Sunday, July 26, 2009
Where the Jobs Are
By Jane Mahoney
For the Journal
Despite a sluggish job market nationally, Albuquerque's post-high school educators are pointing students in directions that likely will result in jobs.
"Even with the current economic situation, we are still seeing stability in the amount of jobs being posted by employers through University of New Mexico Career Services," said Jenna Crabb, the program director.
Locally, jobs in the engineering, accounting and health-care fields have the highest number of positions available to UNM graduates, Crabb said. Likewise, job placement in many technical and career fields remains consistent at Central New Mexico Community College, where three career technical schools are boasting record enrollment.
For the most part, the numbers mirror a national trend, according to the annual "10 Hardest Jobs to Fill Survey" released at the end of May by Manpower Inc. According to the survey, the 10 hardest jobs to fill, in order, as reported by U.S. employers for 2009, are: engineers, nurses, skilled/manual trades, teachers, sales representatives, technicians, drivers, IT (information technology) staff, laborers and machinist/machine operator.
CNM, with strong technical training in most of these categories, has seen nearly 90 percent to 100 percent job placements for graduates in many of CNM's certification and associate degree programs, said Diane Burke, dean of the School of Applied Technology. For example, students graduating from the teaching, commercial driving, welding and machine tooling programs are in particular demand in New Mexico, she added.
While the nursing, welding and film classes occasionally are full enough to result in waiting lists for students, the machine tooling classes — one of the hardest-to-fill jobs locally — consistently have open spots for students, said Jim Berry, director of Metals and Transportation programs.
At ITT Technical Institute's Albuquerque campus, nearly half of the 600-overall student body is enrolled in the School of Information Technology, said Waldy Salazar, ITT's director of Career Services. Of this number, about 85 percent to 90 percent of the graduates with an associate's degree (computer network systems) or bachelor's degree (information security systems) find employment within three months of graduation, and about 50 percent of the students are pre-placed in a job prior to graduation, he added.
While the Manpower Inc. survey highlights the problem many employers have finding individuals with the right combination of job-specific skills, experience and training, the Albuquerque schools seem to be making an effort to retrain and add skills for jobs that are in demand.
"Our employers have not expressed to us a lack of skill development in our graduates and this could be the amount of students we have holding internships and/or cooperative education experiences in their field of interest," said Crabb. "UNM works hard at giving our students real-life experience to 'try on' their field of interest in order to help solidify or clarify if that field and/or industry is the right one for them."
CNM also seeks to link education with real-life skills and hands-on labs, Burke said. The school recently added a third term to its welding technology certification program, giving students the extra training to complete nationally. The machine tooling labs are being updated with new machinery and a new marketing approach, while CNM's alternative teacher licensure program works with students with prior bachelor's degrees who are now interested in becoming licensed teachers in New Mexico.
A surprising exception to the Manpower Inc. list is the demand for nurses, said Nicholas Spezza, CNM's dean of the Health, Wellness and Public Safety School. While CNM now has the largest nursing program in the state with four levels of training and a cooperative arrangement with UNM, hiring of nurses in New Mexico has slowed down as the recession worsens, said Spezza, who speculates that many potential patients have lost their health insurance or are delaying elective surgery.