Leaders focus on workforce

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By Don Pace

Six months after the first Education Workforce Summit was convened to come up with ideas on what it would take to make Las Vegas the smartest workforce in New Mexico, the group held its second such meeting last week to carry out the ideas.

Hosted by the Las Vegas-San Miguel Economic Development Corporation, people worked on putting recommendations into action. Ninety percent of those attending the first summit agreed that the goal of having the smartest workforce in the state is achievable.

EDC President Sharon Vander Meer summarized the summit’s concept by saying, “I think what came out of this most strongly for me is our need to understand our community a little bit better. This is about business, education and having employers and employees who are both successful. That’s really what it boils down to.”

Vander Meer said Las Vegas already has a head start on this because there are some very smart people in the community. She said the major problem is the lack of communication between all the entities.

“It came out very strongly here that we need to be talking to one another, evaluating what’s already being done and not duplicating efforts. Then we have to do the best we can to put together projects and programs that will improve the quality of life for the people who live here,” Vander Meer said.

Vander Meer said the purpose of the second summit was to come up with specific action plans. She said at the next summit in six months, the group would be talking about what it’s done. She also said it would be talking about what didn’t work.

During the summit people worked in four study groups: business and education partnerships, curriculum, social and cultural change and business training. Elaine Luna led the group dedicated to business and education.

“We already have a tremendous wealth of resources in our community. We looked at the needs of the business community and then tried to make the connection between the needs and the resources that already exist. Now we’re ready to take the next step and move forward,” Luna said.

Mark Loera, who led the group focused on social and cultural change, said everyone in the community, including the United World College, should be involved in positive change.

“We need to listen to the youth and get their thoughts and ideas, actually not just listen to them but work and implement their ideas,” Loera said.

EDC executive director Sharon Caballero said the first summit was the brainstorming meeting. She said last week’s meeting was to offer plans to begin steps to actually carry out change for the good of the community.

“The consistent theme was that none of this happens unless we work together as a community to make it happen, and that’s what I believe. In our group (curriculum), we discovered that some of the stuff that we thought we were going to have to invent had indeed already been invented. Now it’s just a matter of collecting it, putting it in one place, and then sharing it with everybody,” Caballero said.

Caballero said she was pleased that both superintendents, elected officials and community members took part in the second summit.

“So the commitment seems to be getting stronger. A lot of people say this community is divided. I don’t think so. I think we are more together on our common values and views than we are divided,” Caballero said.