By Tracey Bryan
The Bridge of Southern New Mexico
Building Bridges for Student Success
As a member of our community’s SUCCESS Partnership, The Bridge of Southern New Mexico has been a key partner in much of the work at the latter end of the cradle-to-career continuum – from boosting high school graduation and college access to helping prepare our young people for workforce success.
The ultimate aim of education is to build skills and knowledge into children and youth upon which they can build a life. A life will include a career…preferably one that provides a growing, family-sustaining income.
That’s why The Bridge and our mission-aligned Workforce Talent Collaborative worked to pinpoint where those careers are now and will be in the future, as well as what students will need to be successful in them. By helping young people see the amazing set of employment and entrepreneurial opportunities that exist for them right here in our community, they can become well-informed consumers of the wide breadth of educational options available to them.
But make no mistake – Virtually all of the new jobs created since the recession of 2008 require some level of college, and New Mexico’s workforce projections through 2024 show more and more jobs will require the same.
That means industry-recognized career credentials, two-year degrees, four-year degrees, and higher all have value in the world of work and are non-negotiables in a young person’s journey. Every college finish line boosts employability, and therefore earning power, when applied in the right career field. And by no means should we limit students to only one college credential – they should be stackable, building on one another for increased value in the world of work. Life-long learning is the new normal.
The Bridge is stepping into this full force, as we continue our efforts into 2020 and beyond. Thanks to the leaders that comprise our board of directors, we will work together to become a K-14/K-16 county over the next few years, BECAUSE it is an employability issue.
We have everything we need here to be successful, and we must do what we did before. We elevated the importance of high school graduation as a community, and we skyrocketed to the highest rates in the state. Now, we must raise the awareness and expectations of students and families to ensure all of our students secure the high-value college certifications and/or degrees for workforce success, leaving college sooner and with as little student loan debt as possible.
At the same time, we need to change the way we do education. It’s not just about knowledge, though we live in a knowledge economy. Technological disruption has come to many industries. Automation and artificial intelligence are drastically changing the world of work.
Therefore, education must change how it prepares future workforce talent. Long-term skills for employability must be embedded into education to help graduates navigate through an ever-changing employment landscape:
- Problem solving
- Results driven
- Relationship building
- Self and social awareness
And just as important, businesses MUST play a role in building future talent. Collecting and clarifying the employer’s voices and then inserting business leaders into the education continuum will bring education into harmony with the needs of employers. Working together, we will generate dynamic and growing pools of well-qualified talent for Dona Ana County’s current and future businesses.
Our efforts will put the business community in the driver’s seat of workforce development, bridging the divides between education and workforce service providers and employers. We are already working on expanding the five “ships” of business-led, work-based learning: leadership, mentorship, internship, apprenticeship, and externships for teachers as part of our commitment to boosting collaboration community-wide.
No one organization can do this alone, as the SUCCESS Partnership knows well. When all players of our workforce continuum are operating in collaboration, the result will be an “ecosystem of opportunity” that benefits us all.
About the SUCCESS Partnership:
The SUCCESS Partnership is an education initiative founded in 2013. It is a diverse
group of over 100 cross-sector organizations comprised of parents, education
professionals, nonprofit organizations, businesses, regional partners, and community
leaders who are committed to providing education in Dona Ana County. The
collaboration serves to achieve improved outcomes in education from prenatal to career
readiness. The partnership is supported by the nonprofit organization, Ngage New