Over the last 13 years, Skanska has constructed 13 buildings for Alamo Colleges, including their district office pictured above, ranging from office space to cybersecurity classrooms to a state-of-the-art culinary center and more. Credit: Skanska USA

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Our city has done an excellent job in making it possible to invest substantially in our education system. Last November, San Antonio Independent School District voters overwhelmingly approved a $1.3 billion bond package to renovate 36 campuses and help position San Antonio as a hub for premier K-12 education. Local colleges and universities are making headlines for innovative programs that align with the greater:SATX Regional Economic Partnership’s target sectors, particularly cybersecurity, technology, and aerospace. For example, St. Philip’s College is renovating and upgrading the Bowden Campus Center, which will house its two-year cybersecurity program that has been designated by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.

San Antonio continues to compete with cities across the country for top talent, so a strong education system is needed to attract families, teachers, and students. As our city grows, we can leverage our education system to build up and retain San Antonio’s next generation of leaders. There is an opportunity for business leaders from all industries to come together with a goal of prioritizing education in an effort to attract new residents to the greater San Antonio area and invest in those who currently call it home.

It begins with a shared vision. It is time for us to pinpoint initiatives that will position our city as a desirable place to grow a family and establish a business. Some of those are collaborative learning centers, state-of-the art facilities, cybersecurity programs, and accessible resources for students, to name a few. By investing in our students, we are also investing in our future workforce.

We need architects to design classrooms, IT professionals to equip schools with the latest in technology and to make education accessible, and local organizations to provide internships and job opportunities. We need the construction community to leverage industry resources to provide San Antonio with sustainable building solutions and cutting-edge materials to develop the sustainable infrastructure needed to house the next generation of students, our future doctors, inventors, engineers, and city leaders.

It will take a village. When the community comes together to support education, the city becomes more attractive for business growth, drawing top talent to fill roles in new and existing businesses. There is also the benefit of preventing “brain drain.” Local talent who gain a top-notch San Antonio education see the benefit of establishing their careers in San Antonio, raising their families, and repeating the cycle.

We can do this by leveraging our talent and resources. Businesses need to do the big things — build facilities, fund advanced school initiatives, and endorse education legislation, for example — but it can start with the little things, too. Small jobs and infrastructure updates, student field trips, mentorship and volunteer programs, and career days are all critical components in creating top-tier education experiences for students.

There are little things we can do that make a big difference, and each industry has something to contribute. Banks can offer financial literacy classes, health care professionals can offer hospital tours, museums and dance studios can partner with art departments, and entrepreneurs can inspire young minds in new and unique ways.

If businesses see the opportunity to fill a gap, they should consider partnering with like-minded groups and businesses to develop new programs within their industry. For example, Skanska developed the Construction Management Building Blocks (CMBB) Program to engage small and diverse subcontractors through partnership and training to strengthen business and building capacity. The free program covers topics such as project management, construction safety, and accounting. Through programs such as CMBB, Skanska is able to share its global knowledge, resources, and expertise in all aspects of cutting-edge construction methods and technologies with the San Antonio community.

Businesses can also partner with established local organizations or join community professional organizations to make an impact. For example, STEM-focused programs like the ACE Mentor Program of America (architecture, construction, and engineering) pairs students with mentors from an early age and encourages the pursuit of a STEM career.

Let’s continue promoting and creating opportunities to provide students with mentorship and learning opportunities outside of the classroom experience.

Many business leaders also hold the title of parent. As parents, our children’s values start with us, and now is the time to show our children and our community that a quality education in San Antonio opens a world of opportunities. Coming together to support a shared vision, we can do big things for our children, their education and the business community. Every step we take can make a difference in San Antonio’s future.

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Keith Sitzman

Keith Sitzman is Vice President - Operations at Skanska USA, one of the world's leading project development and construction groups, where he works directly with building operations for San Antonio.