As published in the Las Cruces Sun-News – August 3, 2020
by Tracey Bryan
There’s never been a more critical time to focus on unleashing the economic opportunity of people by strategically equipping them with the education and training that prepares them for well-paid careers here in Doña Ana County.
As of this writing, 11,210 of our neighbors have become unemployed since the response to COVID – 19. Fully half are in three industries: Accommodation and Food Services, Healthcare and Social Assistance, and Retail Trade.
National surveys by the Strada Education Network are showing that one in three of those who’ve become unemployed during the pandemic, including many in these fields, are thinking about changing their careers. And one in three are thinking they’ll need to pursue more education to make that change.
If this is you, and you live in Doña Ana County, thanks to the work of The Bridge of Southern New Mexico and its mission-aligned Workforce Talent Collaborative, we can point you in some pretty great directions!
And thanks to the recent investment of four local funders, The Bridge is scaling up its work to meet the urgent demands those 11,210 newly unemployed and helping businesses that are the economic backbone of this county reopen with the workforce they need.
El Paso Electric, the Union Pacific Foundation, US Bank, and the United Way of Southwest New Mexico have collectively awarded $32,500 in grants to support specific aspects of The Bridge’s work.
El Paso Electric ($10,000), Union Pacific ($10,000), and US Bank ($7,500) are funding The Bridge’s precedent-setting work to harness employer voice and involvement in defining the skills, credentials, and experience needed for specific industry sectors: Healthcare, Aerospace, Defense, Advanced Manufacturing, Transportation & Logistics, Energy, Value-Added and Sustainable Agriculture, Digital Media and Film. With actionable intelligence and involvement from employers, they can become active partners with K-12 and post-secondary educators and workforce service providers to building opportunities and pathways for youth, young adults, and low-skilled workers to some of the best career opportunities in the county.
“El Paso Electric has seen the impact The Bridge has made in Dona Ana County and we are pleased to continue supporting the next phase of their efforts,” said Rico Gonzales, director of New Mexico Government Affairs. “One of our top priorities is to create a robust pipeline for our future workforce and with partners like The Bridge, we see firsthand the difference they are making in our community.”
“We believe having a safe place to live, a family-supporting career and access to vibrant spaces are critical for communities to thrive,” said Ivan Jaime, Union Pacific Sr. Director – Public Affairs. “By investing in high-quality nonprofits and programs such as the Bridge of Southern New Mexico, where our employees live and work, we achieve a step toward our mission of service while helping communities grow and prosper.”
The United Way of Southwest New Mexico ($5,000) is supporting The Bridge in expanding resources on its NewMexicoTrueTalent.org website and communications campaign. Funding will support The Bridge specifically in expanding and promoting resources for those who’ve become unemployed during the response to the pandemic and for students exploring the best careers for their futures.
The work sponsored by these grants is already underway. To help our community’s people and businesses navigate work and workforce, there is a new “Your Guide to COVID-19 Recovery” button that takes visitors straight to the education, employment, and workforce resources they need. The site also hosts a growing set of virtual interviews with Workforce Talent Collaborative members who are working directly with people looking to get a job now, explore education and training to help them skill up for new jobs, looking to hire well-qualified employees, students thinking about career exploration, and more.
To visit the full set of resources, visit NewMexicoTrueTalent.org.
This is a “whole of community” approach to not just riding out the COVID storm, but helping our neighbors emerge from it better and stronger than before. By navigating not just the challenges, but the opportunities of this strange time, we can change lives and change our community.