Shared from the 3/24/2020 San Antonio Express eEdition


Update training of workforce now

Jerry Lara / Staff photographer

The tourism and service industry is taking a massive hit. The time has come for a change in how the city does workforce training.


In these troubling times, Americans have to work together to battle the novel coronavirus. Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s timely decision to close the city’s restaurants and bars to limit its spread will impact the economic well-being in a greater form than we realize today.

This city was built economically, first, on small business and, second, on hospitality and tourism. Our hotels host major conventions and special events, while small businesses lead the charge in support resources. Even when there isn’t an NCAA Final Four or the Valero Alamo Bowl, our downtown is filled with people from all over the country. First-time visitors have told me how much they enjoy experiencing our rich heritage and local flare.

Now, we face a crisis that impacts the economic welfare of many of us. I believe we should heed the words President Franklin D. Roosevelt made in the middle of the Great Depression:

“Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit,” he said in his 1933 inaugural address.

Roosevelt’s fireside chats took advantage of his ability to unify Americans for the common good.

In South Texas, Americans — especially those leading us in small business, hospitality and retail — are facing job losses. Leadership at the federal, state and local levels need to help them find work and new opportunities to offset the shortfall of income.

Giving Americans direct checks at this time seems like a Band-Aid for those who may face homelessness and food insecurity.

In San Antonio, we need our leadership to embrace the idea that federal funding will be allocated to help people get training in new career paths. I question the capacity to quickly help the San Antonians who want to take advantage of this option. If the employment bureaucracy stays in place, many may get discouraged by the long waits and the inability to talk to a workforce specialist or counselor.

We can easily create the technical infrastructure to help those in need through our contractor-driven innovation tools, fast-tracking interactivity via online coaching and assistance.

Imagine a displaced family member able to go to a kiosk or a mobile phone to create an interactive application and coaching site. The immediate fast-tracking of bilingual training for technology, human resources and other in-demand skills cannot be put on hold until COVID-19 blows over.

Updating our training approach would be one needed step to help those impacted by this pandemic. Calling on our local small-business contractors to support this would be simpler than realized.

Lastly, as the compassionate community that we are, everyone needs to reach out to our veteran, disabled and senior citizen populations with a phone call or distance visit. Why? Because if you bought 36 rolls of toilet paper for fear that the stores would run out, now’s the time to take four or five of them with a plate of pan dulce or a homemade meal to the relative or neighbor you hardly speak to. During that visit, take the time to really listen to their concerns.

Leadership, at all levels, should remember the efforts of Roosevelt, César Chávez and others to create a better country. The federal government has created a belief that government agencies at all levels will help people improve their lives. However, it does this with the usual amount of red tape. It’s time to push forward, using the talents of local entrepreneurs for the economic and educational support of this beautiful community.

Kristi Villanueva serves as the president and chief executive officer of the West San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and her small business.

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