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New Mexico College Partners with Major Employer to Create Key Connections Between Learning and Work

March 3, 2023


Summary

  • Dr. Lori Baca, chair of the business administration program at Northern New Mexico College, realized that there was no clear path for many of their students into gainful employment.

  • Seeing that Los Alamos National Lab (LANL) was feeling the labor shortage, Dr. Baca partnered with LANL to educate students about their fulfilling work opportunities.

  • Using GoEducate, Dr. Baca and LANL have made LANL much more visible to students so they can see how their NNMC education relates to the employer’s open positions.


In Dr. Lori Baca’s 21 years at Northern New Mexico College, she has found tremendous satisfaction in equipping students to help their families and the broader community. In recent years, that pursuit has received renewed emphasis as the region's largest employer, Los Alamos National Lab (LANL), feels the effects of the national labor shortage. Given the more rural location of the research institute, it is hard to find and attract talent to fill the hundreds of open positions they have.


Dr. Baca, Chair of the Business Administration Program at NNMC, is perfectly situated to help LANL find a solution. She has become the critical intersection between 230 of NNMC’s business students, a wide array of career possibilities, and a major employer struggling to find talent.


Employer Aligned Program Development


When they first started working together, Dr. Baca had to learn a lot about the needs of the national lab, where NNMC’s business admin students can make the biggest impact, and what programs are going to be most effective at getting her students employed.


When it comes to the business school’s offerings, the demand that has emerged is a certificate program in project management. LANL needs students who can jump into a wide range of business problems and adjust to different projects. They’re also looking for people who can get to work sooner rather than later and have found that no other colleges in the state offer such a specifically tailored program. The new project management certificate program at NNMC specifically designed around LANL’s requirements gives the students the foundation they need and allows the lab to get much needed talent. Because of this partnership, Lori’s program has taken off and LANL is now enrolling its own employees in the program.




Creating Better Program-Career Visibility


These efforts have been supported by GoEducate, Inc. GoEducate helps the college make the relationship with LANL much more visible so students can see how the NNMC programs (especially the certificate in project management) relate to LANL and the many great careers in the region.


When asked about the primary value of GoEducate, Lori said, “It helps us make the connection for students.” And making the connection for more students has meant that enrollment in the program is at an all-time high (a thing that few colleges can boast these days), more people are finding good careers in the community, a major employer has developed a far more cost effective way to build a talent pipeline, and the school has a program that is very sustainable and profitable.


Further, by showing the connection between NNMC and LANL, more students are making LANL a priority. Dr. Ivan Lopez, VP of Academics at NNMC, mentioned that many students at the college are aware of Los Alamos and that there are many good jobs there, but that many of them do not really see themselves in these jobs. “Students are often full of doubt and the vacuum of information makes it hard for students to connect what they are learning to the world of work,” said Dr. Lopez. The college has to work very hard to help students not only see the connection, but also to believe that they can actually get jobs at places like LANL. Dr. Lopez continued, “GoEducate connects the dots to real employers and it gives the student community a realistic point of view about employment. At the local level, this is very important.”



Dr. Lopez sees two key purposes behind a resource like GoEducate.


  1. It helps the college recruit students from the surrounding community and, by giving them a better understanding of regional jobs, helps keep them engaged.

  2. It helps current students find better labor market outcomes.


Essentially, GoEducate supports both sides of the student lifecycle—in the beginning, when they are trying to make better educational choices, and then on the backend, when they are working to connect to employment.


In addition to the impact on the students, Dr. Lopez mentioned that local high schools and companies have also liked what they see in NNMC’s GoEducate site.


  1. High schools like it because their students can see viable local postsecondary programs connected to careers that would help them stay in the community.

  2. Businesses like it because they can connect directly to the college instead of relying on emails to find out if students are interested in their job openings. With GoEducate, local companies can connect their jobs, internships, and apprenticeships directly to college programs and watch as students start to express interest.

Transforming the Student Experience


Today, Dr. Baca is seeing more and more students get jobs at LANL and a variety of other regional employers, such as the hospital and city and state offices. And now, more businesses want to create similar relationships. LANL has also seen so much success that they want to add a new program.


Because of the success of the business program and relationship with LANL, Dr Baca applied for and was awarded a grant to help grow the work. Below is a press release Dr. Baca shared about the work to help more NNMC business students get connected to great local careers.



Northern New Mexico College (NNMC) and its Department of Business Administration would like to thank the Regional Development Corporation (RDC), their Executive Director Val Alonzo and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for their support for students in NNMC’s Business Administration program.

During the fall 2021 semester, RDC’s Workforce and Educational Training program awarded $40,000 in scholarships. The scholarships provided 19 students tuition for 38 classes and 16 paid internships for the Business Capstone course taught by Dr. Lori Baca and mentored by Arnold Whipple, Kent Scotten, Shannon Roberson Wildenstein and Robert Kramer from the Project Controls and Training groups of LANL’s Capital Project Directorate.

The project offered opportunities for students to gain employment experience in business while the scholarships helped students achieve graduation goals. Employers had the opportunity to contribute to the next generation of employees without the hardship of adding to their already declining budgets and the project provided experience which will aid the local community with much needed workforce solutions to the regional workforce demand.

Of the NNMC business students receiving these scholarships, 14 students will be graduating with a certificate or degree at the end of the fall 2021 semester.

“We appreciate the support from RDC and LANL,” said Dr. Lori Baca. “Each certificate or degree not only helps the individual but their families and ultimately the community.”

Students had the experience of reading and understanding a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) document entitled, “Program and Project Management Acquisitions of Capital Assets.” This 132-page document provided high levels of Critical Decision Milestones that are central to DOE’s Acquisition Management Systems. Students had to create and present a training project to an NNMC and LANL audience on the Critical Decision outlined in the document as well as DOE’s Project Management Principles.

“After this experience, I now have LANL project knowledge and combined with my previous work experience, I feel I could be a viable candidate for their organization after I graduate this December,” said Connie Martinez, a student in the Capstone course.



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About GoEducate


GoEducate is an education to work technology platform that connects people, education and in-demand jobs at the local level. GoEducate is focused on growing early talent, developing skills and building stronger communities with a diverse workforce. The company and its Regional Opportunity Portal platform (ROP) deliver innovative solutions that help organizations identify, nurture and retain top talent regardless of backgrounds and experience through an accessible marketplace environment that provides the resources needed to reach one's full potential.


GoEducate connects educational programs, job postings, and student profiles to help communities address labor market inefficiencies and shortages.



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