To probably nobody’s surprise, the forecast for skilled trades jobs in the near future was much better than the weather forecast for March 2, which was cloudy and cold with a chance of snow.

Those career-technical jobs looming in the years to come, thanks to the partnership agreed to last month by Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) and Rio Rancho Public Schools, will provide great places to work with great salaries, according to those who spoke at the NAIOP Rio Rancho Roundtable meeting at Presbyterian Rust Medical Center, where the local group hadn’t met since before the pandemic in March 2020.

RRPS Superintendent Sue Cleveland gave an outline of what the district has done to provide CTE education, namely buying the former Alliance Data building to remodel into a CTE building, and the agreement with CNM to provide instructors for those classes – and building a new automotive mechanics building on the large site purchased by RRPS.

“We’ve heard you need more people,” Cleveland said, with nobody answering in the negative. “We have just begun the design process (of the CTE building) … We wish it was coming faster.”

Jennifer McDonald, senior director of P20 Strategic Partnership at CNM, said CNM will bring its automotive and diesel program to the City of Vision, with electric vehicle technology included, anticipating the future.

“We’re struggling to find instructors,” McDonald lamented.

And, once again, Cleveland said state funding is important: “It’s hard to get legislators to understand (the importance of CTE)” as well as developing a funding formula to keep such programs running.

“You can’t exchange French I for Welding I,” she quipped, “and they don’t cost the same.”

TLC Plumbing President Eddie Padilla, among the panelists, went into great detail about all the positions his company either needs now or will need soon, especially in light of so many workers aging out and the lack of younger skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen to fill those well-paying jobs.

“We don’t do pet grooming yet,” Padilla said. “We need trades people.”

His company provides pathway programs, depending on which avenue TLC employees envision their careers there; the pathways include life skills, with Padilla shaking his head after noting, “Kids out of high school don’t understand money (but will spend $80,000 for a new pickup).”

It was also pointed out that promotions are occurring more frequently than in the past, in light of retirements of the aging workers – who may have enjoyed their time on the job but want to enjoy their golden years with grandchildren or traveling.

On their way to certification in these types of job, it was also pointed out students can even earn while they learn.

Also mentioned was the importance of not thinking all skilled trades positions involve manual labor: There are architects, surveyors, estimators, designers and many more key positions among those firms – and even jobs for skilled drone operators, a new technology in building and design.

All six panelists, as well as several attendees, stressed the need for more young people in high school and beyond to enter the skilled trades fields, but there were some drawbacks a few had already noted of that segment of the labor force: inability to pass drug tests, nonchalance about grooming and dress habits – important for employees when dealing with customers – and dependability.

Basically, it’s important, Adam Leyba of Klinger Constructors said, to “show up on time, listen and be eager to learn.”

Two CNM students, plus a Cleveland High School senior and a Rio Rancho High School student listened intently before joining the discussion and showing RRPS and CNM they’re also on the right track to providing jobs for the community down the road – and even on the road.

The next Rio Rancho Roundtable session will also be at RMC on Thursday, April 6, with a legislative update.