Published on November 1, 2021, Steve Alhenius’ guest column is an enlightening and important piece of work, highlighting the state of the workforce in the 21st century and the projected increase in demand for physical skills in logistics, transportation, warehousing, and distribution, in addition to digital skills, social skills, and higher-level cognitive skills in the emerging workforce. 

In my opinion, it is a matter that needs to be collectively addressed by many community stakeholders, including higher education, industry, Chambers, and economic development organizations (EDOs).

The ever-adapting higher education system recognizes that proactive measures are necessary to stay ahead of the curve. Universities and colleges are developing strategies that will mitigate the skills gap through targeted education programs that are designed to support existing workforce while embedding industry-specific curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate level to support the future needs. There is a system-wide higher education taskforce coordinated by the University of Texas (UT) System that is looking at developing industry-recognized, accelerated, and stackable micro credentials for occupations that are in high demand, reflecting a growing trend in the higher education arena. 

At the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), where I serve as the assistant vice president for Professional Education & Workforce Development, we are continuously monitoring the skills gap in our region to identify innovative ways to mitigate them. One of our most recent efforts is the Workforce Development Innovation (WDI) Challenge launched on September 24, 2021. This initiative, developed in collaboration with our Workforce Development Advisory Committee (WDAC), is intended to help create an ecosystem that is agile and responsive to the rapidly changing needs in the workforce by developing customized programs to upskill and reskill current workforce and support the growth projected for our region. We also hope it will help build awareness to local businesses about various funding sources. This is a win-win that would greatly help our region build a responsive and agile ecosystem.

We are pleased to acknowledge International Bank of Commerce (IBC) McAllen, and Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance (DHR) Health System for being trailblazers in upskilling their advanced level practitioners with leadership and technical skills that has made a tremendous difference in the quality of care and service to end users. 

Our Bridging the Skills Gap website serves as a resource for the community to tap into services available from UTRGV to our community (many are grant funded and available free to the community).

I want to encourage all businesses who are involved in upskilling or reskilling their employees to participate in the WDI and be recognized. Please take a moment to complete this quick webform to be included for recognition. 

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the contributions made by other higher education institutions in our region in addressing skills gap through their targeted programs.

We invite the community stakeholders to join us in this collective effort in building our future together.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Jayshree Bhat, assistant Vice President for Professional Education & Workforce Development at UT-Rio Grande Valley. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Bhat, pictured above, can be reached by email via: [email protected]


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