Frank Almaraz, Chief Executive Officer at Workforce Solutions, learned early from his dad the importance of literacy. Though neither parent went to college, literacy was on the top of their list of areas they wanted their son to conquer.
“Get an education! Always do your best! Respect everybody!”
Born and raised in McAllen, Almaraz was a scared 13-year-old traveling by himself to West Texas to harvest cucumbers, sleeping in the truck because there was no other room. Making that summer trip yearly through high school, Almaraz knew his father was right.
He graduated from UT-Pan American with an accounting degree. Austin then became his home for the next 20 years. Becoming a CPA and working first for the state and then as Internal Audit Director for the Texas Workforce Commission, he jumped when he had the opportunity to return home to the Valley.
Almaraz took over as Chief Executive Officer for Workforce Solutions in 2012, and now leads 30 people on this large board which covers Willacy, Hidalgo, and Starr counties.
Working closely with school districts, Workforce Solutions wants to insure students will successfully complete their schooling to be career or college ready.
“Education will help get one out of poverty,” Almaraz said with conviction. “We assist individuals to identify the skills they have and then provide occupational or even soft-skills training,” he explained. “We’ll help them learn to interview and how to dress for that interview, helping them along a possible career pathway.”
Health care, teachers, law enforcement, and retail are the types of industries growing quickly in the Valley.
“One of the things we need is more diversification of the industries,” Almaraz said. “As technology changes, there’s going to be much more automation which means more jobs will change in the next five to ten years.”
In the three counties, Workforce Solutions filled over 20,000 jobs while working with 3,630 employers. Having a budget this year of $60 million, 75 percent will go to child care.
“We serve over 11,000 children a day,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to help our customers – both the business customers and job seekers. It’s very challenging work, but I totally enjoy it.”