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Water, climate change could mean opportunities for NM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Developing solutions to water scarcity and the effects of climate change is one way New Mexico could profitably adapt to a changing world and bolster its economy, one participant said Thursday at a New Mexico First town hall.

Another is for employers to look beyond college degrees and instead do more hiring based on a person’s job skills, another participant said.

New Mexico First, a nonprofit public policy group, holds a summit every other year on a topic of interest in the state. This year’s two-day event is on “Economic Security and Vitality for New Mexico.”

People from around the state are participating in small group discussions, culminating today  in a dozen or so recommendations for policy leaders and others.

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Alvin Warren, program officer for the W.K.  Kellogg Foundation’s New Mexico programs, said during an introductory session that he is a lifelong New Mexican, and “It’s pretty clear New Mexico is getting drier.”

“We have an opportunity to build industry around climate adaptation,” Warren said.

The importance of hiring based on job skills was raised by Jami Grindatto, president and CEO of the Sandoval Economic Alliance.

He pointed to a New Mexico First report prepared for the town hall that said most students in the state by 2020 will not have the education, credentials or degrees needed to fill 63 percent of  New Mexico’s jobs.

In response, he said employers should recognize “there are positions that don’t require a degree but do require the right skills.”

He praised the TalentABQ program, developed by the city, state and Central New Mexico Community College, and the way it identifies a person’s abilities and then finds a match with an employer who is hiring.

He said the effort helps employers “find the right talent” and gives workers more visibility by revealing and emphasizing their skills.

At the same time, it’s important that New Mexico has the kind of jobs that offer enough money and benefits, said Scott

Miller, president and CEO of Circles USA, a group that addresses poverty and has locations around the country.

The New Mexico First summit is looking at poverty along with ways to diversify the state economy.

“Economic policy efforts in New Mexico often focus on the needs of the business community, with the understandable logic that a stronger business sector creates jobs that will lift peole from poverty,” the document says. “This report takes the additional step and asks readerts to first focus on the foundation of our society, of our economy — the family.

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