Small steps can render big results

As published in the Las Cruces Bulletin

Three years ago, I was thrilled to return to the work of The Bridge of Southern New Mexico and in the state that I loved.

In no way could I have envisioned how our community’s amazing work would play such an enormous role in the conversations driving education and workforce development in our state. 

The Bridge is so many ways is a gift to our community – our county’s top leaders in business, education, economic development, and government coming together every month to ensure our people have the greatest opportunities for academic success to ensure maximum opportunity in employment or entrepreneurship, and in turn, positive economic impact for the rest of their lives.

Three years ago, we mapped out our strategic plan to increasing high school and college completion and building a skilled and ready workforce for our community. With a few exceptions, have been hard at work implementing the strategies of that plan:

  • Develop and champion an asset-based narrative about the promise and potential of the region’s youth, rallying communities in support of youth academic and career success 
  • Convene business, economic development, and private and public-sector entities to develop a workforce development plan aligned to existing regional economic development plans 
  • Implement the lessons from the Early College High School environment into traditional high school environments through career and technical education pathways and dual credit courses to help high school students persist into college and careers
  • Work at the state level to inform policy in support of student success
    • Prioritization for career and technical education pathways to count toward credit accumulation
    • Dual credit as the primary driver to student persistence into post-secondary
  • Mobilize business community engagement with students in secondary and post-secondary settings through career exploration and employment opportunities.

I guess you could consider this a report card of sorts…so, how’d we do? Pretty good!

New Mexico True Talent is our asset-based communications campaign and on-line community hub for information and connection to career exploration, educational options, and employment. Now available in English and Spanish, we are letting our people know how much we value them, and they are the ones who will build the New Mexico we all get to live in. Through an on-line portal and mobile-friendly app students, parents, teachers and businesses can connect the dots like never before.

Dona Ana County stands alone in the state with a workforce development plan targeting higher-skilled, higher-wage jobs in industries targeted for economic development and fueled by career pathways that span K-12 to college and university to career. This is the pride and joy of the Workforce Talent Collaborative, an even larger group of leaders in our community, who worked tirelessly to blaze a new trail for us and our state. As we align education and opportunity, we can factually combat ridiculous narratives that there are “no jobs here” and that real opportunity to do meaningful work lies elsewhere. 

Commercial space flight, national defense, healthcare in every area, virtual reality, film, augmented reality, supply chain, international trade – it’s all here. And more. And it’s ready for our New Mexico True Talent to play their part.

High schools and community college are linked like never before through Career and Technical Education pathways in our eight target industries, bringing the successes of the Early College High School model to far more students. Gadsden is taking the idea to a whole new level, with its pilot for a “blended senior year” at Santa Teresa High School, in which the senior year of high school becomes the freshman year of college toward a CTE certification and/or degree. Fueled by Dual Credit courses, all CTE students can graduate with college credentials, too. 

Our work continues in business community engagement with education, but early steps include piloting the first teacher externships in the state with Gadsden this summer, helping build a robust set of community business partners for Las Cruces’ CTE programs, and bringing workforce dollars to support student employment in Gadsden.

All of this is affecting state policy. We stand alone in proving the economic case for our state adequately funding New Mexico’s Dual Credit Program. We are shaping policy in the revamping of CTE in our state. We are leading the conversations about how to transform our Workforce Connections resources into economic drivers for people, for business, and for our state.

The Bridge’s Board of Directors in now meeting to determine where do we need to go from here. We know that small steps have already rendered great change. It is exciting to think where the next chapter will take us.