As a strong and vibrant community, the city of Houston, Texas, has a lot to celebrate.
In just one year, Mayor Sylvester Tuner and the City of Houston in partnership with the Houston Independent School District and the Greater Houston Partnership have scaled their summer jobs program from 450 employment opportunities to over 5,000.
The Hire Houston Youth program, led by the Mayor’s Office of Education, is making the intentional collaborative connections needed to support underserved youth between the ages of 16-24 with an “earn and learn opportunity” to enter the Houston’s workforce prepared.
The State of Texas mandates that every high school student choose one of five endorsement areas for their graduation plan: STEM, Business and Industry, Public Service, Arts and Humanities, or Multi-Disciplinary Studies. The initial choice is made in eighth grade and can be changed one time in high school. The goal is to assist students gain exposure to career opportunities earlier in their academic career and to begin linking the critical nexus between learning and employment. Additionally, students gain hands-on, in-the-field experience and some opportunities to earn college credit.
By way of example, HISD’s Furr High School is taking this to another level with their Green Ambassadors Program and pathways in green energy and audio visual. The National League of Cities and LinkedIn met with students past and present to hear how these opportunities helped them to enroll in college and post-secondary opportunities and find employment. “Every internship was created based on our students’ passion,” Furr faculty said.
Meeting students, where they are, is what makes Furr High School’s career pathway programs so successful. “This high school was once described as a dropout factory and now we have a 95 percent graduation rate,” shares Dr. Bertie Simmons, the vibrant and most determined 80-year old bull dog of a youth advocate we have ever met. Dr. Simmons, who came out of retirement to lead Furr, shared how her approach was a community one in which parents, aunts, uncles, siblings and the students themselves are all a part of the communications and programming at the school. It is a multigenerational, multifaceted approach. Working alongside the City of Houston, Furr’s career pathways empowered students to find related internships, a prime example of leveraging multiple programs and connecting opportunities for the youth of Houston.
Another aspect of the work is the dedication to being a part of Houston with students and staff who are eager to claim that they are “Houston home grown.” This sense of belonging is a strong thread that runs inside Furr and beyond with the career pathways program. Hire Houston Youth weaves youth into the dynamic work opportunities available in Houston’s economy via a collaboration with the City of Houston and the Greater Houston Partnership.
UpSkill Houston is yet another example of Houston working alongside the industry, community and education sectors to prepare Houstonians, not only for an education but a livable wage and lasting career. The UpSkill program through partnerships with various industries is creating profiles and career paths for jobs, so city residents can explore what it means to work in the industry, see videos about the work, salary ranges and how they can earn a career in the field. This includes detailed next steps for training and education, as well as how colleges and universities help them to gain the needed skills to pursue these job opportunities. Long-term, this initiative seeks to prepare residents for an education leading to a lasting career and livable wage.
LinkedIn led a discussion with key stakeholders to begin to explore how skills are being discussed in the multiple city sectors and sparked a conversation of how to align with the existing career pathways in the K-12 and postsecondary education systems.
Houston is looking to continue to align efforts and resources. The desire is to scale the existing programs and have more “Houston home grown” talent on pathways to postsecondary and workforce success.
Next time you find yourself in Houston, be sure to check out the beautiful Christ Church Cathedral right in the middle of downtown, a stunning building with a courtyard escape from the city bustle. If you have the chance to see the beautiful city hall building be sure to go in and look up at the architecture.
About the authors: Dana D’Orazio is the Program Manager for postsecondary education at the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.
Audrey M. Hutchinson is the Director of Education and Expanded Learning at the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.