Working 4 the Future: Training New Mexico’s workforce | KOB 4

Working 4 the Future: Training New Mexico’s workforce

Steve Soliz
Updated: December 06, 2020 10:31 PM
Created: December 06, 2020 08:32 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico isn’t just the Land of Enchantment—it’s also the land of opportunity. Many large companies like Netflix have set up shop in New Mexico over the years, but as other businesses move their operations to New Mexico, many want to know what will make their transition easier. 

"I think businesses that are looking to relocate are trying to find— obviously a good place for them to be, in terms of their workforce,” said Michael O’Donnell, a research sentient at UNM. 

O’Donnell said New Mexico doesn’t have a large enough pool of skilled workers. 

"One of the challenges for a state like New Mexico is the relatively low population size,” he said.

Albuquerque is New Mexico’s economic hub. At 921,000 people—it’s New Mexico’s largest metro area.

"But you compare that to our neighbors who have very large population centers, you look at places like Phoenix, you look at places like Denver or Austin—some of the other cities in the region that are comparable in their key roles in their states or regions, and they've got many more people than we have. As a result, they're able to have a diversified workforce, a ready diversified workforce that's ready and able to work,” O’Donnell said.

Melinda Allen, interim president of New Mexico Partnership, works to help attract companies to New Mexico. 

"I think the important thing for New Mexico is to look at all of the sectors that we're trying to attract to make sure that we have skills in all of those sectors,” Allen said. 

So what skills should New Mexico’s workforce learn? 

For starters, Allen said some companies are trying to attract workers who are proficient computer coders and can navigate through a variety of technologies. In order for New Mexico to be competitive, the workforce needs high schools, community colleges and universities to increase opportunities for students to learn those skills. 

"Being able to upskill and up-train our workforce to be able to combat the challenges of the future is something that is going to be very important for New Mexico to tackle to make sure we're staying on top of the trends and providing the workforce that's needed for future projects,” Allen said.

Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque plays an important role in preparing students for the workforce. 

"We have really focused on ensuring those trade programs are up to date and the skills are modernized and current for the workforce needs,” said Samantha Sengal, CNM Vice President. 

CNM has invested in resources that emphasize technology like computer programming, coding and drone operating

"You walk away with the skills to – right away – sit down and program a computer and deliver an application people can use,” said Kyle Lee, with CNM ingenuity. 

In the heart of Downtown Albuquerque lies another successful driver of homegrown talent working toward New Mexico’s economic success–the Lobo Rainforest. 

According to a recent article from the Albuquerque Journal, through the work done at Lobo Rainforest,  UNM researchers have received nearly 800 patents—mostly from health sciences and engineering. Investors have signed 733 licensing agreements for UNM technology, with 160 startups formed to take inventions to market. The work happening at Lobo Rainforest is creating jobs and shooting money directly into New Mexico’s economy. 

The state also needs skilled medical workers. The COVID pandemic has only heightened the need for New Mexicans who can be on the frontlines of this crisis, or any other that may happen in the future. 

"Some of those skills may need to be a certificate or technician level and starting some of those skills training— even at the high school level—is really going to boost our workforce up from the very beginning, so we have skilled workers at every talent level that's needed,” Allen added.

In New Mexico, the work has already begun to train the workforce so that New Mexicans can land those high-dollar jobs, and so outside companies can rely on their skills. 

Besides CNM, a number of trade schools in New Mexico, both at the high school and post high-school level, are preparing workers for high-paying jobs. 

For more information about trade schools in New Mexico, click here. 


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