Unemployment continues to worsen in Doña Ana County, rising to 7.7 percent while the state’s employment outlook has improved slightly to 6.3 percent.
New Mexico, and SNM in particular, are heavily dependent on Federal spending to support employment, as well as the Oil and Gas industry which funds state budget programs that support education and provide quality jobs in Las Cruces. Both sources are in a drought and jobs are drying up. For example, NMSU is one of the top employers in Las Cruces, and they have absorbed tens of millions in budget cuts over the last several years of the Martinez administration, and since the great recession.
A new organization has been created to address employment problems locally, called “Workforce Talent Collaboration”.
Last week, El Paso Electric added $10,000 to an existing two-year, $140,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to The Bridge of Southern New Mexico to analyze and bring together the county’s existing educational resources in an effort to build a workforce that meets the need of existing and potential employers. The result is the Workforce Talent Collaboration, a group of local business, community and educational leaders that has been convened by The Bridge.
Tracey Bryan, president and CEO of The Bridge, said last week’s Domenici Public Policy Conference in Las Cruces, highlighted the importance of education in alleviating poverty and the need to focus on Science Technology Engineering and Math, or STEM, skills when preparing students to enter the workforce.
It’s also important that the community as a whole does a better job in letting young people know that there are careers in the technical trades that are available here and do a better job of preparing those students for those jobs. Many well-paying positions are available for students with only a high school education and certification in a technical field.
“If you want to spur economic development more quickly, it’s not about diversifying your economic development efforts but rather concentrating them on fast-growing, high-wage industries,” Bryan said, paraphrasing a recent article by NMSU’s Peach.
“That’s what we’ve done,” she continued. “And, while this plan is nearing completion, we see the opportunities that are there when we harness the assets we already have to build the workforce and the future we all want. And that’s not just for our young people, it’s for the unemployed, the under-employed and the low-skilled worker who just needs to know how close they are to being able to get the education and training they need to take advantage of the opportunities here.”
Those opportunities can be accomplished with the schools, colleges, universities and training programs already available in Doña Ana County, she said. “We need to help our young people understand that success happens at many levels, including career certification and associates degrees,” she said. “Because, in some cases, they actually out-earn a four-year degree.”