How CNM Helped This Electrical Trades Grad Create Financial Independence

Rita Johnson graduated from the Electrical Trades program and is now a successful journeyman and has plans to eventually own her own business
July 18, 2023

Rita Johnson’s educational journey took a few twists and turns early on.

She dropped out of high school and started working at restaurants but realized she couldn’t raise two kids on minimum wage and tips. Her mom had graduated from CNM so she enrolled in the Accounting program but quickly realized that field wasn’t for her.

Next she tried Electrical Trades because at the time she was a self-described “hippy” who wanted to work in the solar industry. But before she could get to the solar part of the degree she had to learn the basics and quickly realized general electrical work was for her.

“I loved working with my hands and being able to walk away from a finished project that I knew I’d done,” she says. “Seeing progress and completing tasks were both huge motivators.”

Fast forward to today and Rita is now a journeyman with McDade-Woodcock, an Albuquerque-based electrical firm that does residential, commercial, and industrial work around New Mexico, including at CNM.

Thanks to her training and hard work, Rita now makes enough money to support herself and her two kids and has full financial independence.

“I have my own house, my own car, can afford to go on vacations, provide for my kids, whatever I need,” she says. “Getting in the trades has been such a game changer for me.”

As a CNM grad, Rita says she came into the electrical trades field fully prepared. She had a lot to learn in order to become a journeyman, but CNM gave her a strong base not only in the hands-on part of electrical trades but also the theory.

“Having that foundation gave me a huge advantage,” she says.

Most recently, Rita was chosen as the alumni speaker during the groundbreaking ceremony for CNM’s new 61,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art trades facility on Main Campus. Standing in front of a couple hundred people was nerve wracking, but also an honor.

“So many of my colleagues saw me on the news after the event and have come up to congratulate me,” she says. “I was nervous, but I also learned a lot about what it takes to speak in front of people.”

Looking forward, Rita says her dream is to teach at CNM and eventually own her own electrical business that’s run and staffed by women. It will take a lot of work to get there, but she’s motivated to succeed so that she can help other women in the community who want to build a career.

“It’s important for me to show other women that they can do any job they want and that they don’t have to settle,” she says.