BROWNSVILLE, RGV – Speaking in a personal capacity, Mario Lozoya, the director of government relations and external affairs for Toyota Motor Corporation in San Antonio, says the Rio Grande Valley is not ready for an advanced manufacturing facility because the region does not have a sufficiently trained workforce.

Lozoya, a McAllen native, gave a presentation on the Texas – Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) at IBC Bank in Brownsville Feb. 19. He discussed the next steps to develop a manufacturing workforce in Texas and the Rio Grande Valley because the region does not have a workforce with that skill set.

“Based on the experience that I have and what I’ve seen [the Rio Grande Valley] doesn’t have the workforce. [The Valley] is not ready to go out and reach out to a company to come here,” Lozoya told the Rio Grande Guardian, after his presentation. “We need to set the processes first and show through a site selection process [that the RGV] has processes available to create a workforce relevant to [the company’s] needs. We’re not there yet, but I think that we can get there.”

One way to develop the RGV’s manufacturing workforce is replacing the current science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum in schools with the STEM after school programs such as the robotics, solar and electric car programs, Lozoya told the Rio Grande Guardian. These after school programs are sometimes sponsored by high technology companies including Toyota and according to Lozoya, these programs are science, technology, engineering and math at its best. In his power-point presentation, Lozoya cited non-profits such as FIRST, which has a big robotics component, as an example of the entities Toyota supports.

“I’m going to work with the legislature and State Representative Eddie Lucio III of District 38 to create a visual of what the economic impact is [as well as the economic] worth of these current career clusters. Why shouldn’t we consider bringing those high tech-funded after school programs into the classroom and remove the ones that are ineffective?” Lozoya said.

“How can we give these kids math and science credits and make it relevant to a career path instead of wasting their time after school. Because when we get them they don’t have those accredited hours, so why don’t we capitalize on that opportunity.”

Another way to move the region’s workforce in the right direction is establishing a FAME Chapter in the Valley. According to Dr. Carlos Marin, founder and CEO for Ambiotec, Inc, the Rio Grande Valley is the fastest growing region for the next 30 years in Texas but has the lowest educational attainment This resulted in high unemployment rates for the past 25 years and his solution is to shift the region’s economy to advanced manufacturing.

“The objective of FAME is to create a pathway for creating advanced manufacturing technicians which is a critical element in terms of supply for a workforce for us to be able to track the industries in advanced manufacturing,” Marin told the Rio Grande Guardian. “TX-FAME is specifically directed at how we obtain and generate quickly and efficiently–based on the experience of San Antonio and Toyota–the supply that critical advanced manufacturing technician that we can produce quickly in two years. That’ll make [ the RGV] more competitive.”

Within Toyota, Lozoya said there are nine FAME chapters around the country including San Antonio, Kentucky and Indiana–all of which produced positive results for their workforces.

“We’ve already realized how effective it can be and my point is we already went through the trouble of learning how to get it done right, so the Valley doesn’t have to wait those years to go through a trial and error window,” Lozoya said. “Today, we tried to find commitment from industry, ISDs, community colleges and others like economic development entities to find a way to quickly get to a point where we can launch a TX-FAME chapter here in the Valley.”