BROWNSVILLE, RGV – It was clear from his remarks at a workshop on apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships that Mario Lozoya wants to hit the ground running. 

The workshop was hosted by Workforce Solutions Cameron and attracted stakeholders from trade councils, Brownsville ISD, Texas Southmost College, Texas State Technical College and the Texas Workforce Commission. 

After listening to an hour and a half of discussion, the new executive director of the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation offered a plan of action. 

“Everybody has a lot of passion, everybody wants to do something but we are not understanding what’s your lane, what’s my lane, what’s the school’s lane,” Lozoya said. 

He recommended regular monthly or at least quarterly meetings for all the stakeholders present to assess where the community is going as it seeks to secure a more skilled workforce. 

“We are going to put this big document together. It is going to be a long one. It is going have the entire continuum of the community, from little kids, to elementary, to middle school to high school, to adult learning, and even further than that to skill-up,” Lozoya said. 

“We are going to draft that whole continuum and we are going to put layers under it, what is happening to the students, what are the non-profits doing, what are the ISDs doing, what are the colleges doing, what are the associations doing, what are the electeds doing.”

Under the Lozoya plan, all the stakeholders would be accountable. 

“We will lay it all out and when we meet, we are going to put on there, this is what I am doing, this is what these people are doing here. Then we are going to start identifying, hey, man, you are going the wrong way. You have got to get back in alignment with our strategy.”

Lozoya said stakeholders are going to have to pay attention to what is happening at the legislative level. 

“There are a lot of things happening at the state level that probably 90 percent of us here are not aware of. For example, raise your hand if you know what Senate Bill 22 is. Raise your hand if you know what House Bill 3349 is. I bet you know what House Bill 5 is. We need to get better at knowing what that is… so you are not spinning your wheels all the time.”

Lozoya said one of the bills local stakeholders should know about allows industry-experienced people to be teachers in a high school. “Dr. Chavez, tell me, how many high tech teachers do you have that can teach robotics right now? Be honest.” 

Juan Chavez, director of career and technical education at Brownsville ISD, replied, probably one or two. “Across the state of Texas there is probably a huge gap,” Lozoya said. “Where all those people that know that equipment? They are in industry. The baby-boomers, once they retire, why can’t we put them to teach the workforce of tomorrow?”

Entire Continuum

Although the workshop was primarily about apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, Lozoya asked the stakeholders present to visualize the entire continuum of the local community, who the stakeholders and are and what lane they are in. 

“It doesn’t start at the adult layer, it starts way before that. We do have to have a short-term strategy, how can we get that person to work now, a mid-term strategy, where is that person going to be working in the next four or five years, and a long-term strategy, the messaging. Start getting kids used to STEM, so that by the time they get to middle and high school it is not foreign to them. So we can keep them in the pipeline.”

Lozoya said all the stakeholders need to develop this new strategy and then create activities around that. All for one common goal. “Hopefully the pool (of stakeholders) gets bigger,” he said.

The former Toyota Corporation executive and Marine concluded his remarks by speaking about leadership.

“It really pains me when I come to the Valley and I see the appointed and elected officials are the leadership. It is not the way it is supposed to be. They are there to serve you. You guys should be the leadership. If you look at the composition of particular boards and committees and you are not on them, that is a problem,” Lozoya said.

“That is going to be part of our strategy. How do we get you or your people in that leadership role because you guys could be making the decisions, not the elected officials. We need to tell them what we need and they do it for us. So, we are going to start this culture change and it starts with industry. With industry, those people are going to create our educational workforce pipeline because that will create economic prosperity.”

Workforce Solutions Cameron Executive Director Pat Hobbs said if Lozoya wants to lay out the plan on his long boardroom wall he could turn it into a white board. 

“I agree with Mario. I think there is enough brainpower in this group to put something together like he is talking about. It makes sense. I think we are all engaged at a good level and I am willing to participate in any way I can. As a region, the South Texas region, this is something we have needed for a long time,” Hobbs said.

Hernandez endorsement

Mario Lozoya of Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation and Brownsville businessman Mike Hernandez.

Before the workshop began there was a check presentation. Julian Alvarez, labor representative on the Texas Workforce Commission, signed one check for $50,000. It was matched by a check from the Hernandez Foundation. The money will go towards a pilot apprenticeship program at Cameron County Education Initiative, Inc., a trade school founded and funded by Mike Hernandez’s OP 10.33 organization.

Asked by the Rio Grande Guardian how important Lozoya’s appointment to GBIC is, Hernandez said:

“Very important. Mario is a guy who, over the past decade, all the EDC directors from different areas call him for advice, call him for help. He is known all the way up to the Governor’s Office as an expert in workforce development. He has committed a lot of his resources and a lot of his time, prior to this, towards that. 

“Now he has decided to come back to his home, he is from the McAllen area, he has come back to the Valley because he wants to make a difference. He wants to apply what he has learned and the successes he has had in San Antonio to this area. Most likely, with the same results.”

Hernandez said that as a result of Lozoya’s work in San Antonio, wages are higher, unemployment is down and all the things that are supposed to happen when one commits to workforce training are happening. He said he expects to see the same results in Brownsville.

“Everything is headed in the right direction. Mario is truly the guy who can keep the different agencies from working in silos and actually work together towards one common goal. Not that each one of them does not have their own plans. But we would like the plans to fit into one overall puzzle, so to speak. Where one plus one equals three. 

“When you are collaborating with someone else it is more than just doubling the two ideas. It actually multiplies, compounds so to speak. That is the biggest change that has been happening and as long as that continues the sky’s the limit for Brownsville.”