Despite persistent unemployment, companies are having trouble filling readily available jobs. A conversation with Gina Luna, market leader for JPMorgan Chase, sheds light on the skills gap.
• What is the skills gap?
Like many cities around the world, Houston doesn’t train enough skilled workers to fill jobs that are readily available. These openings are for middle skills jobs, meaning they require more training than high school, but less than a four-year degree.
We are not training workers fast enough, or with the right skills, contributing to a skills gap that impacts everyone. If we can’t fill these jobs, it slows our economic growth. And it has a hugely negative impact on people who are unable to compete for good-paying jobs that will support themselves and their families.
• How significant is the gap in Houston?
The skills gap is still very significant in Houston, despite the challenges the energy industry is going through. Energy’s slump has not impacted demand for skilled workers in the petrochemical industry, nor in industrial or commercial construction. It remains an urgent problem. The industries need tens of thousands of skilled employees over the next several years
The skills gap is not a new phenomenon, and while it cannot be remedied overnight, it is an issue that we can address and have a meaningful impact in the near-term and the long-term.
• What is being done to address the skills gap?
Houston has the nation’s first business-led, community-wide, integrated workforce effort. It’s called Upskill Houston and is steered by the Greater Houston Partnership. It brings together companies, the public sector, non-profit organizations and educators to make sure training programs prepare people for jobs that are open and available.
To help fund this work, JPMorgan Chase has committed to provide $5 million in grants for workforce development initiatives in Houston. It is part of our $250 million commitment worldwide, the largest ever private-sector effort aimed at addressing the skills gap.
What can job seekers do to take advantage of this opportunity?
• Petrochemical jobs: www.energizehouston.org
• Construction professions: www.constructioncitizen.com
• Health Care professions: www.gulfcoastcc.org/healthcare
• United Way of Greater Houston: Dial 211 for Helpline specialist
• Workforce Solutions: www.wrksolutions.com/ upskillhouston.
• Capital Idea workforce development program: www.capitalideahouston.org