EDITORIAL: LEADing the RGV ó education/business leader summit a smart event

by: State Board of Education Member Ruben Cortez of Brownsville
The Monitor

There were a lot of plaudits and praise among educational leaders and business executives who attended a regional summit on Thursday at the McAllen Convention Center. Their goal: To better connect academic leaders with industry leaders.

Itís an important goal that is crucial to the future of the Rio Grande Valley. And the mere fact that educational leaders and busy executives from Hidalgo, Starr, Willacy and Cameron counties took the time to attend the four-hour event is worthy of praise. It shows how important they believe collaborating is in order to better prepare our workforce of tomorrow.

“Business leaders, we need you at the table. The fact that you did come verifies your investment,” said Dr. Norma Salaiz, director of the Weslaco-based RGV LEAD group, which hosted the event. “We cannot have our young people growing up without the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to be productive members of society.”

No we can’t. And we agree the necessity of such an event to share what workforce skills industry will need in upcoming years with those who are teaching our youth now.

The group’s name, which stands for Linking Economic & Academic Development, (LEAD) explains their simple yet important intentions in this, the first such summit.

“This LEAD summit is a meeting of the minds that is happening because we need to build on that investment in the Rio Grande Valley,” Salaiz said.

Part of the 2013 Legislature’s confusing HB5, which mandates that all Texas school districts shall offer “academies” within its high schools to better help students select their career or educational routes, this summit was an effort to better explain this process and to get businesses involved. And although this is only “Phase I,” Salaiz said in the very near future businesses will play an integral role in helping school districts offer all five academies, such as through local internships.

The five academies that lawmakers in Austin ordered all districts to strive to offer include: public services; business; STEM; arts and humanities, and a catch-all miscellaneous category. Some districts, like McAllen ISD, already offer all five, but many smaller districts do not have the resources, funds or outreach to yet do so. And that is why hosting a summit of this nature is so important.

In attendance were representatives from dozens of neighboring districts including Brownsville, Harlingen, Harlingen, La Joya, Port Isabel, Rio Hondo, San Perlita and Weslaco.

Also attending were representatives from Ford and other businesses with offices in the Valley that are eager to partner with academics to prepare their workforce and “play a vital role in sustaining this network,” Cheri Carrier, executive director of Ford National Learning said via video.

“To see leaders in industry come together with educators is an exciting notion,” State Board of Education Member Ruben Cortez of Brownsville told them. “We have a need with SpaceX and the new medical school.”

To accomplish this, the summit hoped to recruit leaders; identify partnerships; detail workforce skills needed and gather ideas for a regional master plan.

“We are developing a plan for this region’s future,” Joey Treviño, head of the Weslaco EDC and chairman of the Academies of the RGV said. “There’s still an opportunity for more people to come to the table.”

We hope they come.

--The Monitor Editorial Board

RGV LEAD - Linking Economic & Academic Development © 2013