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Economic Forum gets update on “Mission: Graduate”

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The business community is overwhelmingly responding to Mission: Graduate, a collaboration of local government, education and business leaders who are finding strategies to increase the number of people awarded college certificates and degrees in central New Mexico.

Through Mission: Graduate’s career exploration initiative, more than 11,500 career opportunities have been identified in the last year, and that number is expected to grow to nearly 20,000 by August, said Angelo Gonzales, executive director of Mission: Graduate.

Gonzales and Kirby Jefferson, a member of Mission: Graduate’s guiding Vision Council, provided an update on the organization’s progress to a cross-section of local business leaders attending the Wednesday breakfast of the Economic Forum of Albuquerque.

A big part of encouraging students to finish college is giving them an opportunity to learn about the types of jobs and careers that may be available to them after completing their education, said Gonzales.

The career opportunities include such things as internships, job shadowing, career mentoring, participation in job fairs, workplace tours and part-time and summer employment.

“We believe strongly in students having the opportunity before graduating high school or college to experience different types of careers that they might be interested in,” he said. “We know that having those experiences will help prepare them for the workforce, and having real world experience before they graduate also helps make a student’s education more relevant to the real world.”

Overall, the goal of Mission: Graduate is to get 60,000 new college graduates with certifications or degrees by 2020, said Jefferson, who is also vice president of the technology manufacturing group at Intel and general manager of the New Mexico Intel site.

“Within one year’s time, we had an increase from 12,000 graduates in 2012, to 16,000 in 2013,” he said.” Much of that increase came from Central New Mexico Community College and other two-year colleges in the region.

Mission: Graduate is critical to the educational success of students and in moving the needle on graduation rates, Jefferson said. “It is also key for the business community as it provides a common ground for businesses to engage in being part of the solution through internships, involvement with educational policy and philanthropy.”

Kirby said he was excited about the “broad consortium that has been built between business, the education community, public policy groups and both state and local government agencies.”

In creating strategies to bring about the educational and career goals of Mission: Graduate, four collaborative action networks were established, each with their own initiatives. The networks include the Early Childhood Accountability Partnership, the High School Graduation Network, the College and Career Readiness Network, and the Employment Network.