Ruidoso — The New Mexico Workforce Connection Center (NMWCC) located inside ENMU-Ruidoso’s Mechem Dr. campus is making a quiet but powerful impact to the area’s workforce needs.
The center is the local contractor of federal funds earmarked for high quality trainings available to Job Seekers pursuing occupations in demand occupations as well as On-the-Job training with local employers. These funds are provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
Federal funds for employee training are distributed to the states, which are then redistributed to four regional Workforce Boards within New Mexico.
John Hemphill, who directs the Eastern Area Workforce Development Board Adult and Dislocated Worker program inside ENMU-Ruidoso, says “hundreds, even thousands” of individuals have received training for new jobs since he became program director in 2010.
More specifically, 411 have been helped since July 1, 2018, including 40 from Lincoln County alone.
One of those success stories is Tanis Torres, 24, of Mescalero. Tanis went to work for Noisy Water Winery, a thriving local company in Alto, shortly after graduating from high school.
For four years, Tanis worked as a Retail Sales Associate. Then, when the Shipping Manager/Office Assistant position came open, Tanis applied.
The Shipping Manager handles all online sales and works as office assistant to Director of Operations Lynette Prelo.
Prelo sent the job candidate to the New Mexico Workforce Connections Center for a skills assessment. A series of online tests evaluated Tanis’ existing office management skills and aptitudes in light of the new job’s responsibility.
Tanis got the position, and on the strength of her skills assessment, began a six-month on-the-job training program to improve her abilities as the company’s Shipping Manger/Office Assistant.
“Lynette, who is my boss, knew what I needed to learn,” Tanis says. “She was able to work with me where I needed help and show me how to do the job the way that’s best for Noisy Water. I learned a lot, and it really helped! I’m happy with my new position!”
Noisy Water Winery grows grapes locally from which it creates its own “boutique” of wines. It has maintained a retail outlet on Sudderth Dr. in Ruidoso, and shipped to customers and clients world-wide since 2009.
A percentage of the costs for Tanis’ training was directly reimbursed to Noisy Water Winery through the funds provided by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
Since July 1, the WIOA Adult/Dislocated Worker Program has expended more than $1.3 million throughout Eastern New Mexico to reimburse employers with On-the-Job trainings and to train unemployed or underemployed workers. It’s a win-win-win proposition: companies win from hiring skilled workers; workers benefit from higher pay for their added capabilities; and the local economy wins when a worker lives in the community and pays local taxes.
Tanis benefited from on-the-job training, but the great majority of those helped by WIOA funds learn through courses at ENMU-Ruidoso or other higher education institutions.
That’s one of the primary benefits of housing the NMWCC inside ENMU-Ruidoso. There, workers needing training can find courses, tutoring and other support as they prepare to step up into more challenging and financially rewarding jobs.
The NMWCC works with employers to provide training for a worker’s “skills gap,” thereby improving the worker’s job performance (and often, pay) and helping the company address a critical need.
“It begins with an assessment to show what gap exists between a company’s job requirements and an individual’s skills,” Hemphill says. “Then, after an analysis, we can offer credit or non-credit classes to provide the worker capabilities they currently lack”
Funds are available if the position is in an “in-demand” career field, as identified by the New Mexico Workforce Connection. Currently, those in-demand fields include health care and social assistance; accommodation and food services; educational services; arts, entertainment and recreation; construction; all industries; finance and insurance; self-employment; professional, scientific and technical services, retail trade; and retail trade.
To learn more about employee training reimbursement through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act, contact Hemphill at 575-258-1730.