Editorial: More graduates + more startups = bright future - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: More graduates + more startups = bright future

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

– Norman Vincent Peale

It’s nowhere near the ambitious goal of 60,000 “new” graduates by 2020 that Mission: Graduate set several years ago.

Still, the Central New Mexico region has added 20,226 “new” graduates with post-secondary degrees and certificates between 2010 and 2016 – an impressive accomplishment. And Mission: Graduate still has four more years of graduation data to help get it closer to its goal.

The 20,226 figure represents the graduates above the baseline certificate and degree attainment rate set in 2010. Total degrees and certificates awarded during the same period was 92,789.

Central New Mexico Community College and the University of New Mexico deserve credit for much of the gains seen to date. Both institutions are graduating more people every year.

Angelo Gonzales, executive director of Mission: Graduate, praises “the exceptional work” being done by the two institutions.

“Having more residents with post-high school certificates and degrees is good for the people who hold those credentials, and it’s good for the economic vitality and overall well-being of our community,” he added.

But Mission: Graduate and its partners also deserve credit for the various programs they sponsor aimed at boosting the area’s high school graduation rates. Those programs include:

• Working with more than 40 school-based attendance teams to help reduce chronic absenteeism.

• Working with four schools in Albuquerque’s South Valley and with Junior Achievement in Valencia County schools on career exploration projects to increase the number and quality of career experiences available in middle and high school.

• And supporting science and math teachers from Rio Rancho Public Schools and Los Lunas Schools to better use technology in the classroom and make connections with local business professionals to learn about real-world applications of science and math.

Mission: Graduate is an initiative of United Way. It’s a cradle-to-career partnership consisting of educators, local employers, educational support providers, government leaders and citizens.

A milestone for UNM tech transfers

Speaking of accomplishments, UNM says another 11 startups launched this past fiscal year to market UNM technologies. While that’s great news, the real feather in New Mexico’s cap is that all of them plan to stay in our state, which is a major departure from what has happened in past years. During the 2016-2017 fiscal year, for example, eight of 12 startups marketing UNM technologies left for other states.

In fact, this is the first time that not a single startup chose to re-locate to other markets since the Science and Technology Corp. – UNM’s tech-transfer office – began publishing annual statistics on its program achievements for each fiscal year.

Lisa Kuuttila, the president and CEO of the STC, called it a milestone, and added that it reflects the growing support here for entrepreneurs seeking to launch and grow companies.

That’s probably true. Kuuttila points to greater availability of early stage funding such as the State Investment Council’s new Catalyst Fund and robust investments by the New Mexico Angels. Expanding support programs at the high-tech Innovate ABQ research and development zone Downtown and Innovate ABQ’s Lobo Rainforest likely aided the success.

While this milestone is certainly cause for celebration, the true test will be whether those startups remain in New Mexico in five and 10 years.

Albuquerque, and New Mexico, have a vested interest in making sure, first, that we are graduating the next workforce, and, second, that the business climate is fertile for these graduates and their employers and companies to thrive. Because these grads and these startups – and the ones that will surely follow – have the potential to transform our economy.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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