February 25, 2020
During its February meeting, UpSkill Houston’s Executive Committee explored how to measure and drive the outcomes of effective career coaching and guidance about good careers that call for education and skills development beyond high school but less than what’s obtained through a four-year bachelor’s degree program.
The discussion was part of the initiative’s continuing work to design the framework for how, by 2025, it can attract, train, place, and grow a significant number of Houstonians into and within these key careers.
Committee members said they expect providing students with effective coaching and guidance about these careers would lead to more students exploring the pathways and engaging in activities that lead to these occupations. Committee members also expect to see more students ultimately entering and succeeding at these careers.
While challenging, measuring and driving these outcomes is important for accelerating UpSkill Houston’s impact.
Enrollment data for career and technical education (CTE) programs at the high-school level could serve as one measurement, in the short-term, but enrollment data only illustrates part of the story. The Texas Education Agency is beginning to measure the impact of CTE programs on student outcomes – such as whether students earn specific industry-related credentials – rather than just tracking enrollment figures.
Enrollment numbers have been on the rise and experts expect them to increase as more new schools and programs with a CTE focus come online. However, UpSkill Houston leaders noted that not all CTE programs are aligned with industries essential to driving the economy forward and not all programs that are aligned with critical industries teach the skills students need to be successful in those industries.
So, school districts and employers are taking steps to make sure CTE programs are properly aligned with industry and producing truly career-ready graduates. Examples include “pre-apprenticeship” programs, in which high school students can earn industry-based credentials through work-based learning, and the new industrial craft competition that will be piloted during next month’s 2020 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Committee members also noted that not all CTE instructors or program managers have the information they need to align their programs to industry requirements or the proper training to pass along to their students. The committee recommended UpSkill Houston drive efforts to ensure that CTE teachers are properly prepared to provide students with skills to succeed on the job, perhaps by helping industry professionals instruct teachers or students in certain areas.
Executive Committee members will soon begin meeting in smaller groups, not only for more targeted discussions about career guidance but also to drive skills-based hiring practices and expand opportunities for students to try out careers as they prepare to make education and career decisions.
In 2019, UpSkill Houston worked with the Boston Consulting Group to develop a new, five-year strategic plan and with TEConomy Partners to research workforce trends and data needed to inform that plan. UpSkill Houston is currently working with Sterling Associates to design a funding plan to support the implementation of the five-year strategy.
 According to the Perkins Collaborative Resource Network Texas State Profile, the number of students enrolled in career and technical education (CTE) programs statewide has increased more than 8 percent between the 2015-16 school year and 2017-18 school year. In the Houston Independent School District alone CTE enrollment increased by more than 21 percent between the 2009-10 school year and the 2016-17 school year, according to PEIMS data.