Newsflash

Houston businesses confront workforce challenges

 

The recession of 2008 didn’t hit Houston as hard as it hit the rest of the country. Houston felt it later and pulled out of it earlier. Even the dip in revenue didn’t drop as low as it did in other areas, said Sue Burnett, founder and president of Burnett Specialists, Texas’ largest employee-owned staffing and placement firm.
 
Today, the region’s economy is chugging along as strong as ever, carried by a robust energy sector and brawny healthcare industry.
 
“The health of the Houston economy is excellent,” said Burnett, who started Burnett Specialists in 1974. “Texas is leading the way and has been for a while. Even during the recession, we were number one for job creation.”
 
The oil and gas industry drives much of Houston’s economy, Burnett said. It has an effect on every other industry in the city.
 
Burnett is placing a lot of administrative assistants, clerical specialists and human resources professionals in the engineering, accounting and legal sectors.
 
“We’re in a great job market,” Burnett said. “Unemployment is low. The stock market is at a record high. We’re seeing a lot of people moving to Houston because they want to take advantage of the strong economy, great housing market and low cost of living. That’s good for our local economy because those people buy houses, food and cars, or rent apartments, and that strengthens our economy even more.”
 
But, it’s not all roses, Burnett said. Houston’s unemployment is a low 6.2 percent, but there is still a segment of residents who are unemployed – and a segment of jobs that companies can’t fill.
 
Unfortunately, the unemployed don’t possess the necessary skills for the jobs that are going unfilled. And, if Houston doesn’t address that issue, it could spell trouble for the region’s future.
 
“There are a lot of people looking for a job, and a lot of openings. Unfortunately, sometimes the pool of applicants just doesn’t match the pool of openings,” Burnett said.
 
“As communities around the world rebuild their economies, many face a paradox: too many unemployed workers on the one hand and a large numbers of unfilled jobs on the other,” said Gina Luna of J.P. Morgan Chase and vice chair of the board of the Greater Houston Partnership.
 
Luna continued, “Like many cities around the world, Houston does not train enough skilled workers to fill jobs that are readily available. The result? The skills gap 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.”
In that way, too – in dealing with the new, “global knowledge economy” of the 21st century – Houston is leading the country. 
 
The changing workforce
This is a result of the shift in America’s workforce that places more emphasis on a post-high school education from the bottom to the top, according to Stephen Klineberg of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University.
The Greater Houston Partnership expects the Houston area to create nearly 300,000 jobs – such as welders, electricians and medical technicians – in the next five years that will require specific training — training that will necessitate at least one year of post-high school education.
 
And, becoming qualified for higher-end jobs requires even more education than ever, Klineberg said.
 
“There’s an epic transportation of the American workforce, especially here in Houston,” he said. That transformation is from a workforce manned by privileged white folks born in the years after World War II to today’s under-20 crowd, the vast majority of whom are poor, undereducated Hispanics and blacks.
 
“So, that’s a powerful question: will this next generation have the skills to get the jobs in the global knowledge economy of the 21st century?” Klineberg said. “That’s the great question mark of Houston and especially of Texas and, in fact, all of the United States.
 
“Not everybody has to go to college, but everybody has to get a year or two [of additional education] after high school. There are no decent jobs anymore for people with a high school degree or less.”
 
Houston’s response
But, these challenges are known. And, Houston is responding.
 
An effort is being made communitywide to reach out to youngsters to let them know that if they go to a community college, they can get the training for a middle-skill job making $60,000 to $70,000 a year.
 
The Greater Houston Partnership recently created UpSkill Houston, a comprehensive, industry-led approach to bridge the gap and fill jobs in middle-skills occupations. The Partnership has said 41 percent of all jobs in our area are considered middle-skills positions.
 
UpSkill Houston is a blueprint for leaders from the business community, educational institutions and social service organizations to build a quality workforce.
 
“For a problem as big and complex as the skills gap, no one company or even one industry can go it alone,” Luna said. “We need all the stakeholders – business, educators, government and the non-profit sector – to work together to solve this issue. While it’s an industry-led approach, UpSkill Houston brings all of these groups to the table so we can work together and build a quality workforce.”
 
Luna added, “The Gulf Coast is in the midst of an energy infrastructure construction boom, positioning our region for immense growth. UpSkill Houston is our strategic plan to make the most of this opportunity for our region, our city and its people.”
 
Some businesses are taking the initiative, as well, by setting up college programs for prospects, filling their ranks with qualified employees trained for the specific jobs they need.
 
