I think there’s been a need for (mixed construction work) for a long time — Larry Davis, director of career technical education at Rio Rancho Public Schools
Combing through recent state labor statistics, Larry Davis recognized that mixed construction jobs are in high demand because of the various occupations that fall within that field.
That includes wood framing, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning work, contamination control construction, carpentry, and electrical work, with the latter two being the greatest need.
That’s why Davis, the director of career technical education at Rio Rancho Public Schools, helped create a program that gives Rio Rancho-area high school students a direct path to the workforce. Students can get the necessary training to get right to work in mixed construction, especially if they’re unsure whether to go to college.
“I think there’s been a need for (mixed construction work) for a long time. The pandemic may have, if anything, suppressed that a little bit. Now everybody’s coming out to an extent, and progress is pushing forward again. Progress starts with the ability to build infrastructure and to build facilities and so forth,” Davis said, adding industry capacity isn’t meeting the demand.
The program’s curriculum is flexible. A student who wants to be an electrician, for example, can enroll in Central New Mexico Community College’s electrician training program and work with RRPS’s labor union partners for apprenticeship opportunities.
“We want to position them to be at the front of the line, whichever direction they pursue, whether that’s higher education or a career,” Davis said.
According to May 2021 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor, the annual mean wage for an electrician in the Albuquerque metro area is $52,810. For carpenters, the annual mean wage is $45,990. The annual mean wages for construction laborers, operating engineers and building inspectors are $35,110, $46,080 and $38,980, respectively.
Per New Mexico Workforce Connection data, the number of construction employees in the state only increased about 6.8 percent from 47,100 in February 2021 to 50,300 in February 2022. That data includes seasonal adjustments. Without seasonal adjustments, the number went up 7.8 percent from 46,300 to 49,900 during that same time period.
While a student may opt for a particular line of work, Davis said the program also arranges prescriptive internships collaborating with working professionals so that students gain specific expertise within an occupation.
Even if a student’s training doesn’t exactly match a job description, the program’s designed to address a healthy cross section of a field to give that student options. That’ll also show potential employers that student has taken the initiative to gain certifications to hit the ground running, Davis said.
For more information about the program, visit cte.rrps.net/o/cte.
“We want to keep our best and brightest kids right here in Rio Rancho because they’re the ones that are going to benefit the greater community,” he said. “We want to make sure that they see the opportunity that’s here to benefit this community.”