Bill McCamley, the cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. (Courtesy photo)

BERNALILLO — A new state initiative may help people enter the workforce without a college education.

Bill McCamley, the cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, presented Sandoval County Commissioners with the new tweak on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act during their meeting earlier this month. According to McCamley, this initiative will help fill the need for skilled workers.

“The biggest thing we want to do is increase apprenticeships,” McCamley said.

The reason for this, he said, is the bachelor’s degree is no longer the gold standard it was once thought to be.

“If you compile the amount of student debt it takes to achieve this goal, for a lot of students, this is just not sustainable,” he said.

McCamley said as an example, he holds a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University. His girlfriend, who holds a two-year associate’s degree from a community college as a medical technician, made more money than he did after school.

“It’s because we have a need for people in the health-care field,” he said. “We also have a need for people in the building trades, coding and so on. Across the nation, we have states that have gone back to an apprenticeship model where you can learn a skill, make a paycheck and move into a job that a business needs you for.”

McCalmey said the three biggest fields New Mexico needs to fill are for health-care workers, teachers and science, technology, engineering and math professionals.

“Our specific health-care need is in nursing,” he said. “Recent numbers indicate that there are 3,800 job needs for nurses that are not being filled.”

McCamley told the commission that the state gets around $25 million from the federal government that is distributed for different workforce boards.

“Your board is Bernalillo County Sandoval County, Valencia County and Torrance County,” he said. “The middle Rio Grande area gets the biggest chunk of that, which is roughly $11 million every single year.”

McCamley said those funds are supposed to go to specific things like wage supplements for businesses that want to hire people for training and apprenticeship programs, and individual job-training accounts for people who fit certain demographic checks. Another funded cause is youth wages for companies that want to hire at-risk youth.

“You may not know it, because I did not know it when I was a county commissioner, but the counties and cities control this money,” he said.

The process for handling the money involves two boards meeting multiple times a year and hiring a fiscal monitor and an operator. The operator establishes contracts with different organizations that provide the services.

McCamley said this process is too bureaucratic and takes too long.

“It is our job to oversee these programs,” he said. “Frankly, the state hasn’t done a great job in the past on really putting a focus on these programs.”

The purpose of that $25 million is one of the most critical things government can help with in New Mexico, he said.

Some new requirements for workforce boards since July are:

• Board members must complete 10 hours of continuing education credits a program year.

• Local workforce boards must support two sector strategies a year.

• Local workforce boards must meet goals on the number of individuals receiving services for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs.

• Local workforce boards must meet a percent of individuals receiving services from all core programs.

McCamley said a few pilot programs are being implemented around the state, and if they are successful, they will go state-wide.

“Our goal is to help young adults entering the workforce find jobs here in our state so we don’t end up losing them to Dallas, Denver and Phoenix,” he said.