Because early education is so important to developing a skilled workforce, the Partnership has also created Early Matters, a broad-based coalition of business, civic, education, non-profit organizations and volunteers working together to raise awareness about the importance of high-quality early education and to make a strong case for increased investment in pre-k programs.
 
“People understand this now,” Klineberg said. “Things are happening that would not have happened five or 10 years ago. And, equally true, not nearly enough is happening.”
 
Still more to do
“If we don’t turn around the terrible educational deficits in the Latino and African-American communities, we’re in trouble,” Klineberg warns. 
 
And, the jury is out on just how to do that and how effective we’re being at it. But, there is still a window of opportunity to fix the problem.
 
“If Houston’s black and Latino young people are unprepared to succeed in the knowledge economy of the 21st century,” Klineberg said, “it is hard to envision a prosperous future for Houston.”
 
 

Two moms take positive steps to combat bullying

 

Long-time friends Sarah Fisher and Trish Morille, both marketing professionals, have known each other since their children were babies. So, it seemed only natural that the two would turn to each other to find a solution when their children began facing some tough bullying issues at school. 
 
“We cried a lot together and searched for ways we could help each other and help our kids,” Morille said. “We really struggled with why this was happening, and we didn't want to raise victims.”
 
As writers, they began to collaborate on scripts that would help their children respond to difficult situations. But, it wasn't until the spring of 2010 — when someone else's child tried to commit suicide after weeks of bullying — that the two decided they had to do more. 
 
The story about the eight-year-old who tried to jump off a second-floor balcony after having his pants pulled down at Blackshear Elementary brought the seriousness and the pervasiveness of the problem to the forefront. 
 
“At the time, there was already a national discussion going on about bullying,” Fisher said. “The stars aligned right when we, as moms, decided to take action.”
 
“It’s sad families and schools didn’t have the language or the understanding to really lock arms and help the kids,” she added. “We just felt there was an opportunity to get people to come together and to understand why these things happen. Why is it always a reaction to a tragedy that gets people talking? We should be able to get ahead of these things.”
 
A discussion among parents and educators gathered for coffee at Fisher’s house got the ball rolling and, soon after, +Works (Positive Works) was born. The organization they created is described as “a parent-driven, grassroots, non-profit organization serving as a catalyst for positive community change on bullying and other trending issues keeping adults and kids in our neighborhoods up at night.”
 
One of the first steps, Morille said, is to stop the blame game and look within to ensure parents are setting a positive example for their own children within their own homes, making a conscious effort to not gossip or speak ill of others. This model extended to the carpool, Fisher said, where they quickly spoke up to curtail any gossip between kids. 
“This is a positive car,” Fisher said, is the message they offered. “In this car, we’re not going to gossip. Here’s the good news: we’re not going to talk about you when you’re not here either.”
 
Morille and Fisher wrote a whitepaper together and Fisher, a graphic designer, created a bumper sticker encouraging others to speak up against bullying. 
 
“We believe, if you have the words, you have the courage to speak up,” Fisher said about the scripts offered to help children stand up for themselves and others. One script they offer is short and simple, but consists of four very strong words to defuse a bullying situation: “This is not okay.”
 
“When one person speaks up, the dynamic changes,” Morille added. “Everything can change. Then, other people have the courage to believe they can affect change.”
 
Since 2010, +Works has amassed a roster of 12 local public and private schools that subscribe to their program to reach children from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. For as little as $5 per year per student, the organization provides the words, the tools and the visual reminders  to create a more positive learning environment and deal with issues of bullying. 
 
There are also opportunities for local businesses and organizations to join, provide support for the program and partner with +Works for fund-raising and cultural events. Family memberships are also available.
 
The program begins with education for parents, educators and coaches, because there has to be buy-in from the entire education community, the two founders said. They stress that +Works offers a mindset, not a curriculum, to spark discussions about how students want to be treated and how they should treat each other. 
 
The +Works program is now impacting more than 8,000 Houston-area students and their families, and Morille and Fisher agree that metrics are important to ensure their positive tools are working. Regular anonymous surveys of educators, parents and students provide the necessary feedback. 
 
Also, +Talks allow for conversations about trending issues that concern everyone, such as mental health, risky teen and pre-teen behaviors, hyper-competitiveness and the complications of advanced technology. 
 
“When we were all young, we didn’t have a lot of this stuff to deal with it,” Morille said. “Now, with technology –– with the click of a button or a swipe of your finger –– if we allow it, children are exposed to new things. What kind of cultural cocktail are we serving our kids? Do we even understand the ramifications of it all?” 
 
“Our mission has broadened because bullying is such a complicated issue,” she added. 
 

