FROM THE BRIDGE
By Denni Cheney
President/CEO, The Bridge of Southern New Mexico
It was an evening to celebrate the advancement of healthcare education in Dona Ana County.
Approximately 50 representatives from healthcare, business and education attended a reception hosted by The Bridge of Southern New Mexico in August to showcase the resources and technology available to Las Cruces Public School students at the Arrowhead Park Medical Academy.
This early college high school is the second to be located on the campus of New Mexico State University and sits directly across the street from the site of the Burrell Osteopathic Medical College that is now under construction.
Showcasing Healthcare Teaching Technology
In a setting that provides APMA students hands-on experience with the medical technology typical of many hospitals, guests toured patient examination rooms complete with high-tech monitoring equipment, a virtual cadaver high-tech instructional tool, and student classrooms. This was the first large public showcase of the high-level of healthcare education and career preparation offered at APMA.
What we experienced during that enjoyable and informative evening is an example of how The Bridge and Las Cruces Public Schools work together with our cross-sector partners to fill the educational pipeline with graduates who are ready for the challenges of the No. 1 employment sector in Dona Ana County and New Mexico.
Healthcare Workforce Demand
Celina Bussey, New Mexico Secretary of Workforce Solutions, presented important employment data recently at the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce’s education update meeting. Healthcare workforce demand is No. 1 across New Mexico. That’s to be expected. Over the last 20 years, our state’s population is increasingly older, with the largest sectors now moving into their mid-50s and 60s.
The top three industry sectors projected for growth through 2022 in our state are healthcare and social assistance; educational services; and accommodation and food services. Healthcare and social assistance are the largest sector at 16.1 percent of the economy. And what are the fastest growing occupations? Personal care and home health aides, as well as physical therapists. Registered nurses are experiencing the most job openings annually.
But our state has a big gap to fill in our labor force pipeline. The unemployment rate for youth in New Mexico is 23.7 percent – the eighth highest unemployment rate for this age group in the nation. Currently, more than 65 percent of our labor force has no educational training beyond high school. And nearly one-third of our state’s workforce has no high school diploma.
Bussey reported that employers are concerned about a lack of both “soft skills” behaviors and commitment to the workplace in our current workforce. Employers also want to know that our state’s educational pipeline is producing a work- and career-ready graduate.
We are seeing great things happening right here in our community! The truth of the matter is our students don’t have to leave Las Cruces to receive a great education and become workforce ready.
The good news is that the students and instructors at APMA are up to the challenge of preparing our next-generation workforce for medical and allied healthcare occupations!
Denni Cheney is president/CEO of The Bridge of Southern New Mexico, whose mission is to facilitate collaboration and leverage resources between public and private sectors to support educational excellence and optimize the Dona Ana County workforce. Denni can be reached at 541-7325 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.