Central New Mexico Community College and Rio Rancho Public Schools recently signed a partnership agreement to expand Career Technical Education opportunities for students and job-seekers in Sandoval County.

Central New Mexico Community College electrician students practice the trade they’re learning. Courtesy of CNM.

The memorandum of understanding aims to increase the pipeline of well-trained workers to fill high-demand, high-quality skilled trades jobs that bolster economic development in the region.
“We’re very excited to expand our strong partnership with Rio Rancho Public Schools to help more students access education and training in the skilled trades, which can connect students quickly to high-paying careers that also support economic development in Sandoval County,” said CNM President Tracy Hartzler.
“As we work together to help more young people in Rio Rancho better understand and access the prolific opportunities that exist for them in the skilled trades, we’ll help build more prosperity for families and a more robust economy across central New Mexico.”
CNM and RRPS have agreed to provide skilled trades training in a facility in Sandoval County that will serve both entities’ students, as well as community members looking for quick re-skilling opportunities to improve their job prospects.
“This is not only a valuable step towards the growth of CTE programs for students in Rio Rancho Public Schools, but also toward the creation of a partnership that will actively provide a trustworthy source of high-skill, high-demand, high-wage employees for the local and state workforce,” added RRPS Superintendent Sue Cleveland.
RRPS recently purchased the former Data Alliance building, 7001 Zenith Court in Rio Rancho, to serve as the primary shared-use training facility.
“CNM and RRPS are in the planning stages for the facility, including what programs will go in the facility when it’s ready,” CNM spokesman Brad Moore said. “At CNM’s Rio Rancho campus, I don’t believe there are any skilled trades programs taking place there now.”
To help identify the programs that will be offered, the two institutions will leverage data focused on current and future job growth projections in the local economy. The data will then be used to inform programming decisions that align with the priorities of the Sandoval Economic Alliance, the Albuquerque Regional Economic Alliance, the New Mexico Economic Development Department, the Department of Workforce Solutions and the Strengthening CTE for the 21st Century Act.
Programs that could be offered in Rio Rancho include welding, carpentry and construction technology, electrical trades, HVAC and automotive technology.
As part of the agreement, CNM and RRPS have committed to make the training programs broadly accessible to RRPS students, CNM students and job-seekers in the community. RRPS will increase promotion of CTE career exploration and programs to middle school and high school students while expanding CTE dual-credit opportunities with CNM.
Dual credit allows high school students to take courses that count for both high school and college credit, saving time and money. There’s no tuition for students to take dual-credit classes.
There will also be a strong emphasis on work-based learning. Through public-private partnerships with regional business and industry, CNM and RRPS have committed to providing abundant opportunities for pre-apprenticeships, apprenticeships, internships and job shadowing that will be embedded in the education experience.
“Like every other sector, technology advancements in the skilled trades are coming quickly and will continue to transform the way work is done,” Hartzler said. “CNM will continue to make sure our programs stay on the leading edge of workforce trends through our strong connections and partnerships with employers and industry.”
CNM will work in partnership with RRPS to ensure that the college provides industry-endorsed education and training that leads to CNM-issued credentials, certificates and associate degrees.
According to the New Mexico Association for Career and Technical Education, 51 percent of jobs in New Mexico require skills training that involves more education than high school, but less than a four-year degree.