the new normal

As the future of work rapidly evolves amidst the world's "new normal," business leaders are wrestling with an increasing range of challenges. These challenges are especially pronounced at the intersection between humans and technology, where new questions have risen about the impact of emerging technologies on workers and society. Organizations that tackle these issues head-on – changing their perspectives to consider not only "could we" but also "how should we" – will be well-positioned to make the bold choices that drive organizational value.


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Amy Chronis is the Houston managing partner at Deloitte.