Romanita Matta-Barrera was officially announced Friday as the new executive director of San Antonio Works, an organization that works to develop career pathways and bring experiential learning opportunities to San Antonio and Bexar County students and educators. SA Works’ goal is to place 20,000 individuals into quality, applied learning internships with local employers by 2020, or about 4,000 students and teachers per year.
Matta-Barrera, who has owned her own consultant firm, Fluent Strategy Group, since 2009, has more than 15 years of experience in education, workforce development, policy analysis, and multicultural marketing and communications. Her wide range of skills and influence span the nation.
She previously worked as deputy director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, served as director of Hispanic outreach and communications at the U.S. Department of Education, and worked for U.S. Senator John Coryn as Texas media director. Locally, Matta-Barrera is board secretary for the Family Services Association of San Antonio, Inc. and is a member of Leadership San Antonio 39. She also is commissioner for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
As the SA Works executive director, Matta-Barrera will oversee efforts that foster existing talent and attract new talent to San Antonio employers.
She’ll officially assume her new role on Monday, Aug. 1.
“I am honored to be given this opportunity to help our future workforce discover their path to success,” Matta-Barrera stated in a Friday news release. “SA Works provides the ideal catalyst for collaboration between industry and key stakeholders on a level that will truly create limitless opportunity for all involved.”
This won’t be Matta-Barrera’s first time working with SA Works, which now functions under the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation (SAEDF). She recently served as the organization’s lead consultant and organized San Antonio’s first city-wide job shadow program in 10 years. About 60 employers, 14 school districts, and about 1,700 students from across Bexar County participated in the initiative.
As executive director, Matta-Barrera will have the opportunity to help coordinate more projects and take a more hands-on approach in shaping SA Works’ future.
“The single most important factor influencing a company’s decision to expand or locate into a new market is the availability of a skilled workforce,” stated SAEDF Chairman Wayne Peacock in a news release. “Romanita has demonstrated the leadership skills that will help us strategically grow our workforce, and in turn, grow our local economy.”
SA Works was recently transitioned under SAEDF in March to integrate San Antonio and Bexar County’s economic and workforce development programs. The collaboration was meant to reduce redundancy in the landscape of community and nonprofit initiatives across the city and the county. Matta-Barrera will be the first executive director for SA Works after the transition, and will help develop the organization’s strategic plan as it relates to their vision and goals.
Peter J. Holt, SA Works chairman and executive vice president and general manager at HOLT CAT, said that SA Works will benefit greatly from Matta-Barrera’s unique skill set.
“I think her background in politics will allow for a pragmatic approach and an ability to collaborate, which is highly needed in this role,” Holt said. “However, I think she can balance that out with her entrepreneurial spirit and her results-driven attitude which she has proven in starting her own consulting business.”
Jenna Saucedo-Herrera was recently named the new president of SAEDF, and has been praised by many as a transformative leader who will effectively propel the foundation forward in the years to come. Holt said that Saucedo-Herrera and Matta-Barrera, along with their passion and drive for bringing unique business and educational opportunities to San Antonio, will make an effective team.
“I really see this combination and transition into SAEDF with Jenna, too, as a really progressive, one-of-a-kind-in-the-U.S.-type of partnership and initiative,” Holt said. “This one of a kind leadership group (will help us) build on our good foundation, but also be aggressive and progressive toward the future.”
Top image: Romanita Matta-Barrera was chosen as SA Works executive director on July 15, 2016. Photo (on right) courtesy of SA Works.