Powering the Texas workforce

Texas is a nation founded by mavericks. On March 2, 1836, a group of mavericks bound together and declared independence from Mexico because they wanted the freedom to build a future defined only by their own limitations.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a maverick as “an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party.” I can not imagine a better description of the students, leaders and researchers at one of the largest and finest universities in Texas — my alma mater, The University of Texas at Arlington.

As a leader at the largest utility in Texas, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is essential to almost everything I do on a daily basis. STEM provides the foundation on which we must build the future workforce in Texas and I am constantly looking for quality candidates with skills to meet the challenges of building a safer, smarter, more reliable grid to meet the modern needs of our 10 million Texas customers.

As someone responsible for the technical design, construction and operation of a portion of the state’s electric grid, I am very thankful that the students and graduates of UTA are more than ready to answer the call.

In its 2018 graduate rankings, U.S. News & World Report places UTA’s College of Engineering among the top 75 graduate programs in America, and the college is now the third-largest producer of engineering graduates in the state.

In 2016, UTA broke ground on a new 220,000-square-foot Science and Engineering Innovation and Research building that will attract top STEM talent from around the nation, and the globe. Investments like that are absolutely necessary to keep Texas positioned as a leader in science and technology research and education.

And beyond its leadership in engineering and technology, UTA’s strategic enrollment growth has been managed to enable the university to provide increased numbers of graduates in key areas identified by legislators and economists as greatly needed now and tomorrow for the state of Texas.

In the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, UTA has designed, scheduled and taught courses that fit easily with employed students: variable class sessions that coincide with nursing shift schedules and online classes that can be taken during off-hours, and tuition that has remained affordable for working individuals wanting to increase skill levels and earn professional certifications.

UTA’s College of Education is the highest ranked in North Texas and one of the best in the state for preparing successful elementary school teachers, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality. UTA graduates are found in almost every school district in the region and across the state, either as principals, administrators or teachers. The establishment of Teacher Academies with Arlington and Grand Prairie ISDs will ensure that aspiring young educators are identified early and can take dual credit courses to seamlessly transfer to UTA, earn their teaching degrees and in many cases return to their former schools to teach and mentor future teachers.

In addition to the technical skills required in each discipline, UTA excels in preparing students with the interpersonal skills necessary to lead teams and take on real problems. Skills like teamwork, leadership and group dynamics are taught so that future leaders can solve tough business and community challenges.

These lessons are often enhanced by the fact that many UTA students have already been in the work force — either part-time as students financing their college education, or full-time before returning to complete or earn higher degrees.

As a Carnegie R-1 University — a designation given only to the top research universities in the nation – and as the university in Texas with the lowest average student debt (2nd only to Princeton in the nation), UTA has shown that access and affordability can also accompany excellence and superior results.

Market forces and increased competition are causing technology and innovation to change rapidly — and the pace of change is only increasing over time. The future of Texas is dependent on an educated and well-trained workforce that can compete for jobs by offering employers what they need most — degrees and skills.

Only 12 states have larger universities than UTA, which has 57,000 students. Funding quality public education is crucial if Texas hopes to continue attracting new businesses and jobs to the state.  

At Oncor, my job is to provide over 10 million Texans with safe, reliable, affordable electric service, powering the Texas of today — and preparing for our future needs. I am a proud Maverick in every sense of the word. UTA helped to shape me into who I am, and with sustained support from the state of Texas, it will continue shaping leaders that will power the Texas of tomorrow.

Jim Greer, Oncor

Jim Greer is the Chief Operating Officer of Oncor.