Authority Magazine: Romanita Matta-Barrera, Chief Workforce Officer for greater:SATX On The Top Five Trends To Watch In The Future Of Work

Our Chief Workforce Officer, Romanita Matta-Barrera, recently sat down with Phil La Duke of Authority Magazine to discuss the future of work and the workplace. You can preview an excerpt of the interview below and read the full interview on Authority Magazine.

More than ever, employees want to work for businesses that share their values and that contribute more to the world than just economic output. They want to do meaningful work for companies and organizations that are doing good work that improves the world. They also want jobs and employers whose policies allow them to enjoy the work-life blend they desire. Luckily for them, social media and highly credible employer review sites like Glassdoor and others have made it easier than ever to evaluate employers, their culture, and overall workplace across many areas before accepting a job offer. Job seekers can learn so much about prospective employers online.

There have been major disruptions in recent years that promise to change the very nature of work. From the ongoing shifts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the impacts caused by automation, and other possible disruptions to the status quo, many wonder what the future holds in terms of employment. For example, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that automation will eliminate 73 million jobs by 2030.

To address this open question, we reached out to successful leaders in business, government, and labor, as well as thought leaders about the future of work to glean their insights and predictions on the future of work and the workplace.

As a part of this interview series called “Preparing For The Future Of Work,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Romanita Matta-Barrera, Chief Workforce Officer, greater:SATX, the economic development partnership for the greater San Antonio region.

Romanita Matta-Barrera leads workforce development efforts to align education, workforce, and economic development to meet the talent needs of the San Antonio region’s current and future employers. She and her team focus on expanding, retaining, and attracting talent into jobs that provide economic mobility. Prior to joining greater:SATX, Matta-Barrera served as president and CEO of Fluent Strategy Group, a multicultural marketing firm. She also served as Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans and Director of Hispanic Outreach and Communications at the U.S. Department of Education with the Bush Administration. Prior to that, she was the Texas Media Director for U.S. Senator John Cornyn of Texas, serving as Spanish spokesperson and coalition liaison to Hispanic organizations. She is a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Talent Pipeline Management Academy Fellow and serves as Vice Chair of the Texas A&M University–San Antonio Foundation and on the Advisory Council of the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?

I’m the daughter of Mexican immigrants, the youngest of five children. We lived in public housing in San Antonio for a while and spoke Spanish at home. I picked up my work ethic from my hard-working dad, who always held blue-collar jobs. Watching my parents make their way in this country got me interested in issues of equality, education, and opportunity. I saw educational inequity when I was young and had the opportunity to move from a school in a poor neighborhood to a middle-class community. Seeing and experiencing the stark differences inspired me to get involved in equalizing education and workforce opportunities for all. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with degrees in Latin American studies and government, I began my career working at various workforce organizations including Job Corps and the local workforce centers in San Antonio before going to work for a U.S. senator. Then, I went on to serve as deputy director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans and Director of Hispanic Outreach and Communications in the U.S. Department of Education. Before joining greater:SATX in 2016, I also ran my own firm focused on multicultural marketing.

What do you expect to be the major disruptions for employers in the next 10–15 years? How should employers pivot to adapt to these disruptions?

Automation, robotics, artificial intelligence — technology in all its facets will have a tremendous effect on work. But not all changes will be dictated by technology. I also believe the forthcoming disruption will involve a social movement driven by how employees want to work and be valued in the workplace. I think workers will have a greater influence on work models and how they are regarded and treated by their employers. The definition of a “quality job” is changing with more emphasis on equality and we are already seeing people wishing to join a company or organization with a personally aligned mission and purpose.

The choice as to whether or not a young person should pursue a college degree was once a “no-brainer.” But with the existence of many high-profile millionaires (and billionaires) who did not earn degrees, as well as the fact that many graduates are saddled with crushing student loan debt and unable to find jobs it has become a much more complex question. What advice would you give to young adults considering whether or not to go to college?

It’s obviously an individual and personal decision. Though some sort of post-secondary training is essential, clearly not everyone needs or wants to earn a four-year degree to make a living. There is a critical need for workers in the skilled trades: welders, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc. Those are good-paying jobs and probably the least vulnerable to disruption by AI and automation. However, those jobs also require training and education through apprenticeships, certifications, and credentialing. We are seeing a pace of technological advancement that didn’t exist for many workforce roles in the past. The automotive manufacturing industry is very strong in the San Antonio region with EV leaders Telsa and Toyota having facilities here, along with their supply chain partners. Today, an auto manufacturing worker is a tech worker, using advanced manufacturing systems to build cars that have new capabilities like self-driving features and more. I think what workers, young and old, must understand is that a sustainable career in any field is going to depend on their ability to regularly upskill. It will be important for workers to be flexible, learn new skills, educate themselves, and progress in their chosen career path.

Read the full interview on Authority Magazine.


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