As published in the Las Cruces Bulletin, April 16, 2021
The next five months are going to be critical for our New Mexico True Talent who’ve become displaced from their previous jobs due to COVID. In early September, the Federal unemployment benefits for displaced workers will end, and the state will reinstate the work-search requirement for those on unemployment assistance.
As of this writing, there are 9,300 of our neighbors receiving unemployment benefits, but only 7,800 are registered as job seekers. As we look to the summer months and schools (hopefully) being fully reopened in the fall, we should have a flood of available workers looking to go back to work…many in jobs or industries they weren’t in before.
The key to coming out of COVID in an economically stronger place than you went in lies in taking advantage of this unique moment to use the funds available to learn new skills or build on the skills you have to secure jobs that pay the same or more than previous jobs.
For example, of the 3,253 jobs advertised in our county right now, the top skill being asked for is customer service (1,144 of those jobs). Other most requested skills include problem solving, interpersonal skills, conflict management, flexibility, organizational skills, time management, attention to detail, mathematics skills, and decision making. All of these are skills that most of our displaced workers already have and can build on.
So, what new skills may be needed? Here’s just a few: pretty much all things computer, including Microsoft Office; Python, UNIX, Linux, and C++ computer coding languages; point of sale systems; forklift operations; alarm systems; vehicle global positioning systems; and more.
Those who live in Doña Ana County are fortunate to be able to quickly gain a host of computer and other technical career skills here in our community – and in many cases, have the costs of those courses covered. Both Dona Ana Community College and New Mexico State University offer credentials inside and outside of degree paths.
Federal and state funding to support COVID-impacted workers are available in greater amounts than before. The Workforce Connections system provides Individual Training Accounts to those who qualify, along with a host of other supports to help its customers achieve their career goals. The Opportunity Scholarship specifically targets youth and adults who are seeking to secure career-specific credentials and two-year degrees. And of course, there are also Pell Grants and other resources depending upon the unique financial situation of the career-seeker.
Make no mistake…education and training beyond high school are inextricably tied to employment post-COVID. And the time to secure those credentials and degrees is NOW.
Thanks to the work of The Bridge of Southern New Mexico and the Workforce Talent Collaborative, we know definitively what credentials and degrees are in highest demand in our county’s top industries.
Here’s just a few examples. Want to skill up for well-paying Aerospace and Defense jobs? Get your credentials like welding, electrician, water systems, web development, computer information, or engineering technology.
How about Value-Added Agriculture? Employers need those with a Commercial Drivers License, accounting and finance, and forklift and warehouse operations.
Thinking about Healthcare? Of course, you can write your ticket as a nurse, but they also need bookkeepers, insurance billing people, radiology technicians, respiratory therapists, and phlebotomists.
There is a lot more information for all eight of our key industries, including Digital Media, Advanced Manufacturing, Transportation & Logistics, and Energy. You can find them listed specifically at NewMexicoTrueTalent.org. Click on Career Pathways and then choose the industry you’re interested in to see a full list.
Our goal is the goal of New Mexico – to come out of COVID better than we went in!