Paving the way from innovation to politics

“Don’t go where the path can lead, rather go where there is no path and leave a trail.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

For 12 years, The Bridge of Southern New Mexico has been dedicated to innovating, piloting, proving, and then striving to embed what works into policy for the benefit of others over the long term, while setting the stage for scaling up. statewide.

Founded by a group of community leaders in business, economic development, education and government, The Bridge has worked strategically to build relationships, programs and literal “bridges” between institutions of education, labor providers and employers in Doña Ana County.

As a partner in the very early work that led to what is now Ngage and the SUCCESS partnership, The Bridge laser-focused on the high school-college-career portion of the prenatal-career continuum.

Through our Board of Directors and the committed group of partners of the Workforce Talent Collaborative, our goal has always been to ensure that our youth and families have access to a connected set of educational institutions, of partners and resources in what we consider to be our “ecosystem of opportunities”.

We started with the intention of increasing high school graduation rates and building a skilled and ready workforce. We later added college completion to these goals, as our county’s graduation rate has risen from a dismal 49% in 2007 to consistently over 80% in recent years.

Central to the “success” of The Bridge’s work lies in our county’s unique ability to engage with diverse audiences, ranging from public and private sectors and political parties to racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds. Our ability to sit around the table as equals and peers, honoring the wisdom and experience of all, has enabled us to work in unity as a community, placing a student at the center of the room. and answering the question, “What do we need?” to ensure student success? »

The answers to this question have been many, including several “firsts” for New Mexico: the first college high schools increased access to dual credit courses, alignment between vocational and technical education, and local industries, career paths, co-educational secondary year, teacher internships, multiple approaches for employer engagement in work-based learning, industry roundtables, increased information on local industries and careers, and much more than this article can contain.

I firmly believe that “success breeds success” in New Mexico. It takes courage and conviction to try new things, risking something not working. BUT… if so, you have built a model that can be replicated by others. And now we see the fruits of our labor materialize in state policy, which guarantees the sustainability of our innovations.

Just a few examples:

  • 20 Early College High Schools Statewide
  • Vocational and technical education funding is now spent specifically to support high-value, in-demand careers in all regions of the state
  • (Not yet sufficient) state funding for “high-value” dual-credit courses that the New Mexico Department of Higher Education favors in early college high schools, CTE pathways, or well-aligned competency-based academic degrees or diplomas
  • The Department of Public Education’s new strategic plan calls for “a culture of college and career readiness” and specific actions to support career paths, teacher internships, funded dual credit from appropriately, workplace learning and employer partnerships with schools
  • More funding and better governance for Workforce Connections services in Doña Ana County after years of underfunding, poor results and lack of leadership
  • Workforce development efforts specifically targeting talent development for industries identified for economic development here
  • Challenge the status quo of the state workforce system in light of historic underperformance with a restructuring plan to pave the way for better coordination and use of funds to help more newcomers mexicans who need help
  • All Hands New Mexico from NM Department of Workforce Solution! program to facilitate companies’ access to labor services
  • Career-focused learning that exponentially educates students about the high-paying, high-demand, and high-value career choices available statewide through the Pathway2Careers program
  • Thriving Families programs launched by the Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico to comprehensively help single-parent families access education and employment

As Success Partnership suggests, it takes many partners to build a successful prenatal-career continuum. To all our partners, funders, leaders, teachers, families and above all, students who have been part of this incredible success, thank you!

Tracey Bryan is President and CEO of Bridge of Southern New Mexico.

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