Welding works on gas pipeline


Moving 1,000 Houstonians to Skilled Jobs and a Better Future

JPMorgan Chase & Co. commits $1 million to fund initiative with Neighborhood Centers and Workforce Solutions.

February 12, 2020

Houston, TX

Three major Houston institutions from the non-profit, public and private sectors have created an innovative new partnership to tackle the middle-skills jobs gap. Neighborhood Centers, the largest traditional nonprofit in Texas, has brought together Workforce Solutions and JPMorgan Chase as key partners to its newest program, ASPIRE. This initiative will create a pathway to build a quality workforce and address the region’s dramatic and growing need for skilled workers. Through ASPIRE, Neighborhood Centers will move 1,000 underemployed individuals from low-wage jobs to living-wage middle-skills jobs. JPMorgan Chase has invested $1 million as part of its global New Skills at Work initiative to support ASPIRE and address the mismatch between employers needs and the skills of job seekers.

"Economic opportunity is increasingly out of reach for too many people," said Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO, JPMorgan Chase. "We are committed to working with partners, like Aspire, to address this inequity by giving more Houstonians the chance to obtain the skills and education they need to get a meaningful job and to succeed."

While the local unemployment rate remains historically low, more than 855,000 Houstonians in 2013 did not have the minimum credentials to fill in-demand middle skills jobs. This has impacted additional employment growth and economic opportunity in the region. According to an Urban Institute report, the region ranks the 11th worst of 150 major metros working poverty rate; 6.4 percent of our region’s 25-64 year olds are working full-time but live well below the poverty line.


We see people working very hard to be poor. In fact, here in Houston there are half-a-million people working full-time jobs but still living in poverty. ASPIRE is an opportunity to help them move up the economic ladder into good jobs- living wage jobs. This is Houston’s capital moment and the people we need are already here.

Angela Blanchard

President and CEO of Neighborhood Centers

Neighborhood Centers is ensuring there is an economic ladder that gives individuals upward income mobility and access to opportunity. The organizations scale, organizational capacity and deep connections with individuals will effectively help bridge the skills gap.

A core element of ASPIRE is Workforce Solutions and their one stop career offices that give participants access to the entire Workforce Solutions system which provides placement, career counseling and financial aid services for training. "Workforce Solutions Career Offices supply people with current, useful information on careers of the future, focusing on high-skill, high-growth jobs that provide opportunities for growth and good wages. With 24 locations across the Houston-Galveston region of Texas, our staff help people find jobs, keep jobs or get better jobs," said Director of the Gulf Coast Workforce Board, Mike Temple

The action plan for ASPIRE is to partner with employers in Houston’s growing industries to identify middle-skill job opportunities, and connect with committed workers who are ready to acquire the skills needed to obtain these jobs. Neighborhood Centers is also working closely with community colleges that provide high quality training that will help them move to better jobs. By linking together employers, training providers and hardworking people, ASPIRE effectively fills middle-skill gaps already identified in high-demand occupations such as industrial machinery mechanics, petroleum technicians, electricians, healthcare and pipefitters.

The key to ASPIRE’s success lies in its foundation of collaborative partners that stand with Neighborhood Centers – UpSkill Houston led by the Greater Houston Partnership, the United Way THRIVE, Houston Community College (HCC), San Jacinto College, Lone Star College and other non-profit partners. This region will move forward because organizations and leaders from different sectors, especially the business community, are all stepping up together to align the right resources for both skilled workers and employers.