Community Conversation discusses regional workforce needs

Skilled trades a priority

By David Moore | November 8, 2021

Community Conversation Sm Opt
Ronda Gilliland-Lopez, executive director of the Mechanical Contractors’ Association of New Mexico was one of the panelists discussing how to attract more people to join the skilled trades in the region.

More than 100 regional leaders in education, nonprofits, and economic development attended the Laboratory’s virtual Community Conversation October 6 that had a focus on workforce development, particularly around the skilled trades.

Director Thom Mason discussed the Laboratory’s workforce pipeline programs, and the wealth of opportunities at the Laboratory, emphasizing that in the past two years, 70% of the Lab’s new hires have been New Mexicans, and 319 of the new Laboratory hires in 2021 were craft employees. To address panelists’ scheduling conflicts, the event was pre-recorded, with the online platform allowing live chat, questions and sharing of resources.

Mason highlighted collaborative initiatives such as the pilot partnership between the Laboratory, schools in the region, and the NM Building and Construction Trades Council (NMBCTC) that is helping to create a pipeline in Northern New Mexico to fill in-demand positions at LANL and in the wider community. The program prepares high school students for craft trades using a nationally-recognized curriculum that allows students to directly enter into an apprenticeship in a participating union.

He was joined by the National Nuclear Security Administration’s new manager of the Los Alamos Field Office, Ted Wyka who welcomed the opportunity to talk to community leaders on his return to New Mexico (he previously served as deputy manager at the field office), and looked forward to meeting with members of the community at in-person events when there was an opportunity to do that.

A panel discussion facilitated by LANL Community Partnerships Office higher education and workforce development specialist Rebecca Estrada saw experts in the field discuss the need for new recruits to the skilled trades in New Mexico, and what measures unions and other organizations are taking to find and train suitable candidates.

Camilla Bustamante, who works on workforce and academic network development for the Regional Development Corporation stressed the importance of collaboration between academic institutions, unions and employers to prepare students for careers in the skilled trades. 

Ronda Gilliland-Lopez, executive director of the Mechanical Contractors’ Association of New Mexico, highlighted the rewarding and important role union members play in the community, while president of the NM Building and Constructions Trade Council Courtenay Eichhorst underlined how the skilled trades are open to all.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, it doesn’t matter your ethnicity or your education, if you want to excel and learn the trades, we need you,” he said.

You can watch the event here.