May 14, 2004
New Mexico Public Education Department
300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786

Ruth Williams
Public Outreach Director
(505) 476-0393

Model Apprenticeship Program to Premiere in Gadsden
Holds Potential for Improving Region’s Economy

(Santa Fe, NM)--A unique apprenticeship program will premiere in the Gadsden Independent Schools in January 2005 that holds the potential for improving the region’s economy. The “Technical Bridge Apprenticeship Pilot Program” will provide 40-50 students from Gadsden and Santa Teresa High Schools with the training necessary to enter a technical career in manufacturing.

Partners for the project are the Office of Governor Bill Richardson, U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, the Public Education Department, New Mexico Office of Workforce Training and Development, Gadsden schools, New Mexico State University (NMSU), Dona Ana Branch Community College (DABCC) and Southwest Manufacturing Consortium.

“This program is important because it will fulfill two key roles. Not only will it prepare students for challenging careers, it also will help meet a need within the business community. I am pleased that federal funding is being used to get this program started, and I am seeking additional funding to expand the program next year,” Sen. Bingaman said.

Senator Bingaman’s office helped create the program by identifying a need within the community, outlining the goals of the program and identifying the source of federal funds that is supporting it. A total of $140,000 in federal Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education funds is supporting equipment needs for the program. The goal is for the program to expand to the Las Cruces Public Schools.

“Both the Gadsden and Las Cruces schools are in an area that is in dire need of economic development and has tremendous industrial growth potential. The skilled labor force required by area employers is not available, resulting in fewer new companies coming to the region,” said Anthony Hyde, director of the NMSU Manufacturing and Technology Center, and Jerry Welch, DABCC division dean.

Governor Richardson is fully behind the program. “This program complements our efforts to create high-wage jobs, particularly in the border region. We’re cutting taxes, improving our schools and investing in New Mexico entrepreneurship. We need trained technicians to fill the jobs we are creating,” Governor Richardson said.

Reese Fullerton, executive director of the Governor’s new Office of Workforce Training and Development, said, “By being quick and flexible we can respond to business needs and prepare the workforce to fill immediate job openings.”

Instruction will take place at the DABCC campus in Las Cruces and its satellite campus in Anthony through concurrent enrollment offerings for 11th and 12th-grade students. Students will be selected for the program through the American College Testing (ACT) WorkKeys© assessment, used in education and other sectors to help students understand their preparedness for specific jobs and careers.

Secretary of Education Dr. Veronica C. García said the program is a model that other school districts should consider. “This apprenticeship program provides training for future employment, beginning in high school and continuing through postsecondary education. Students can receive a High School Manufacturing Certificate or continue all the way to an associate’s degree and beyond. We’ve tapped the tip of the iceberg regarding this program’s potential and impact,” she said.

Through participation in the program, students can earn a High School Manufacturing Certificate and their high school diploma. This will prepare them to begin a post-high school program, resulting in a One-Year Manufacturing Certificate Program. The 15 credits required for the high school certificate can be applied to the one-year certificate program, which requires 37 credits.

A Manufacturing Technology Associate Degree is obtained upon completion of 67 credits. The degree carries three options – metal-working (leading into a certified apprenticeship program in tool and dye-setting), automation and a general option that will lead to a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Technology.

“An important aspect of this program is that each exit point provides enough training to make the student employable, and each program has concurrent enrollment, meaning credits at each phase can be applied to the next level of the program,” said Hyde and Welch.

Secretary Dr. García said, “Our hope is to see this program replicated in other areas, such as aerospace engineering, the film industry and medicine. This program and others like it hold the key to higher wages for New Mexico’s graduating students, a trained workforce and a stronger economy.”