Maximizing Our “Ecosystem of Opportunity” through Workforce Development

As published in The Bottom Line of the Las Cruces Bulletin

It’s always great to come home to the Chamber…it truly is the birthplace of The Bridge of Southern New Mexico!

In 2007, legendary Las Cruces leader Patsy Duran began a conversation in the Chamber’s Education Committee about high school graduation rates, which lagged around 50%. She and the committee wanted to “do something about education,” because it was negatively impacting the young people who were making a decision that would negatively impact them for a lifetime, as well as holding back business and economic development.

That conversation sparked a community movement – the Regional Education Initiative – which sought to understand the problem and then work collectively to solve it. The Bridge of Southern New Mexico was formed to keep the work moving – a business-led, education-focused non-profit outside of the entities but working alongside them to sustain collaboration between the top leaders in our county in business, education, economic development, and government.

Thanks to this unprecedented collaboration, The Bridge has seen its first goal realized. Dona Ana County now leads the state with an 81% graduation rate — only three points shy of the national average and far outpacing the state.

Today, The Bridge’s board is leveraging its leadership, collective wisdom, and resources to take the next steps in fully building out our “ecosystem of opportunity,” implementing multiple aspects of the first comprehensive workforce development plan, aligned to economic development targets, in state history. 

In our ecosystem:

  • Education is the fuel that builds talented, well-qualified people (workforce).
  • Talented, well-qualified people are the fuel that drives private-sector businesses to start, sustain, and grow.
  • Talented, well-qualified people and thriving industries fuel of economic development, attracting new businesses, industries and jobs to a community.
  • A vibrant, thriving private sector fuels the tax base and greater investment in the public-sector institutions that are the backbone of any community.
  • All of these pieces working in harmony fuel a dynamic regional economy, which benefits everyone.

In the days ahead, the Greater Las Cruces Chamber and The Bridge will return to their roots and partner with even more business leaders in our key industries, inviting them to play active roles in building the skilled and ready workers needed today and tomorrow. 

Our plans are to pilot a new tool for collecting and quantifying business voice, identifying top workforce talent needs and opportunities, while creating a common language and shared expectations among job seekers, educators, workforce resource providers, and businesses to fully align the workforce talent continuum: our ecosystem of opportunity. 

The effort will strengthen relationships between business and our public education, higher education, and workforce systems, ensuring our state and federal investments in these institutions reach the maximum impact on workforce talent and the businesses who desperately need them.

When we connect those who live here with the wealth of resources we already have, and the real jobs and careers in well-paying jobs that are here, we will fully unleash the potential of our community. 

Success will take all of us, and business leadership and voice in this effort will be more important than ever.