Houston’s burgeoning economy is in dire need of skilled workers. And the 15 percent of Houstonians living below the poverty line need good-paying jobs to climb into the middle class. LISC’s longstanding partner, SER-Jobs for Progress, has a strong track record of helping people land middle-skills jobs in growing industries. Now, thanks to a $3.2 million bridge loan and an $8 million New Markets Tax Credit investment from LISC, SER will soon inaugurate a state-of-the-art workforce center, doubling the organization’s capacity to train prospective employees and offer financial coaching.
SER is already home to the largest of Houston LISC’s five Financial Opportunity Centers. SER serves some 500 clients a year and a Bridges to Career Opportunities program that helpps residents prepare them for jobs in specific industries such as welding, construction, banking, and office support. With the new Workforce Opportunity Center, which will include a “career café,” employment and youth services, classrooms, and training labs, SER expects to support 10,000 clients a year on the path to financial stability.
The center is also strategically located at the crossroads of several communities where Houston LISC invests in neighborhood infrastructure and near a range of industrial hubs such as petrochemical, manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and the Port of Houston’s maritime operations.
You don’t have to look far to see the kind of impact SER makes on the lives of its clients and in the surrounding community. Take Emilio Parker, who had been in and out of prison for most of his adult life before he connected with the organization and graduated from its job readiness program. Today, Parker is a reintegration specialist with SER, coaching other formerly incarcerated people to navigate the work world and prepare for a living-wage position.
“Without SER giving me a chance to do something different, I might not have made it this far,” said Parker. “The new [Workforce Opportunity Center] will give a lot more people a chance to make a different kind of life for themselves.