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CNM plans education center to boost workforce

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Central New Mexico Community College plans to fill as much as 40,000 square feet of the First Plaza Galeria building – seen here on Thursday morning – with a new education center in Downtown Albuquerque that will cater to the training needs of local employers. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Central New Mexico Community College plans to fill as much as 40,000 square feet of the First Plaza Galeria building – seen here on Thursday morning – with a new education center in Downtown Albuquerque that will cater to the training needs of local employers. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

CNM plans to open a new Downtown educational center this fall that will more quickly fill employers’ workforce needs and provide labs and services for entrepreneurs trying to launch new businesses.

CNM President Katharine Winograd said the community college hopes services offered by its STEMulus Center in First Plaza Galeria will attract 2,000 people who aren’t currently CNM students.

Winograd said Rosemont Realty is a partner in the effort, which will fill up to 40,000 square feet of office space. The two are still negotiating cost details.

In a statement, CNM said the STEMulus Center will “support the region’s work force and economic needs by compressing and accelerating education so that some of the key gaps in our work force are addressed sooner rather than later,” and to improve nontraditional students’ exposure and access to CNM technology and labs.

The center – seen as a complement to the University of New Mexico’s planned Innovate ABQ research district a couple blocks away – will provide targeted programs that teach specific skills sought by employers in a short period of time, offer special computer and high-tech training courses and help entrepreneurs with services and making prototypes.

A special target of the center’s effort is the 16.8 percent of young American men who are neither working full time nor in school, Winograd said.

“We’re losing them in high school, we are losing them in college, and at CNM it’s the population that is the hardest to retain,” she said. “We’ve got to figure out how to hook into those students.”

CNM sees the STEMulus Center as a way to reach students who are not attracted by semester-long courses designed to develop general skills rather than job-specific skills.

“CNM has a very long history of trying to do what it can to support human capital in this community,” Winograd said. “It’s important that we remind ourselves we are here to create a workforce and to provide opportunities for people to build better lives.”

And the STEMulus Center will react quickly to companies’ needs for specific skills in the workforce, Winograd said.

“We’re going about it as a business, not as an educational institution,” she said.

The STEMulus Center’s four componenets will consist of:

  • An accelerator will offer what CNM calls “wrap-around services” to help entrepreneurs launch their businesses. People who want to start a jewelry business or own a restaurant or operate other businesses will find mentoring, access to capital and the help of business experts.
  • Boot camps and accelerated learning will support area government and private employers whose employees need new skills quickly.

“We teach a lot of cool things at CNM, but not everybody wants to spend a full term learning it,” Winograd said, noting that other skills workers need don’t require an on-campus, full-term course.

The accelerated learning will occur in short courses, weekend courses, lunch-hour courses and other quick-learning experiences that provide students credentials and skills their employers want them to have. For example, a call center that hires Spanish speakers might need the staff to have a technical vocabulary. A downtown law firm might need its staff to learn new clerical software in a hurry.MAP MASTER

CNM plans to offer accelerated associate degrees in some fields as well.

  • Coding and cybersecurity academies will train students on some very specific computer skills that companies are clamoring for, Winograd said. Curriculum will be based on employers’ project ideas.
  • A prototyping and test laboratory will provide CNM facilities and equipment that entrepreneurs can use to experiment with products and build prototypes that can be shown to investors and customers. A restaurant concept can be tested in a CNM kitchen. Welding, woodworking, machine-tool technology, and 3-D printing and digital media technology labs will be on site.

“It’s the kind of thing we do already,” Winograd said. “If we put it in a lab, it lets people walk in and get hands-on experience. We’re calling it a ‘tech-maker’ space.”

“It’s a gap a lot of people don’t think about,” said Debbie Johnson, director of CNM’s education, entrepreneurship and economic development program. “You can’t sell anything without a prototype.”

Johnson, former owner along with her late husband of one of the state’s largest public relations firms, has been working on the education center project since she was brought on board at CNM in September.

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