Since the start of the pandemic, Texas has emerged as a national leader in job creation. According to a new report from the Pew Research Center, a boom in tech, finance, and professional service employment has helped the state spur 563,000 new jobs since February 2020.
Yet companies across Houston continue to face challenges in identifying and retaining diverse talent to fill their high-growth, high-demand IT positions. Houston IT jobs are projected to increase by 18 percent over the next five years, according to the Gulf Coast Workforce Board, while at the same time, the talent gap in area high school graduates widens.
The lack of diversity in the IT sector has long been acknowledged as an industry-wide challenge. Black and Latinx workers comprise 30 percent of the U.S. labor force but only 16 percent of computing and mathematical occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The systematic barriers that prevent diversity in the IT field are vast, and companies often struggle to implement successful inclusion and diversity programs. A report by Capgemini revealed that 85 percent of leadership executives believe their organizations provide equitable opportunities for career development and advancement for all employees, only 18 percent of women and minitories agree.
There is a clear need to upskill Houston-area young adults in IT fields, but few programs in Houston have the experience to tackle this issue.
One local nonprofit is dedicated to addressing this evolving workforce. Genesys Works Houston was created to bridge the gap between companies and motivated, underserved youth 20 years ago. The founders had a simple goal: to create a program that could guide motivated youth into the corporate world where they could get opportunities for meaningful employment. Now, two decades later, the organization has expanded additional chapters across the nation, and serves about 2,500 students each year with internship programs that provide coaching and counseling to high school seniors to find career pathways while helping employers fill critical talent gaps.
The program offers mentorship and coaching during the first six to nine months of employment. Additionally, thanks to a partnership with Workforce Solutions, the program also offers linkages to wraparound services — transportation, basic needs, childcare, etc. — all at no cost to trainees.
The numbers don’t lie — Houston needs to dedicate resources to upskilling its future IT workforce, and supporting organizations like Genesys Works and others can help to bridge that gap.
Lis Harper is a strategist and account executive at Houston-based Medley Inc.