Is This the Era of Collaboration?

As published in the Las Cruces Bulletin

For the past decade, Doña Ana County has been at the forefront of proving the power of collaboration in our state, with cross-sector groups like The Bridge of Southern New Mexico and Ngage uniting the collective assets of the community to work together toward shared goals. 

As the Dona Ana County Legislative Coalition pointed out at this year’s Las Cruces Day in Santa Fe, the results have been significant:

  • High school graduation rates lead the state, and college completion is on the rise countywide.
  • Economic development posted a record high job growth in our county, driven by a host of industries, including New Mexico’s largest jobs announcement last year with Stampede Meats.
  • The Santa Teresa Border Crossing has grown into the fifth largest port on the US/Mexico Border.
  • Downtown Las Cruces is experiencing a complete revitalization, opening new opportunities for micro and small business, as well as arts and entertainment.
  • The partnership that built Film Las Cruces has put our community in the running for major film productions, including Clint Eastwood’s The Muleand Joe Bullock’s book-to-film endeavor Walking with Herb.
  • Spaceport America is attracting new commercial space businesses to the site, thanks to long-term community support and state and local investment.
  • Virgin Galactic is poised to launch its much-anticipated commercial space line in the coming months and is relocating 100 members of its team to New Mexico to prepare for it.

We’ve known working together changes everything. And now the state is poised to help us even more.

At the invitation of The Bridge of Southern New Mexico and members of the Workforce Talent Collaborative, the Secretaries of Public Education, Higher Education, and Workforce Solutions travelled down south (though south is home to two of them) on May 28 to meet with leaders here and discuss how they are working together to Build New Mexico’s True Talent. The event was held at Doña Ana Community College (DACC) and co-hosted by The Bridge, DACC, the City of Las Cruces, the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, the Las Cruces Hispanic Chamber, and the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce. 

Public Education Secretary Karen Trujillo, Higher Education Secretary Kate O’Neill, and Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley spoke to the group of about 70 people from different sectors of leadership in Las Cruces: business, education, government, economic development, and non-profit. What we, as a community, heard was music to our ears: Governor Lujan-Grisham’s directive to them is to collaborate – to mobilize their collective resources towards workforce development and education to build the future for New Mexico’s children, youth, and families.

The Secretaries discussed many of the topics our community’s precedent-setting workforce talent development effort has identified are vital to our success: Dual Credit, STEM education, apprenticeships, job training, addressing critical workforce shortages in nursing and education, and across the state, developing industry-specific sector strategies and the corresponding workforce pathways to achieve them. 

Highlights included: 

  • Secretary O’Neill discussed the importance of establishing New Mexico State University as a Center of Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture – a new designation by the governor that mobilizes resources to assist the university in leadership in building and sustaining the state’s agriculture industry. 
  • Secretary McCamley discussed his work to advance a statewide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)Championship, similar other athletic state championships, that heralds the accomplishments of STEM students. As he pointed out, the percentage of students who “go pro” in athletics is a small fraction of 1%. But for STEM students, 100% of them can “go pro.”
  • Secretary Trullijo, who is well acquainted with our county’s collaborative work, expressed a desire to find ways to scale what we are doing here, including growing the impact of the early college high school model to support even more students in traditional high schools across the state.

But at the heart of the conversation was a desire to understand what The Bridge has focused on all along: they are intentionally seeking to better understand and meet the needs of business and industry. By listening to business, they can better contextualize learning so New Mexicans are ready to take on the full breadth of jobs available in middle and high-skilled and higher wage jobs in industries key to New Mexico’s economic growth.

By harnessing these opportunities, we may well see an incredible return on our collective investment, as they play a stronger, more informed role in the cultivation of New Mexico’s True Talent to drive our business and industries forward.