Giving workers new or updated skills in high-demand fields is critical, Sandoval County Commissioners heard Thursday during a presentation called “Getting People Back to Work” from experts in improving the workforce’s skills.

Samantha Sengel.
Courtesy photo.

Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO and New Mexico Workforce Connections Chairman Jerry Schalow and Central New Mexico Community College Vice President Samantha Sengel explained a plan they have been working on for two years.
Workforce Connections provides data and services to develop the workforce in regard to employment, training, education and more.
Schalow said economic development starts with job creation.
“You can create jobs one at a time, you can create them dozens at a time or 15,000 at a time. It doesn’t make any difference; one job creates economic impact,” he said.
Schalow focuses on a program that develops the workforce and pursues training in industries with high demand for employees. This includes the trades.
“If you can imagine, an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) employee today is completely

Jerry Schalow, Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO

different than an HVAC employee 10 years ago,” he said.
HVAC employees are dealing with more computerized systems and new technologies; this is where “up-skilling” is needed, Schalow said.
“With the pandemic and everything that happened with that, it is going to expand again on the HVAC side. They are going to get more computer-generated, the whole nine yards,” he said. “So, that is just an example of how these jobs really impact the community and why they need to be up-skilled and re-skilled rather than being skilled out.”
This strategy speeds up the market because it gets companies skilled employees quicker, he said. Employees become flexible, being able to utilize skills for multiple roles in a business.
“A lot of businesses know when they have an unemployment gap; they don’t know when they have a skill gap until it is too late,” he said.
According to the National Chamber of Commerce, about 30 percent of the tourism market is not coming back, Schalow said.
“We’ve got to think about that here in New Mexico,” he said. “We need to re-skill this focus into a job in Sandoval County.”
Sengel said it is important to her that CNM is recommending training and education that lead to jobs.
In January, there were about 6,000 online job postings in the medical field and about 6,000 for trucking and specialized machinery, according to the PowerPoint presentation from Schalow and Sengel.
“The growth we saw in January in terms of job postings and opportunities are related to the health care industry as well as truck driving,” Sengel said. “And although that is not necessarily the job that everyone would say is a job we should put at the top of the list across the nation, it has been very clear that logistic jobs are going to be an opportunity post-pandemic as well.”
Sengel presented CNM programs in the trades, information technology and coding, health care and public safety with courses for 15 weeks or less, or one year or less.
Schalow explained a program that will allow Workforce Connections applicants to receive funding to take those courses.
For candidates who do not qualify, Workforce Connections will refer them to the Schumann Foundation scholarship program. Workforce Connections will follow up with recipients for education and job placement in the county, according to the PowerPoint.
Commission Chairman David Heil, District 4, and Commissioner Michael Meek, District 3, used funding allocated to their districts for this program. Heil asked commissioners to consider doing the same.
“This starts now. Just walking around, I already referred two people to Jerry, who was directed to Workforce Connections,” he said.
The next county commission meeting April 15 will be live- streamed at sandovalcountynm.gov, under “Quick links” in a tab called “meeting videos.”

About the author

Assistant Editor at Rio Rancho Observer