For many people, their skills and education don't fit opportunities in the job market.

In New Mexico, companies often have to look beyond the state to find qualified workers to fill skilled positions, experts say.

That's why Central New Mexico Community College, University of New Mexico Continuing Education and other educational institutions have revamped programs to distill what both students and employers need now.

CNM's Ingenuity courses from Deep Dive Coding to Brew School are all geared for immediate application in the workforce.

" All these programs were created with business and economic leaders to determine their needs and the skills gaps that exist, " says CNM spokesman Brad Moore. " We gear our programs to fill those needs. "

Ingenuity courses and programs are non-credit - meaning that while they aren't on a degree path, they also don't require an English class either, he says.

' There ' s There's a need '

" We know there's a need, " says Samantha Sengel, CNM's chief advancement and community engagement officer. " It's rare to step out and do it this way. But we want to make sure New Mexicans are getting those higher-paying jobs. "

For example, Deep Dive Coding is a computer technology class that is based on a national model. Students attend class for 40 hours a week for 10 weeks. Students who complete the program find work with companies or in their own business. Starting salary is about $ 45, 000 a year, Sengel says.

Students also leave the program with a work portfolio because a CNM apprentice program bids on local contracts to give student interns actual experience, she says.

The $ 7, 000 tuition for the coding bootcamp can't be financed with traditional student loans, but counselors can help students with options, Sengel says. And it's affordable compared to other similar programs, attracting students from all over the country, she adds.

Students in the computer technology courses as well as the collection of other skill-based non-credit programs are from all backgrounds.

" We have people with an English degree who can't find a job. We have 16-year-olds who have skills, but have dropped out of high school. We have people with master's degrees who want more hands-on skills. We also have entrepreneurs seeking skills so they can grow their own businesses. "

She says skills-based learning can be a new front door to higher education, because many students aren't choosing the traditional route of college degrees.

CNM also has FUSE Makerspace, a new approach to industrial arts, where students and community members can use industrial tools to make projects through a membership. Training on the equipment is required and one-on-one assistance is available.

Student variety

" Continuing education must be dynamic, " says Maralie Waterman-BeLonge, program operations director at UNM-CE. " Nowadays you may be hired for one position, but your job responsibilities develop somewhat differently. That's why we're here - to provide students more ability to respond to the needs in their environment. "

Ethical hacking is a popular course that helps employers look at places in their IT systems that are vulnerable. Courses are available all across the spectrum from computer and internet skills, which all companies need, to marketing and sales to project management.

" We get people from all backgrounds, " Waterman-BeLonge says. Recent graduates and people still enrolled in degree-granting programs may have decided that they need web development or project management to get hired or advance their careers, she says.

For many, especially those in health-related fields, continuing education is a requirement to maintain their licenses. Waterman-BeLonge says that UNM-CE courses offer opportunities to find new directions in health professions, or advance skills for promotion. So a nurse could take CE classes in holistic healing or health administration, for example, she says.

UNM-CE also works with area employers to meet their needs, she says. They can create courses specific to the company.

UNM-CE has a full catalog of courses, including those in more traditional personal enrichment like arts, cooking, writing and languages. Youth programs are also available. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute has lectures and other offerings for adults 50 and older.

Marth Becktell, program supervisor for digital arts and information technology at UNM-CE, says the computer programs are comprehensive and taught by experts. UNM-CE is also an Apple Certified Training Center.

Area private colleges and schools also have non-credit programs for students who are looking to enter the workforce.

At Pima Medical Institute, Rachel McCallister de Abreu runs a program that help students earn a high school diploma before they prepare for a certificate program in medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary assisting.

" It gives students a second opportunity, " she explains. " Maybe they have not been successful at school, but if they can be successful here, then they realize they can do a lot more with their lives. "

Learn more

UNM-CE offers these free Info-Byte lectures to allow interested people to explore topics before they sign up for a class. Registration is required ; call 277-0077, select option 1.

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