Hermann Park Conservancy celebrates

 

Hermann Park Conservancy celebrates the park’s largest improvement project to date this month with the grand opening of the McGovern Centennial Gardens and the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion. This spectacular addition will be yet another reason to visit the 445-acre, urban oasis that over six million people enjoy annually.
 
The McGovern Centennial Gardens, designed by Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects with White Oak Studio Landscape Architecture, will completely transform the 15-acre garden center site into a spectacular new attraction for park visitors.
 
It features a Family Garden, Centennial Green, 30’ Garden Mount, Celebration Garden, Rose Garden and the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion, designed by architect Peter Bohlin of Bohlin Cynwinski Jackson, famed designer of the glass Apple stores worldwide.
 
As visitors explore the gardens, they will see 490+ new trees of over 50 different species, 760 hedge shrubs, 350 new roses in the Rose Garden, 106,875 other shrubs and perennials of 199 varieties, 115 new camellias and 650 new azaleas in the Woodland Garden and so much more.
 
Landscape Designer Doug Hoerr of Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects described the changes this way, “The McGovern Centennial Gardens stand alone as a setting for respite, refuge and education and fit into the larger historical footprint of Hermann Park. This civic project provides the citizens of Houston with a memorable place to gather, for education, for beautification, gardening and growing food. The McGovern Centennial Gardens celebrate connecting people to the land.”
 
Jim Patterson of White Oak Studio Landscape Architecture added, “Public gardens are an indispensable part of great cities all over the world. We are so pleased to be part of building a great public garden for this great city.”
 
Presented to the City of Houston by George Hermann in 1914, Hermann Park is one of Houston’s most popular and historically significant public green spaces. Since its inception, Hermann Park has served as a tranquil refuge from the day-to-day bustle of city life. One hundred years later, the original vision for the park is  finally being realized, thanks to a Master Plan and a $123 million Centennial Capital Campaign conceived and executed by the Hermann Park Conservancy, a public/private partnership with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department.  
 
The money raised has gone not only into making McGovern Centennial Gardensand Cherie Flores Pavilion a reality but also into the rebirth of the beautiful Mary Gibbs and Jesse H. Jones Reflection Pool, the renovation and expansion of Lake Plaza and Hermann Park Railroad and the restoration of the Parks’s exercise trails along with many other improvements that have transformed the Park into one of the most idyllic public green spaces in the country.
 
“McGovern Centennial Gardens is the culmination of a 100-year vision that is finally getting its due. With the opening of the Gardens and the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion, visitors will be able to experience this incredible new garden space for free, seven days a week,” said Doreen Stoller, executive director of the Hermann Park Conservancy. “We are grateful for the rain. The trees in the park are happy, but our construction progress has been slowed. After our grand opening celebration, we will close the gardens for a few more weeks to complete the heavy work. Gardens are never a finished work, and this one is just getting started.”
 
Stoller explained, “This project is a labor of love, and we are thrilled to be able to present McGovern Centennial Gardens to the City of Houston during Hermann Park’s 100th year.”
 
Though Hermann Park’s Grand Gateway entrance from Mecom Fountain to the Sam Houston Monument will have to wait until 2015 for its unveiling, because of construction delays, Hermann Park Conservancy’s mission to complete the park’s Master Plan is one step away from being realized — after 25 years of fundraising, planning, planting and building one of America’s great municipal green spaces.
 
For more information, please visit www.hermannpark.org/.
 

Baylor study indicates cell phone addiction real possibility

Women college students spend an average of 10 hours a day on their cell phones, and men college students spend nearly eight — with excessive use posing potential risks for academic performance, according to a Baylor study on cell phone activity published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.

“That’s astounding,” said researcher James Roberts, Ph.D., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business. “As cell phone functions increase, addictions to this seemingly indispensable piece of technology become an increasingly realistic possibility.”

Approximately 60 percent of college students admit they may be addicted to their cell phone, the study noted. Some students indicate they get agitated if the phone is not in sight, said Roberts, lead author of the article, “The Invisible Addiction: Cell phone Activities and Addiction among Male and Female College Students.”

The study — based on an online survey of 164 college students — examined 24 cell phone activities and found time spent on 11 of those activities differed significantly across the sexes.  Some functions — among them Pinterest and Instagram — are associated significantly with cell phone addiction. But others that might logically seem to be addictive – Internet use and gaming — were not.

General findings of the study showed that:

Of the top activities, respondents overall reported spending the most time texting (an average of 94.6 minutes a day), followed by sending emails (48.5 minutes), checking Facebook (38.6 minutes), surfing the Internet (34.4 minutes) and listening to their iPods. (26.9 minutes).

