In Houston, the economic fall out of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in one of the highest unemployment rates of any metropolitan area in the nation, with Black and Latinx residents from traditionally underinvested neighborhoods hardest hit by this downturn. To create more equitable wealth-building and employment, Houston will partner with a FUSE Executive Fellow for one year to develop and institutionalize a Covid-19 recovery jobs plan, ensuring that all residents have the ability to generate wealth and build financial resilience for years to come.
This fellowship project begins on April 26, 2021, and ends on April 25, 2022. The fellowship begins with a multi-day virtual orientation the week of April 26, 2021. The selected Executive Fellow will begin their first day of providing services to the host agency on May 3, 2021.
At the start of 2020, if asked what the biggest problem facing Houstonians was, the economy would not have been a significant answer. Unemployment was at a 50-year low, and the outlook for job opportunities in the City was overwhelmingly positive for many. However, the economic fall out of the COVID-19 pandemic caused Houston’s unemployment rate to spike to one of the highest of any metropolitan area in the nation, resting at 5.1%, with 350,000 jobs lost over the first few months. This precariousness underscores and exacerbates the economic disparities and social inequities that exist within Houston’s neighborhoods. Prior to the pandemic, 80 percent – or 36 – of Houston’s 45 most economically distressed zip codes were majority Black and Hispanic. The poverty rate gap between Black and white Houstonians was at 16.4%, with three times as many Black residents living below the poverty line. And of these same households, among those who earning less than $40,000 a year, 40% lost a job during the pandemic. The residents hardest hit by this downturn are the same communities of color from traditionally underinvested neighborhoods who have been dealing with economic inequalities for generations.
The City of Houston recognizes economic growth must benefit everyone and that the City must combat these existing and compounding disparities by aligning and providing Houstonians with the right tools and resources to support generational wealth building. The Complete Communities Initiative, launched in 2017, is working to do just this – revitalize Houston’s most under-resourced neighborhoods through community engagement and cross-sector partnerships. With the added challenges of the pandemic, the City has incorporated a COVID-19 addendum to the Resilient Houston strategy to ensure that equitable wealth-building and employment can be achieved through the recovery efforts of the Complete Communities team – namely through workforce development. In Action 5, maximizing access to economic opportunity is seen as essential, especially given that the pandemic’s economic repercussions have amplified financial insecurity, particularly within low-income communities and communities of color. This includes enhancing and expanding financial empowerment centers to increase resources and programs for workforce development and job trainings. Additionally, in Action 7, the City details its commitment to preparing Houston’s workforce for the jobs of the future. This includes the need to develop new employment programs to ensure that Houstonians can return to the workforce, especially in resilience-related industries, during the crisis and/or after it has subsided.
To support these efforts, the City will partner with FUSE Corps to host an Executive Fellow for one year who will develop and institutionalize a robust equitable COVID-19 recovery jobs plan. The Executive Fellow will assess current programming and resources, including non-profit and private sector projects; develop deep public-private partnerships to bolster job pipelines and employment opportunities, especially for Black and Hispanic Houstonians; and empower Houstonians to meet the educational and vocational requirements for the ‘jobs of the future.’ This jobs plan will ultimately increase every Houstonian’s access to quality employment, ensuring all Houstonians have opportunities to generate wealth and build financial resilience for years to come.
PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES
The following provides a general overview of the proposed Executive Fellowship project. This summary and the potential deliverables will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the Executive Fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the Executive Fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Executive Fellow and the host agency.
Starting May 3, 2021, it is proposed the FUSE Executive Fellow will conduct a landscape assessment and needs analysis of Houston’s workforce development and job training opportunities. The Executive Fellow will engage with key stakeholders, including City Departments; community members, and community-based organizations, specifically those involved in the Complete Communities Initiative and those apart of the Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) population between 24-64 years of age; academic institutions; non-profits, primarily the Greater Houston Foundation; and the business community in key emerging sectors, such as healthcare and resilience-related industries, during this analysis.
Through this initial listening tour, the Executive Fellow will form public-private partnerships with potential employers and anchor institutions, such as the Greater Houston Partnership as well as academic institutions including Houston Community College, Texas Southern University, Prairie View A&M University and the University of Houston. In conversations with these partners, the Executive Fellow will gauge interest in building equitable job pipelines – these pipelines would allow hires to be made among residents and neighborhoods with disproportionately high unemployment rates and/or high degrees of low-wage employees. The Executive Fellow will work to formulate a prospectus of all current projects related to workforce development or employment opportunities and help to focus this effort using data collected through Houston Financial Empowerment Center initiative operating in Complete Communities neighborhoods. This prospectus should include data on the impact of these programs, the necessity of the programs from a community perspective, the business sectors that the projects support, and gaps in access to these programs or resources. The Executive Fellow will also research COVID-19 job recovery plans in other major cities, exploring the applicability of these strategies locally.
