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Houston needs to expand support to upskill the future tech workforce, according to expert

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. Photo courtesy of Genesys Works

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.

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Lis Harper is a strategist and account executive at Houston-based Medley Inc.

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Building Houston

 
 

The Ion has announced its latest startup-focused program. MediaTech Venture's Houston startup incubator is launching next month. Photo courtesy of the Ion

Houston has a new incoming incubator program for innovators within the media technology space.

The Ion announced a new partnership with MediaTech Ventures, an Austin-based global media industry venture development company, that will bring the MediaTech incubator program to Houston. Applications are open now, and the first cohort will kick off the program in January.

“Modern media has to continually evolve and adapt to new market channels, and with each platform comes the opportunity for innovation to leverage what is possible. It’s why Houston continues to build its market and resources for media technology entrepreneurs and startups looking to make an impact in this constantly evolving space,” says Jan E. Odegard, executive director of the Ion, in a news release.

“We’re thrilled to partner with MediaTech Ventures to further bolster the startups that are an integral part of our innovation community," he continues.

The 12-week program will help early-stage companies tackle marketing, development, and production with education and mentorship with MediaTech Ventures' startup curriculum and platform. The Ion will house the initiative and startups will have access to the hub for programming and networking.

“Ion is the perfect home for our incubator program,” says Josh Sutton, Houston Program Manager at MediaTech Ventures, in the release. “Our goal is to not only tap into the Ion’s valuable innovation ecosystem both within its four walls and beyond it, but to catalyze the development of media technologies and offer more resources for entrepreneurs looking to advance modern media.”

Founded in 2016 to advance the media technology economy, MediaTech Ventures focuses on "unifying innovation with capital, and validating and scaling technology-enabled media startups," per the news release. The program's startups have raised over $10 million following the completion of the curriculum.

An info session is taking place on December 5 at Second Draught in the Ion, and interested applicants can meet, ask questions, and learn more about the program.

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