Men send about the same number of emails but spend less time on each.

“That may suggest that they’re sending shorter, more utilitarian messages than their female counterparts,” Roberts said.

Women spend more time on their cell phones. While that finding runs somewhat contrary to the traditional view that men are more invested in technology, “women may be more inclined to use cell phones for social reasons, such as texting or emails to build relationships and have deeper conversations.”

The men in the study, while more occupied with using their cell phones for utilitarian or entertainment purposes, “are not immune to the allure of social media,” Roberts said.

They spent time visiting such social networking sites as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Among reasons they used Twitter were to follow sports figures, catch up on the news — “or, as one male student explained it, ‘waste time,’” Roberts said.

Excessive use of cell phones poses a number of possible risks for students, he said.

“Cell phones may wind up being an escape mechanism from their classrooms. For some, cell phones in class may provide a way to cheat,” Roberts said.

Excessive or obsessive cell phone use also can cause conflict inside and outside the classroom: with professors, employers and families. And “some people use a cell phone to dodge an awkward situation. They may pretend to take a call, send a text or check their phones,” Roberts said.

Roberts noted the current survey is more extensive than previous research in measuring the number and types of cell phone activities. It also is the first to investigate which activities are associated significantly with cell phone addictions and which are not.

Study participants were asked to respond to 11 statements, such as “I get agitated when my cell phone is not in sight” and “I find I am spending more and more time on my cell phone” to measure the intensity of their addiction.

The study noted modern cell phone use is a paradox in that it can be “both freeing and enslaving at the same time.”

“We need to identify the activities that push cell phone use from being a helpful tool to   one that undermines our well-being,” Roberts said.

Cell phone activities examined in the study included calling, texting, emailing, surfing the Internet, banking, taking photos, playing games, reading books, using a calendar, using a clock and a number of applications, among them the Bible, iPod, coupons, Google Maps, eBay, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, iTunes, Pandora and “other” (news, weather, sports, lifestyle-related) applications and Snapchat.

Other researchers include Luc Honore Petnji Yaya, professor in the department of economics and business administration at Universitat Internacional de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain; and the late Chris Manolis, Ph.D., professor of marketing in Williams College of Business at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor University is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor University welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Additionally, Baylor University sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams, and it is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business provides a rigorous academic experience, consisting of classroom and hands-on learning, guided by Christian commitment and a global perspective.

Recognized nationally for several programs, including entrepreneurship and accounting, it offers 24 undergraduate and 13 graduate areas of study.

 

 

 

UST and Houston Methodist join forces to develop MCTM degree

The University of St. Thomas Cameron School of Business and the Houston Methodist Research Institute have joined forces to develop a Master in Clinical Translation Management degree program. The MCTM degree will prepare students to reduce the time it takes for new pharmaceuticals and medical devices to move through research, clinical studies, FDA approval and, ultimately, to the bedside.

By integrating the disciplines of science, medicine, ethics and business, clinical translation managers expedite the translation of research discoveries into effective therapies for patients. Despite Houston’s unparalleled medical research opportunities, academic programs that teach these skills are limited. 
 
Although programs are limited, job opportunities exist in many different types of organizations around the world including large pharmaceutical and biomedical firms and research organizations.
 
According to Dr. Beena George, dean of UST’s Cameron School of Business, “We want to offer our students programs that make a difference.”
 
UST’s Cameron School of Business is highly acclaimed for its high-quality, ethically oriented business education, which enables graduates to serve as leaders of faith and character in our global economy. Students are taught that sustainability and an awareness of community needs are business goals every bit as important as profit.
 
By collaborating with organizations like Houston Methodist, the Cameron School of Business offers numerous opportunities for students to enhance their learning outside of the classroom, including internships, a wide variety of leading-edge courses and an active mentoring network that applies lessons learned on the job to the students’ studies.
 
Houston Methodist is widely recognized for providing outpatient care. This reputation was earned through decades of consistent excellence and an enduring commitment to translational medicine and multidisciplinary research and education. 
 
Houston Methodist Research Institute is housed in a 440,000-square-foot building on the Houston Methodist campus, providing a streamlined approach to clinical translation.
  
“The pace of meaningful innovation has grown increasingly slow and increasingly             expensive. We plan to reverse that trend, effecting true change in the status quo,” said Mauro Ferrari, president and CEO of the Houston Methodist                
 
For more information about the UST Cameron School of Business and the MCTM                   degree program, please visit www.stthom.edu/mctm/ or call 713-525-2100.
 
 

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