MCALLEN, Texas – South Texas College President Ricardo J. Solis says that the higher education system is broken. Speaking at two events hosted by the college, Solis highlighted the evolving educational landscape and explained how he plans to navigate it to accomplish his goals for the school and community.

“The higher education model is changing,” said Solis. “The one that we have today – the model – is archaic. It’s over 200 years old! That’s why we’re changing it.”

Solis, who took the helm last year, alluded to the college’s “innovative” approach to meeting industry demands and teased the announcement of upcoming projects at a McAllen Economic Development Corporation board meeting last fall. One such project turned out to be a collaboration with the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA) to offer a customs specialist certification. At the partners’ signing ceremony to kick-off the program, Solis pointed to the teamwork needed to address specific industry challenges and those seen across the board. 

“We are now clearly uniting our forces to be able to combat what’s taken place in this whole global market,” said Solis. “Primarily, we know that we are challenged by supply chains, just-in-time inventory, off-shoring, and, most importantly, lack of skilled personnel. I think we’ve seen that in every industry, and, of course, this is just a small component of it. We are responding to the needs of industry by developing short-term certificates and specialties. This is what the college is all about … This is a perfect example of how a certificate – in this case, a certified customs specialist – is clearly sending a message that this is what it’s going to take to be able to meet the needs of industry, and especially the growth needs of the Valley.”

Solis says the launch of the new program is just another example of how the college’s progressive approach to education will benefit the region for years to come.

“This is going to be for the entire South Texas area,” said Solis. “I envision us to being able to bring in more specialized opportunities and global trade certifications so that South Texas will become a powerhouse, not only in advanced manufacturing [and] transportation, but in customs and logistics. This is where we’re going to see the long-term needs, the soft skills that are essential for international trade.”

At the South Texas Health System diabetes symposium held at the college, Solis boasted about the institution’s nursing programs and their distinction as the largest nursing provider amongst community colleges in Texas. Building on his predecessor’s work, Solis called for even more agreements to address the increasing demand of the health care industry and thrust STC to the forefront of health care education.

“We graduated over 463 nurses last year,” said Solis. “That’s an incredible amount of nurses for the Valley, and we know we have a lot, lot more to go. And, with the help of everyone here collaborating … we are confident that we will become the nursing producer capitol, not only in Texas, but in the United States. And, that is our goal.” 

He continued, “We continue advocating for the health care needs because a healthy community is certainly a very productive and, of course, very progressive community. And, we will continue advocating for that because at South Texas College – together with the Valley – we are resolute in being successful in providing the educational health care needs of the community.”

To achieve these goals, Solis stressed the importance of bridging gaps to reach people where they are. He says that COVID-19 only proved to amplify this message and prompted him and his staff to find more pathways for students, including those now seeking a change of career. 

“I’m going to continue making some bold statements … where higher education is evolving,” said Solis. “…It is broken, and we have to change it to more relevancy. And, it was [broken] even before the pandemic. Now, we definitely know that we have to get more precise in bringing opportunities to not only the young high school students, but even the present adults – your 30 to 50 to 60 year olds – that need that change, that need that connectivity to industry. And what better way to do it than going through these types of certifications?”

As the college forges ahead, Solis urges students and employers to also rethink their approach higher education and recruiting. He says adaptability in these uncertain times will most certainly pay off.  

“We have to change that mindset that going back to college – the traditional route – is not necessary,” said Solis. “We have these better, more relevant avenues and models … Now the key for any successful employee is not only that they have the soft skills, but that, most importantly, they have the ability and willingness and attitude to relearn and go back to higher education.”

Should one decide to further their education, Solis says they can be confident in the college’s acclaimed curriculum and its real-world applicability.

“That is what the college does best,” said Solis. “And, this is what South Texas College will continue doing here in the Valley.”

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