Last month, Fort Bend County Judge KP George announced the formation of a task force designed to attract technology companies to the area.
On the heels of that announcement, the University of Houston at Sugar Land has revealed the culmination of an effort designed to satisfy the needs of such a business influx.
University of Houston President Renu Khator and more than 150 guests celebrated the official opening of UH’s new College of Technology building Sept. 12 on the university’s Sugar Land campus. The $54 million, 100,000 square-foot facility – funded through tuition revenue bonds in 2015 – will house programs such as Digital Media, Biotechnology, Supply Chain & Logistics Technology and Construction Management to accommodate evolving industries in Fort Bend County. Though there is a College of Technology presence on UH’s main campus, the recently opened UH-Sugar Land building is the first dedicated presence in Fort Bend County.
Jay Neal, UH-Sugar Land’s associate vice president of academic affairs and chief operating officer, said the school consistently has Fort Bend companies inquiring about needing students to fill job or internship vacancies. It now possesses the means for businesses to find their unique needs close to home.
The facility contains 10 different research labs for the 1,200 students enrolled in College of Technology courses as of this semester.
“By bringing this one college to the Greater Fort Bend County area, we can serve a lot of businesses with creating students and young professionals that really fit into that workforce,” Neal said. “It gives us the flexibility to work with the business community and make sure we’re providing them. The other colleges throughout the UH system are a little envious right now, but it’s a good problem to have.”
UH College of Technology Dean Anthony Ambler said about 70 percent of graduates stay in the general area in which they study. And with efforts such as George’s recent partnership creating the county’s first technology task force, there could be more such opportunities in the coming years.
“This is obviously of benefit to the economy of Sugar Land and Fort Bend as it continues to expand at an impressive rate,” Ambler said. “Being closer to the students and their families and future hiring companies means that we can adapt more readily to the changing needs of the workforce.”
The biggest benefit of the new building, Neal said, is that the recruiting and communication chain is now shorter for area companies and the school, enabling easier transitions. The school has representation on student advisory boards from the economic development agencies of Fort Bend and Sugar Land as well as from local industries.
“We know we’re producing graduates that have the skill sets businesses want,” Neal said. “It really sets these students up for success, because they have a good idea of what the company is about before they even take on the job. Getting those students to stay in the region is a win for everybody.”
In a similar vein, Ambler said the university will increase its attempts to reach elementary, middle and high schools in the Fort Bend area through outreach programs and career fairs in an effort to set them up for success before they reach the college level.
“We intend to be more aggressive in reaching out to show them how exciting all branches of technology are, and that they can have a lifetime career that changes every day,” Ambler said.
For more information on the University of Houston’s College of Technology, visit uh.edu/technology/.