college and career expo

UNM-Taos offers an opportunity to engage

By Bill Knief

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Bataan Hall

Bataan Hall

At UNM-Taos, our mission goes far beyond the classroom, and one of our most important responsibilities is to model best practices in support of the local economy.

We do this in many ways, both directly and indirectly. A majority of our students receive state and federal financial aid, which gets distributed throughout the county, and our payroll provides income for several hundred full and part-time faculty and staff members.

We are a major purchaser of utilities in the area. Ten years of steady expansion on our Klauer campus has meant construction and construction-related jobs along with large-scale materials purchases and improvements to infrastructure. For example, the recent acquisition of the former Taos Convention Center facilities, Rio Grande and Pueblo Halls, will not only save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in utilities, maintenance and repairs each year, but the new space will be used mostly for workforce skills and career prep such as our nationally recognized Nursing Program. By the time UNM-Taos has finished remodeling and repurposing the facilities, we will have invested upwards of four million dollars.

General obligation bonds and mill levies stimulate the local economy, providing resources for major improvements, and grants translate into programs such as Accelerate, providing technical training and job placement, CAMP, supporting children of migrant worker families, and Upward Bound for Veterans, that help specific groups of students get the skills they need to be competitive in the workforce of the future. This, along with career tech, green technology and workforce training classes, make up the engine that drives long-term economic development in Taos.

In the short term, however, this is all well and good, but if you’re looking for work what you need is a crash course in how to connect with an employer, let them know what you can do and get some income coming in. That’s why Jenny Miranda, senior advisor at UNM-Taos, and Avelina Martinez, head of the Accelerate program, decided this year to combine Transfer Day, when colleges and universities in the region get together to advise soon-to-graduate students in how to continue their higher education pathway, with something new: the 2014 College and Career Expo.

Each semester the college organizes Transfer Day in order to assist students approaching graduation with a two-year degree or certificate in taking that next step and moving on to a four year institution. More than a dozen regional institutions, including UNM main campus and the UNM Bachelor and Graduate program here in Taos, will be on hand, but it’s not just for college students anymore.

“We see it as an opportunity to engage,” Miranda explained. “We have invited local businesses large and small to come and explain what qualities they are seeking in new employees. Many of these business owners are actively looking to fill vacant positions, but they will also be there to share what they know about how to effectively apply for a position. We’ll have 15 different departments of UNM talking about their bachelor degrees, but local employers will also be there from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Bataan building on Civic Plaza Drive to help people with the ins and outs of applying for a job. At noon we will have food and a series of short presentations on such topics as navigating the transfer process and filling out an application for local agencies and businesses.”

“Our theme is ‘Your Future in Focus’,” Martinez said. “We will help students understand how to navigate the transfer process, but we’ll also have the noon panel speaking on the theme, ‘The Skills You Need to Succeed,’ where local business owners can talk about what we call the ‘soft skills’ in the workplace: communication, body language, appearance, how to prepare a professional-looking application—all the skills that are important in addition to the technical skills needed in the workplace. Our primary audience is UNM-Taos students, but we want this to open up. We will have high school students coming in and we want everybody in our community to have access to this information.

“There are opportunities out there, but you have to know how to network and bring your skill set to the forefront so that you are a strong candidate.”

“Part of the UNM-Taos mission is to foster an educated workforce, and that begins with being educated about the application process itself,” Miranda said. “The College and Career Expo on Tuesday, April 1 in the Bataan Building on Civic Plaza Drive is an opportunity to engage in a dialogue with business leaders within our own community.”

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