About 100,000 New Mexicans are receiving unemployment benefits right now. Many of those people lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and some of those jobs may not come back. But there are employment areas that are growing. New Mexico’s Department of Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley told KUNM’s Khalil Ekulona about these growing areas, and said now is the time to plan for what work will look like in the future.
BILL MCCAMLEY: There is going to be a light here at the end of the tunnel. Let's start thinking about how we get people back into the workforce, and what that means.
KUNM: Well, let me ask you that, where are the jobs going to be here in New Mexico, as we approach this light at the end of the tunnel?
MCCAMLEY: So we actually know this for certain. There are four areas of economic growth in the state that we know are going to continue to add jobs for the next 10 years. And they are healthcare: we are going to need people from nursing assistants to brain surgeons. You are going to get a job, and you're going to help the community. The next one is education. We need teachers, and specifically we need special education teachers, bilingual teachers and folks that can teach math and science. Teacher salaries are going up, so you will make a decent salary, you will contribute to your community. Third one is going to be STEM and IT. So we need engineers, we need technicians, we need folks that know how to do internet security like crazy. And as a lot of these jobs move to the virtual environment we'll need more and more people that know how that system works, and you will be able to get a job in those areas. The last one is construction. Look, if you want to be an electrician, if you want to be a welder, if you want to be a carpenter, all those people are working right now. You can go work right now.
KUNM: Is the Department of Workforce Solutions, are you working on, or have any current programs in development that provide a system for people to go look at if they're interested in changing careers?
MCCAMLEY: Yeah, so there's actually already a lot of money out there right now through what we call WIOA. That is a federal plan called Workforce Innovations and Opportunities Act. If you qualify for those funds, there's a couple different things you can qualify for. The first is, if you want to go get educated in one of these very high need fields, you can apply at one of our local workforce board offices. There's another set of monies in that plan to help employers who want to hire on the job training opportunities. We can actually pay for like half of a salary for a worker if they're in a training program.
KUNM: And as we consider economic recovery here in New Mexico, it's very, very hard to predict. Tell me, like, with that eye on the light at the end of the tunnel, What do you think it's going to look like?
MCCAMLEY: One of the things that I really applaud about Governor Lujan Grisham is she has been consistent in her message that our goal through this thing is going to be to save the lives of New Mexicans. And what I would say to people is the more we get control of this virus, the more you go to vaccinenm.org, that is vaccinenm.org, and sign up to get vaccinated, the less risk there is for our health situation, the more we're going to be able to open up the economy, and we'll be doing what we want to do, which is get people back into their jobs. And so that's number one. Two Khalil, I think the bigger question is going to be, as we examine the leap that our economic situation has taken during this thing, what's that going to mean for the economy? We still need to figure that out. I'll give you an example. COVID comes out, we need to get people working from home, we got everyone working from home within two or three weeks. That's just a small example of the kind of changes that may be happening in the economy. But I think we need to look at things like the skill sets people need to be able to get online, broadband access is obviously a huge deal, and then equipment. Do people have the computers that they need to be able to participate in this economy and what's that going to mean for everybody else?
This is part of a longer interview that originally aired on last week’s episode of our show No More Normal called “When Piggy Banks Fly.” Catch new episodes every Sunday morning at 11 on KUNM or wherever you get your podcasts.