The Executive Fellow will work with internal and external stakeholders to develop a robust COVID-19 recovery jobs plan, with an emphasis on creating pathways to quality jobs for every Houstonian – especially those Black and Latinx Houstonians from traditionally underinvested neighborhoods. The Executive Fellow will utilize the Houston Financial Empowerment Center data on the implications of the pandemic (unemployment rates, frontline worker status, remote work potential) to advise the recommendations in the plan. The plan will place focus on expanding existing public-private partnerships and recommending new collaborations with employers. This will include sector by sector action plans that identify which programs to scale or which new resources to integrate, supporting the educational and vocational requirements needed for the ‘jobs of the future.’ The Executive Fellow will secure buy-in from crucial job providers and influencers to strengthen pathways to hiring and support new pipelines of opportunities in these fields. The plan will also outline a messaging and marketing strategy, identifying how to connect targeted population groups to these opportunities.
In the next phase, the Executive Fellow will create a thorough and holistic implementation framework. The plan will outline short and long-term goals, timelines, priority areas, and clear roles of internal and external stakeholders. The Executive Fellow will work to initiate activities that are most urgent and can be implemented quickly. This will include co-managing a consulting engagement with Accenture, weaving in this plan and supporting the unique voices of the community in all recommendations. The Executive Fellow will also initiate the action plan for building career pathways and programs in the “green” sustainability and resilience-related sectors first, facilitating connections and ensuring that contractors for resilience projects are able to hire Houstonians trained through the City’s and its partner’s programs as soon as possible. This comprehensive jobs plan will ensure that Houstonians will be competitive and well-trained for jobs in tomorrow’s industries, enabling an equitable economic recovery from COVID-19 where all can partake in the City’s future economic growth.
- Conduct a thorough review of the current landscape – Conduct a deep landscape analysis; collating all relevant programming, policies, and processes; map gaps and identify cross-cutting themes; collect and analyze existing data; strengthen existing lines of communication between stakeholders; identify potential innovative recovery strategies and best practices
- Surface new program ideas and partnership opportunities – Cultivate relationships with key influencers in the workforce development space, anchor institutions, and job providers across sectors; gage interest in building equitable job pipelines; identify the educational and vocational requirements needed for the ‘jobs of the future’
- Formulate recommendations and develop a comprehensive strategic plan – Identify and clarify mission and shared vision for the future of workforce development opportunities in Houston; establish specific strategies in close consultation with city officials, community groups, and key employers to build out programming and systems for targeted sectors; determine cost of programming; establish new partnerships
- Engage stakeholders to establish deep relationships and buy-in – Demonstrate cross-cultural agility and successfully engage with all relevant stakeholders; solicit feedback from major stakeholders on strategic plan; work to gain buy-in from all stakeholders to ensure that the program is supported and successful
- Create a roadmap and support long-term implementation – Establish framework outlining short and long-term goals, timelines, priority areas, clear roles of internal and external stakeholders; implement priority action items that can be accomplished within the year, focusing on the green/resilience-related sector; support and report on the consulting engagement with Accenture
- Shannon Buggs, Director of Complete Communities, Mayor’s Office
- Marissa Aho, Chief Resilience Officer, Mayor’s Office
- Andy Icken, Chief Development Officer, Mayor’s Office
- Gwen Tillotson, Deputy Director, Economic Development, Mayor’s Office
- Marsha Murray, Director, Office of Business Opportunity
- Lalla Morris, Deputy Director, Office of Business Opportunity
- Sandra Imery, Financial Empowerment Center Local Government Manager, Mayor’s Office
- At least 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field, preferably previous work in a major industry sector in Houston (energy, healthcare, manufacturing, aerospace & aviation, or transportation & logistics)
- Passion for innovation, especially in workforce development programming
- Previous experience connecting people to training or job opportunities a major plus
- Proven success in cultivating strategic partnerships, relationship and coalition building, and collaboration
- Stronger manager of cross-cutting programs and cross-functional teams
- Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations
- Cross cultural agility, relating to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy
- Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations
- Ability to sustain progress and facilitate change management within potentially siloed and ambiguous environments
- Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities
- Self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker
- Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity