Rep. Lujan engaged in many conversations about how to recruit and retain trades workers in New Mexico.

U.S. Rep. Lujan Discusses Need for More Apprenticeships and Skilled Technicians

At CNM Ingenuity’s FUSE MakerSpace, CNM President Kathie Winograd and Sandia National Labs Director Stephen Younger were among a group of key stakeholders discussing ways to engage and recruit a new generation of much-needed trades workers.
June 06, 2019

U.S. Congressman Ben Ray Luján, along with eight other lawmakers, today introduced bipartisan legislation that would help bolster a skilled workforce in trades fields that support the technology sector, including at Department of Energy sites such as Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratories where many technicians are retiring or nearing retirement.

“Expanding professional opportunities and investing in our workforce is critical for preparing for the future,” says Rep. Lujan. “This bipartisan legislation will provide a boost to local economies and create a job pipeline for our national laboratories across the country and in New Mexico. Critically, this legislation will create new, good-paying jobs for New Mexicans. I’m proud to work with my colleagues to achieve real, meaningful progress in our efforts to bolster working women and men.”

The Department of Energy National Labs Jobs ACCESS Act will support targeted apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs that utilize local high schools, community colleges, universities, and other higher education institutions and workforce intermediaries, working in partnership with local national laboratories and National Nuclear Security Administration sites, to fill skills gaps in critical sectors of the workforce, especially in middle skills jobs such as electricians, welders and machinists that work at the national labs.

At the forum held at CNM Ingenuity’s FUSE MakerSpace, the Congressman engaged in thoughtful discussions with a range of stakeholders about creating multifaceted efforts that educate the community about the vast opportunities for high-quality, high-paying employment in the trades. Two CNM graduates, David Sanchez and Jennifer Barrios, who now work at Sandia National Labs participated in the conversation, as did CNM Chief Workforce Development Officer Celina Bussey, CNM Vice President for Advancement and Enrollment Strategy Samantha Sengel, and CNM Electrical Trades Instructor Denise Ojeda.

The roundtable yielded many ideas on how to promote the virtues of technical trades careers.

“We support and appreciate the goals of the National Labs Jobs Access Act being proposed by Congressman Ben Ray Luján,” President Winograd said. “Providing clear pathways that connect more individuals with the training they need to access high-quality tech and trades jobs will not only lead to greater prosperity for families but will also help strengthen our economy and our country. CNM looks forward to supporting the efforts outlined in the legislation and helping to address the workforce needs that are so important for economic development in New Mexico and national security.”

The legislation, if passed, would provide the Department of Energy with $25 million over the next five years to establish specialized skills employment programs to support on-the-job training, apprenticeships, work-study co-ops, and certification classes for eligible applicants. The apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship credentials lead to attractive career pathways in the high-demand, middle skill jobs available at DOE national laboratories and NNSA sites.

Rep. Lujan and CNM Chief Workforce Development Officer Celina Bussey chat before the roundtable session.

A significant part of the discussion at FUSE Makerspace revolved around how to carry the message to K-12 students that certificates and associate degrees in the trades can lead to very good paying entry level jobs that can lead to six-figure salaries, rewarding careers and a great life.

The U.S. needs to increase the quantity of skilled technical workers in the country by about 3.4 million by 2025 to keep up with demand. CNM is striving to close the skills gap in New Mexico by strengthening partnerships with local employers and connecting students with educational programs that lead directly to high-quality jobs.

The Department of Energy National Labs Jobs ACCESS Act will support targeted apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs that utilize local high schools, community colleges, universities, and other higher education institutions.