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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Nearly half of Houston workers complain of serious burnout, says new report

working hard

Local workers who're especially dreading that commute or cracking open the laptop in the morning aren't alone. A new study reveals that nearly half of Houston laborers are more burned out on the job.

Some 49 percent of Bayou City residents report to be burned out at work, according to employment industry website Robert Half. That's significantly higher than last year, when only 37 percent reported burnout in a similar poll.

Meanwhile, more than one in four Houston workers (28 percent) say that they will not unplug from work when taking time off this summer.

Not surprisingly, American workers are ready for a vacation. Per a press release, the research also reveals:

  • One in four workers lost or gave up paid time off in 2020
  • One in three plans to take more than three weeks of vacation time this year

Elsewhere in Texas, the burnout is real. In Dallas, 50 percent of workers report serious burnout. More than a quarter — 26 percent — of Dallasites fear they won't disconnect from the office during summer vacation.

In fun-filled Austin, 45 percent of the workforce complain of burnout. Some 32 percent of Austinites feel they can unplug from work during the summer.

Fortunately for us, the most burned-out city in the U.S. isn't in the Lone Star State. That dubious title goes to the poor city of Charlotte, North Carolina, where 55 percent of laborers are truly worn out.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Houston small biz tech platform raises $21M series B

money moves

A tech company focused on supporting and growing startups and small businesses has reached its own next big growth milestone this week.

Machine learning-enabled small business support company Hello Alice, founded in Houston with a large presence in California, has closed its $21 million series B raise led by Virginia-based QED Investors with participation from new investors including Backstage Capital, Green Book Ventures, Harbert Growth Partners, and How Women Invest.

The raise comes at a pivotal time for the company, which worked hard during the pandemic to support struggling business and now aims to support entrepreneurs of all backgrounds as the world re-emerges out of the COVID-19 era. The fresh funds, according to a press release, will be used to refine the predictive capabilities on its platform, launch a mobile application, and more.

"These investments signal that despite the recent challenges small business owners have faced, there is an economic tidal wave that will revitalize Main Street, led by the entrepreneurs we serve," says Elizabeth Gore, co-founder and president of Hello Alice, in the release.

Since April 2020, Hello Alice has granted over $20 million in emergency funds and resources for small business owners affected by the pandemic. According to the release, the largest percentage of those grants went to "New Majority owners," especially people of color and women. Additionally, the company has reportedly experienced 1,100 percent growth and has expanded to support 500,000 small business owners weekly, with an increased revenue of more than 600 percent through its SaaS platform.

"We are thrilled to have a cap table as diverse as the business owners we serve," says Carolyn Rodz, co-founder and CEO of Hello Alice, in the release. "Our investors are leaders from the Black, Hispanic, LGBTQ+, Women, and US Veteran communities. As a Latina founder and fellow small business owner, I want to ensure that as our company grows, we are fueling future diversity in capital and breaking through ceilings for the benefit of our community."

According to a recent report Hello Alice produced in partnership with GGV Capital, now is the time to support small businesses. The report found that 83 percent of owners surveyed (which included 97,739 founders operating in all 50 states) believe their business will perform better in 2021 than in 2020. Most of the founders — 93 percent — plan to hire this year compared to the almost half — 45 percent — that laid off employees in 2020. Additionally, founders have an increased focus on tech — 75 percent said they are going to spend more on tech this year compared to last.

"Small business owners are the backbone of the U.S. economy, but many fail before they've had an opportunity to meaningfully serve the community in which they're based," says Frank Rotman, QED Investors Founding Partner, in the release. "Access to both capital and business expertise remain the biggest obstacles for SMBs, challenges heightened for women- and minority-owned businesses.

"Traditionally, corporations and government grants want to engage and support, but there hasn't been a source of truth on who can qualify for their diversity grants, funds and programs," he continues. "Hello Alice solves this problem, building tools that empower the new majority and enabling corporations and governments to support SMBs. Founders Carolyn and Elizabeth and the entire Hello Alice team are having a real, tangible impact on the ecosystem. We are incredibly excited to help them help others."

3 Houston innovators to know this week

who's who

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to two local innovators, as well as one honorary Houstonian, across industries — energy, manufacturing, and more — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.

Juliana Garaizar, head of Greentown Houston and vice president of Greentown Labs

Juliana Garaizar is transitioning her role at Greentown Houston. Courtesy photo

Juliana Garaizar has a new role within Greentown Labs. She's lead the local team as launch director, and now is taking a new role now that Greentown Houston has opened its doors. Garaizar recently discussed with InnovationMap why now is the perfect time for Greentown to premiere in Houston.

"I think that if Greentown had happened one year before or even one year later, it wouldn't be the right time. I really believe that our main partners are transitioning themselves — Shell, Chevron, and many others are announcing how they are transitioning," she says. "And now they look at Greentown as an execution partner more than anything. Before, it was a nice initiative for them to get involved in. Now, they are really thinking about us much more strategically." Click here to read more.

Misha Govshteyn, CEO of MacroFab

Misha Govshteyn joins the Houston Innovators Podcast to discuss the evolving electronics manufacturing industry. Photo courtesy of MacroFab

Electronics manufacturer and MacroFab, run by CEO Misha Govshteyn, much like the rest of the business world, was not immune to the effects of the pandemic. But as some business returned last summer, Govshteyn says MacroFab bounced back in a big way.

"In a lot of ways, the concepts we've been talking about actually crystalized during the pandemic. For a lot of people, it was theoretically that supply chain resiliency is important," Govshteyn says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "Single sourcing from a country halfway around the world might not be the best solution. ... When you have all your eggs in one basket, sooner or later you're going to have a break in your supply chain. And we've seen nothing but breaks in supply chains for the last five years." Click here to read more.

Kerri Smith, interim executive director of the Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator

A new clean energy accelerator has announced its first cohort. Photo via rice.edu

The Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator, a 12-week program that will prepare startups to grow their business, connect them with strategic partners and mentors, launch pilots, and fundraise, has named its inaugural cohort.

"We were impressed with the quality, potential and range of clean energy solutions being commercialized by our applicant pool and took great care in assessing their potential as well as our ability to meet their identified needs," says Kerri Smith, the accelerator's interim executive director. "The selection process was very competitive. We had a difficult time paring down the applications but are looking forward to working with our first class of 12." Click here to read more.