“The future belongs to those who prepare for it.” — Dale Dekker of Dekker/Perich/Sabatini

From left, CNM Professor Brian Rashap, Rio Rancho Public Schools’ CTE Director Larry Davis and RS21’s Annemarie Henton gave their “takes” on the future and what it may hold for those looking for jobs in a decade or longer. “Take advantage of what is in front of you,” Rashap advised. (Gary Herron / Observer)

Scary. Intimidating. Challenging. Adventurous.

Dale Dekker
Albuquerque Journal file photo.

Depending on your age — and there were about 100 Rio Rancho High School students in the audience — Dale Dekker’s Thursday morning NAIOP Rio Rancho Roundtable presentation in the RRHS Performing Arts Center could have elicited one of those words.

Working on the moon, even in a space-tourism capacity? Working on Mars? Space mining? Capturing and removing space debris?

“The space industry will be worth $3 billion in 30 years,” Dekker said.

That sounds adventurous and a long way off, in terms of years and miles.

“You guys have a world and also a universe of possibilities,” he said. “It’s a scary world out there.”

It all could happen someday, as Dekker — a principal in the architecture firm Dekker/Perich/Sabatini, which has regional offices in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Phoenix and Amarillo — said on his topic, “The New World of Work.”

As in previous presentations, Dekker didn’t hold back on the bad news, such as New Mexico being 51st in the U.S. among best states for Millennials, 48th in the nation for attracting small business, a state that showed very little growth between the last two U.S. Censuses and a forecast calling for 12 percent fewer students by 2029.

Among the positives Dekker pointed out: New Mexico ranks second among crude oil producers — considering an attempt to de-carbonize this “over-heated planet” — and Intel Corporation’s May 2021 announcement that it was pouring $3.5 billion into its Rio Rancho plant.

Dekker gave examples of where today’s high school students will find jobs in the future: big data and analytics; 3-D printing; artificial intelligence and machine learning; software and cybersecurity engineering; electric vehicles; driverless cars and trucks; and what he termed the “Industrial Revolution 2.0,” in which humans might find themselves working next to and with robots.

But teachers and salespeople will still be needed.

“Sixty-five percent of the workers in 2033 will have jobs that don’t exist today,” Dekker predicted.

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it,” he advised, so be ready and “pay attention.”

Despite the uncertainty of all the skills necessary to find work in a decade or two, a three-person panel agreed that some of the basics for generations, such as customer service, problem-solving and critical thinking, will still be important.

Annemarie Henton, in February named state and local services director of Resilient Solutions 21, a data technologies company in Albuquerque, said today’s students have the power to change the negative aspects of the state.

Larry Davis, executive director of CTE with Rio Rancho Public Schools, asked the students — some from the CTE program at RRHS, the others part of Associated Students — to repeat, “If it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be me.” He twice noted 48 students in the auto mechanics CTE course at RRHS, out of 165 who’d signed up.

Brian Rashap, a professor with Central New Mexico Community College’s workforce training program, said the near future will “change the way we learn,” but people will still need to “learn to learn” and “take advantage of what is in front of you.”

Despite all that talk about leaving Earth and heading into the “final frontier,” Rashap echoed the importance of CTE programs because, “We can’t build stuff without having trades.”