UTSA tackles the talent vacuum
As employers struggle to find people with the right skills for their open positions, the University of Texas at San Antonio is proliferating major projects to address workforce gaps.
By Shea Conner The University of Texas at San Antonio
Shea Conner is a multimedia editor and writer for the University of Texas at San Antonio.
As the demand for highly qualified business, IT and cybersecurity graduates grows throughout the Lone Star State, the University of Texas at San Antonio has devised several strategies to meet these escalating workforce needs. Among them are capital projects, ambitious initiatives and a plan to expand enrollment to 38,400 students in 2023 and to 45,000 students by 2028.
“UTSA has always served as a driver of economic prosperity and social mobility for the city of San Antonio and Bexar County,” said UTSA president Taylor Eighmy. “Now, more than ever, the university is in a position to tackle the talent vacuum across Texas.”
Construction recently started on the 167,000-square-foot School of Data Science and National Security Collaboration Center along Dolorosa Street abutting San Pedro Creek, with projected completion in July 2022. The new facility will house the School of Data Science, including 85,725 square feet of classroom, laboratory and research space, as well as 81,500 square feet of innovation space, laboratories and research facilities for the National Security Collaboration Center — a hub for government, university and industry partners in the cybersecurity field.
The new school will place UTSA’s 70-plus faculty members in cybersecurity, cloud computing, data and analytics, and artificial intelligence under one roof in the heart of San Antonio, to provide government, industry and community partners access to UTSA’s nationally recognized programs and talent. UTSA’s departments of Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Statistics and Data Sciences, Information Systems and Cyber Security, and the Open Cloud Institute will call the school home.
As the first of its kind in the state of Texas, UTSA’s School of Data Science will further solidify San Antonio’s status as the largest information security hub outside of Washington, D.C., while answering the national call for a highly skilled workforce to fill swelling gaps in cybersecurity, data analytics, business intelligence and digital asset management. Collaboration across these disciplines will foster profound innovation to address critical challenges.
“UTSA is building the best data science program in the world. It will train the smartest students in the field and make them the hottest commodities in the workforce,” said Graham Weston, notable San Antonio business leader and philanthropist. The former Rackspace chairman and CEO envisions the School of Data Science becoming a momentous accelerator to downtown San Antonio’s flourishing tech ecosystem.
“We hope that as UTSA creates them, the biggest employers in the world will come to downtown San Antonio to recruit their IT workforces,” he said.
Just across the creek to the west, demolition of a former county and federal jail building is clearing space for UTSA’s Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Experiential Learning & Executive Education Building. This expansion of the College of Business is expected to be operational by 2025. UTSA is making a concerted effort to bolster its nationally ranked business education programs and downtown area programming through the state-of-the-art facility. This development project will leverage the broad opportunities that exist in San Antonio, allowing UTSA to address the city’s pressing workforce needs and connect students with experiential learning and career-engagement opportunities.
Experiential learning is the fulcrum of UTSA’s Classroom to Career initiative, which develops and promotes learning opportunities outside the classroom, such as internships, service learning, undergraduate research and study abroad. Because experiential learning facilitates a greater understanding of real-world applications, UTSA is aiming to have 75% of its students participate in some form of experiential learning by the time they graduate. The initiative is not only bolstering student retention at the university, but also strengthening existing relationships in the San Antonio community and cultivating new partnerships.
UTSA’s San Antonio Workforce initiative is also increasing the number — and breadth — of career advancement programs to enable those without college degrees to compete for better-paying jobs or new careers through innovative online instruction and workforce-oriented credentials.
“We engaged 48 CEOs and their representatives from across San Antonio’s economic sectors to learn directly what our industries need,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, UTSA provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.
These conversations inspired UTSA to further meet the educational needs of San Antonio employers through customized degree and certificate programs in various disciplines. The university offers a slate of graduate certificates that align with the city’s workforce demand, from community nutrition and health to cloud computing.
UTSA offers several other continuing education opportunities for those looking to change careers or improve their existing skillsets, including technology boot camps and a preparation course for certified information systems security professionals.
The university has long provided a number of highly acclaimed master’s degree programs to prepare Texans for in-demand jobs, as well as flexible online bachelor’s programs crafted for busy adults looking to earn their college degrees.