ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico is one of two states selected to participate in a new Facebook program designed to connect small businesses with trained college students.
Known as Facebook Career Connections, it is scheduled to launch in Arkansas and central New Mexico this spring and summer. Dozens of students in both states will receive training in social media and digital marketing before being paired with small and medium-sized businesses for a 12-week fellowship.
Peipei Zhou, program lead for Career Connections, described the program as a way not only to train students in a new set of skills, but also to pair those students with employers that might not otherwise have access to those skillsets.
“I think social media is one of those things that can help level the playing field,” Zhou said.
Last year, Facebook opened a $1 billion data center in Los Lunas, the first phase of an anticipated 2.8-million-square-foot campus in the area. The company estimates the projects will result in an investment of more than $800 million, according to the Journal’s archives.
Zhou pointed to a couple of other factors why New Mexico was chosen for the program. She cited the relatively high number of small businesses in central New Mexico, one of the chief priorities for the program. Additionally, Zhou said New Mexico has a greater need for digital skills training than other states.
“We saw there’s a huge gap in New Mexico as far as understanding digital skills, digital literacy,” Zhou said.
The program is open to college students in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Los Lunas and the surrounding areas who are over 18 and are roughly halfway through a post-secondary program. She said Facebook is looking for students interested in social media or digital marketing, though it doesn’t have to be their area of study. Participating companies must commit to paying the participating students at least $12 an hour for at least 20 hours a week, she said.
Deadline for students and businesses to apply is Feb. 14. Anyone interested can apply at www.careerconnections.fb.com.
Students will be selected from the pool of applicants at the end of February. Once selected, the students attend a four-week training program designed to teach skills ranging from digital marking to workplace communication skills. The goal, Zhou said, is to ensure that companies are getting students well trained in their particular skills when they start the 12-week internship.
“We’re looking for those driven students who want to learn and apply themselves,” she said.
Zhou said businesses that participate receive online technical support and $500 in Facebook and Instagram advertising credits, in addition to access to students who are better trained than most new hires.
Facebook tested Career Connections last year with a pilot program in Arkansas involving 21 students. Brandi Keith, business development specialist for Conway Regional Health System, a health care provider in the pilot, said, “We like that these students came already trained, with soft and hard skills.”