Workforce Awareness Includes EARLY Awareness

The “career” portion of the All Kids Alliance tagline – “cradle to career” – has taken on a new significance of late.
Chambers of commerce are emphasizing it, All Kids Alliance partnerships are building action agendas around it, agencies and funders are working directly with students to prepare them for it, and the Texas legislature is requiring high schools to formulate courses of study based on it.

At the most recent meeting of the All Kids Alliance Council of Executives, we discovered that a lot of our partners are directly engaged.
Elaine Barber, Vice President for Education and Workforce Initiatives at the Greater Houston Partnership, outlined the key features of GHP’s newest initiative, UpSkill Houston.
Background: a workforce task force convened by the GHP found “core gaps in the workforce development system.”
UpSkill Houston is a kind of blueprint that responds to the task force’s findings.  In particular, it focuses on “middle skills” jobs.  These are entry-level positions that require specific training and a standard of math and communications proficiency that can be attained in a technical program or two-year associate’s degree at a community college.
Sectors identified with the greatest middle-skills workforce shortages include oil and gas, petrochemicals, utilities, advanced manufacturing, maritime, construction, and healthcare.  The action plan for UpSkill Houston creates Sector Councils starting with a few of the fields listed.  It will also launch an awareness campaign, weigh in on basic skills needed for these jobs, and create coordination and data systems to support this effort.
Ann Stiles, Executive Director of Project GRAD Houston, described her organization’s Summer College Institutes.  Partnering with Workforce Solutions and Lone Star College, Project GRAD has expanded its work with the help of JPMorgan Chase and Carolyn Watson (Vice President for Global Philanthropy). Summer College Institutes add a direct link for high school students and their families to the high demand workforce opportunities that require less than a bachelor’s degree.
Project GRAD Institutes reinforce UpSkill Houston and a JPMC program called New Skills at Work by giving students a two-week “hands-on” introduction to various kinds of workforce opportunities.  The curriculum includes time in Lone Star College technology-rich classrooms and preparation in “soft skills.”
In the summer of 2014, JPMorgan Chase supported a unique collaboration involving Project GRAD, Workforce Solutions, Lone Star College, and Houston-area industry representatives.   Seventy-five (75) students who were GRAD Scholars from Aldine and Houston ISDs studied at Lone Star College – North Harris.  Workforce Solutions recruited Human Resource reps to provide feedback to the students on interviewing skills.  Chase brought other business participants to a closing night Mock Career Fair where families joined the students for the experience.
Next summer, this program will expand to serve 1000 students, focusing on high demand energy careers.  The venues will expand to include Houston Community College and San Jacinto College campuses in addition to Lone Star College.  Some Houston area universities will also be involved.
Research on the immediate effects of GRAD Summer College Institutes suggests that students’ high school Grade Point Averages tend to rise proportional to the number of institutions they attend.
Bob Wimpelberg, Executive Director of All Kids Alliance, put on his hat as Chair of the American Leadership Forum’s Collaborative on Public Education (ALF/COPE) to talk about the 2014 “Conversation with 7th Graders about Workforce.”  This program is co-sponsored by Houston A+ Challenge.
This event on October 10 will involve teams of 7th graders that will participate from 20 middle schools around Greater Houston.
The students will have half-hour visits with workforce representatives – two at a time.  One workforce person will hold a “middle-skills” job and another will be in a position requiring at least a bachelor’s degree for preparation.  The workforce presenters will come from education, oil and gas, healthcare, transportation, manufacturing, construction, hospitality, accounting and banking, and public utilities.  Each student will rotate through three conversation sessions during the half-day event.
Students will leave informed by their conversations and with 40 one-page information sheets that describe all of the jobs represented at the event.
The October 10 event is just the first part of this project.  The 7th-grade teams will learn how to digest the information they received and share it with their fellow students and parents.  Part of that follow-up will look at the jobs they heard about and their implications for courses the students will take in high school.
High school is part of this topic because, as 8th graders, these students will be making an early decision about their 9-12 grade courses of study.  House Bill 5 enacted in the last Texas legislative session requires students to pick from programs or “Endorsements,” fitting four areas of study:  Arts and Humanities, Business and Industry, Public Service, and Science-Technology-Engineering-Math or “STEM,” as well as a Multidisciplinary category.
These 7th grade teams will reconvene in April 2015 for a celebration of their efforts and to hear how they communicated the world of work to their friends and parents.
Research on the immediate effects of Project GRAD Summer College Institutes suggests that each Institute attended is equivalent to the impact of a one point gain on high school GPA for successful college enrollment.