As published in the Las Cruces Bulletin – June 19, 2020
by Tracey Bryan
The Aerospace, Commercial Space, and Defense industries represent some amazing career opportunities…not just here but anywhere.
White Sands Missile Range and Test Facility, Jacobs Technology that runs the NASA contract, Virgin Galactic, Spaceport America, Boeing, and the Physical Sciences Lab at NMSU employ thousands of our neighbors in private-sector companies, contracting firms, and government employment. Collectively, their jobs are among some of the highest paying in the area, ranging on average from $56,000 to $75,000 and higher.
It takes people in the business office, human resources, maintenance, information technology, hospitality, communications, and finance, as well as the engineers and scientists that you would expect, to keep these organizations at the forefront of their fields and their missions.
In total, these employers account for 1,700 jobs in our community – which is only half the total jobs of this industry, as other private contractors account for almost 2,000 more. A quick look through the 2,905 job postings on the Workforce Connections site shows numerous career opportunities even now.
So, to take the next step in maximizing the “ecosystem of opportunity” in these fields, The Bridge of Southern New Mexico and the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce recently completed a first-of-its-kind effort to better understand the employment opportunities in this high-flying industry.
Replicating the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Talent Pipeline Management approach, we’ve put business voice in a leadership role in talent development. With detailed, actionable intelligence, we can now guide high school and college students, graduates, those who’ve recently lost jobs, and those who are un- or under-employed toward career opportunities that will continue New Mexico’s long legacy in space and national security.
Thanks to this group of employers who comprised this Industry Roundtable, we learned that, by and large, we do a pretty good job of preparing our future talent with math, reading, writing, language, employability, technology, and digital literacy skills – a great credit to the amazing educators and institutions in our community. A gap analysis between what skills employers need, and what job candidates are equipped with, showed only a few areas where we have some work to do to better build our talent’s skills: problem solving, critical thinking, entering data accurately, understanding online securing risks, and evaluating the credibility of digital sources.
We learned that credentials and degrees are a non-negotiable minimum requirement for some government jobs, but work experience will tell them more about the person’s likelihood to be successful. What’s great is that virtually all of them offer internships, apprenticeships, and co-ops to students pursuing their education – intentionally preparing them to be perfect candidates for hire after graduation. And we discovered how important it is to educate our prospective talent on the need to obtain security clearances to do much of the work in these fields.
We were able to define the top credentials and degrees for entry level candidates (mostly in engineering and technical fields), as well as the top jobs for those without degrees:
- Logistics/Supply Chain-Materials Handler/Inventory
- Administrative Assistants
- Mechanical Technicians
- Electrical Technicians
- Chemical Technicians
- Computer Technicians
And we discovered the most helpful thing we can do, as a community, is use our relationships with alumni, economic developers, and regional marketing efforts to help them reach out to mid-career professionals who are looking to come back to New Mexico and/or looking for a great place to grow to higher levels of education and/or responsibility to advance their careers.
So, as thousands in our community are looking to build or rebuild their careers and economic futures, Doña Ana County is a great place to start!
To learn more about these opportunities, visit NewMexicoTrueTalent.org and EmployNM.com. The full report is available at NewMexicoTrueTalent.org/Career Pathways/Aerospace.