COMMENTARY: Cracking the code in Texas to build a stronger tech workforce


As Texas and the Rio Grande Valley continue to grow and experience an influx of new employers, so does the demand for a more skilled workforce. Businesses interested in moving to Texas need to know that the demand for skilled workers can be met to fulfill their hiring needs.

Alex Meade with Mission Economic Development Corporation saw this opportunity for the Rio Grande Valley and started an innovative program, which is located in my district, called “Code the Town.” This program teaches computer programming to business startups as a means of attracting technology-based business to this region. This program would ensure that, as one of the fastest growing regions in the state, we are able to compete against other parts of the state and bring Fortune 500 companies to the Rio Grande Valley.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 37.5 percent increase in the field of computer systems design from 2012 to 2022. This statistic cannot be ignored, and we would be remiss to not consider it when preparing our future generations for the workforce.

With the future influx of technology-based businesses in the Rio Grande Valley, we must prepare our students with the skills necessary to succeed, not only by offering computer science courses in our schools, but by allowing these courses to count as credit towards their graduation plans.

Currently in our Texas high schools, computer science courses often do not count towards a student’s required coursework and thereby many students are discouraged from pursuing computer science. To help address this issue, I filed House Bill 728 which would require the State Board of Education to develop and implement a rigorous computer science program for high school students that would allow computer science courses to count as either an advanced math or science credit towards a graduation plan.

I worked closely with Texas Workforce Commissioner Julian Alvarez, an RGV native, and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath on this bill in the context of developing an educated workforce under the unique Texas “60x30TX Initiative.” This initiative aims to have at least 60 percent of Texans between the ages of 25 to 34 with some form of degree or certificate by 2030.

In my meeting with Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this session, he was very supportive of my legislation and its goals. On April 20, HB 728 was passed unanimously out of the Texas House, and on May 15 the bill passed through the Texas Senate unanimously. It is now waiting on the governor to sign it into law.

This bill will help interested high school students enter the workforce immediately upon graduation, if they wish to do so, or it may spark an additional interest to pursue computer science in a post-secondary academic institution.

It is imperative that we provide Texas students with the adequate resources to prepare them for the ever-changing workforce. I believe increasing the number of Texas students who take computer science courses will help Texas, the Rio Grande Valley, and our economy prosper.