EDINBURG, Texas – A new program called the Workforce Development Innovation Challenge is being launched by UT-Rio Grande Valley’s Office of Professional Education & Workforce Development at 10 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 24. 

Mario Lozoya

The challenge kicks off at the UTRGV Community Engagement and Student Success (CESS) building (Expressway 281 frontage road and Freddy Gonzalez Drive) in Edinburg.

Jayshree Bhat (pictured above) is assistant vice president in UTRGV’s Office of Professional Education & Workforce Development. Two years ago Bhat created an advisory committee to assist her. One of its members is Mario Lozoya, president of Lozoya Consulting. Both played a key role in developing the Workforce Development Innovation Challenge.

Lozoya said the challenge asks area leaders to collaborate on the creation of partnerships within industry, economic development organizations and the community. 

Bhat said UTRGV is also interested in developing strategies to offset the concerns of many industry partners that graduates entering the workforce are not prepared well enough for today’s jobs and lack the industry-specific knowledge and professional soft skills to be able to perform those jobs effectively. 

Dr. Parwinder Grewal, UTRGV executive vice president for Research, Graduate Studies and New Program Development, said developing the skills the current workforce is essential to increasing the efficiency and productivity of local businesses in South Texas.

Jayshree Bhat

“This new annual Innovation Challenge will help us more deeply engage with the businesses on a regular basis, to learn about the skills needed,” Grewal said. “That way, we can provide more up-to-date academic and continuing education programs that help minimize the workforce skills gap that exists between the industry and higher education.” 

To participate in the challenge, EDOs and community partners will identify and team up with a local company, then will help the company identify the employees to be upskilled and the skilled to become more efficient. The collaboration also will help companies commit to an improved wage structure, and will help support the industry partners with information from the Texas Workforce Commission, the TEA and other entities to apply for relevant grants and support for each program. 

Editor’s Note: Click here to learn more about the Workforce Development Innovation Challenge.

Editor’s Note: Watch Bhat and Lozoya discuss in general the importance developing a skilled workforce in the Rio Valley and in particular the goals of the Workforce Development Innovation Challenge: