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Keeping Graduates in NM Means Investing in Education

posted on October 19, 2017 by Jessica Nojek, Internship Program Manager, Department of Workforce Solutions

Note from our Director: The Center for School Leadership is beta testing a paid internship program. It is our hope that the internship program will create more opportunities for gainful employment and encourage young New Mexicans to give back to their local communities. Ultimately our goal is to create a lasting partnership between employers, the Center, and the Leadership High Schools. Our partner Jessica Nojek at New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions touches on why investment in opportunities and economic development is important for students.

Photo of Jessica Nojek“The more we work together to create a thriving ecosystem between our business community, our educational system, and families, the greater opportunities our future job seekers and businesses will have in New Mexico. “

 

In November of last year the New York Times ran a story by Quoctrung Bui titled “The States That College Graduates Are Most Likely to Leave.” The story referred to recently published data by the University of Minnesota that demonstrated the net migration of college grads under 40 by state between 2000 and 2015.  New Mexico was one out of ten states whose net migration rate was -2.  And, our surrounding states?  Arizona and Texas were +1, and Colorado was +2.

On the flip side, New Mexico is not in the bottom on this one- there are a lot of states in the US that are actually -4 for net migration rate.  But I can’t help but feel saddened by this data especially in light of our current economic challenges.

How much of our investment in education is benefiting other states versus our own communities?

As of June last year, the New Mexico Higher Education Department reported that college costs of up to 60 million annually are covered for students attending UNM in the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship Program. How many of those students receiving funds from the lottery scholarship program will eventually leave New Mexico as one of those +1 or +2 net migration groups to our surrounding states?

How much of our investment in education is benefiting other states versus our own communities?  And, how does this brain drain affect our own economic situation when it comes to attracting new companies as well as developing those that are already here investing?

When I first moved to New Mexico I worked for a home-grown engineering design firm.  The local company chose to stay and develop in New Mexico because of their passion and love for our state’s unique culture and beauty. That decision presented recruitment challenges. I starkly remember with great surprise and naiveté when they offered an engineering position to someone living in Colorado.  The candidate refused the offer because they preferred their current public school system.

It is vital to our state’s economic future to continue to build a path forward that is inclusive of our younger generations.

This is when I began to learn something foreign to me coming out of the Washington DC area bubble.  I realized that education is as much of an economic development issue as policy. There are two sides to this issue. Having K-12 and higher education systems that produce strong graduation rates and students that are skilled to accommodate a local workforce’s needs is one side. The other side includes cultivating a desire within our youth to support and assist their community.

With that said, it is vital to our state’s economic future to continue to build a path forward that is inclusive of our younger generations and demonstrates the value in supporting our community through the unique gifts our youth have to offer. Recently I was lucky enough to participate in a mock interview exercise with a local school. The school required community service projects as a part of their curriculum and career pathway development.

As I sat there in each interview I realized that these students were already becoming personally involved in their community’s needs and looking for ways they could help. They were consciously making the connection between how their future choices regarding education would aid them in giving back to the weak spots within their community and stay in New Mexico.

These students were receiving an education that supported them not only in graduating, they were also gaining awareness about their community’s needs and how they can develop the skills to contribute to its future.  Investment in their education was supporting our state’s and their community’s economic future.

The more we work together to create a thriving ecosystem between our business community, our educational system, and families, the greater opportunities our future job seekers and businesses will have in New Mexico.

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