Sunday, May 31, 2009
Plan Trains Workers for Jobs Funded by Stimulus Money
By Richard Metcalf
Journal Staff Writer
The expected infusion of federal stimulus money — more than $3 billion at last estimate — could create somewhere around 35,000 jobs throughout New Mexico, and plans are under way to make sure there's workers trained to do those jobs.
"We're thinking now about what will be needed four to five months in the future," said Susan Murphy, vice president of external affairs at Central New Mexico Community College.
Although still in the early stage, planning calls for CNM to team with the Workforce Connection of Central New Mexico to offer short-term training programs or courses geared to jobs generated by stimulus money. The Department of Workforce Solutions would also be involved.
"The expectation right now is that Workforce Connection and CNM would be new best friends on behalf of the metropolitan area, Albuquerque and Rio Rancho, providing training opportunities for skills just as they are needed," Murphy said.
The general idea is not new, occurring regularly in different combinations of state and federal agencies with schools. The goal is usually guiding the unemployed and underemployed to career paths with employment opportunities.
CNM provides "flexible formats" for training and career development programs at its Workforce Training Center at 5600 Eagle Rock NE, Murphy said. The center would likely be home to stimulus-driven programs.
The Workforce Connection works in two basic ways. On the one hand, it helps employers find workers with the right skills; on the other hand, it helps people who are looking for work find jobs or get on career paths leading to jobs.
By joining forces, Murphy said, "We're leveraging each other's strength."
Early discussions have focused on three job clusters — health services, construction and renewable energy — that are likely to be impacted by stimulus money, she said. "Even that could change," she added.
The stimulus plan is weighted heavily with money for infrastructure improvements and public works projects, plus $26.8 million for the weatherization of homes statewide. These projects could be a big lift for the construction sector, which has shed 7,800 jobs statewide over the past year.
"We know there are unemployed and underemployed construction workers who have appropriate skills," Murphy said. "They might benefit from additional training to augment their skills in light of what's happening in the broader economy."
Renewable energy projects, particularly solar energy, are scattered throughout plans in the state to spend stimulus money. CNM already offers a variety of training programs for solar and other green or energy-related jobs.
"We know there are jobs out there with the green label on them," she said. "It's not exactly clear how many there are and where they are. We're working on that."
By August, Murphy said the planning of stimulus-driven training programs "will be gaining traction."