Grant To Help Las Cruces Increase Graduation Rates

Grant To Help Las Cruces Increase Graduation Rates

POSTED: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 - 9:30pm

UPDATED: Thursday, January 5, 2012 - 9:01am

LAS CRUCES, NM- A new grant for students in New Mexico is aiming to bridge the gap between students, potential workers and businesses.

New Mexico is currently rated 48th in the nation with the highest high school dropout rates, and that makes it hard for employers to find qualified workers.

It's been 4 years in the making, and now The Bridge of Southern New Mexico is receiving its first large grant of $345,090.

The non-profit's President Tracy Bryan says their goal is simple.

"It's people being together, around a common vision which is, you know high school graduates and a strong workforce. Well trained. Well prepared,” said Bryan.

With alarming dropout rates in New Mexico, some students have a hard time finding a job, but at the same time Bryan says the dropout rate is not helping to lure in new businesses.

"Business was really struggling to grow because there were one and every two kids dropping out of school. Well, when you've got half your kids dropping out, it limits your ability to have a strong workforce. They are under trained. They are under prepared,” said Bryan.

Hanna Skandera of The New Mexico Public Education Department says it's the state's goal to prepare students for the workforce.

"We want to see our kids ready for college or career, and not just reassuring based on finishing high school, but they truly being successful in college or career,” said Skandera.

Kari Mitchell, Vice-President of The Bridge of Southern New Mexico is also a business owner. She says in the past, it was hard to keep a qualified staff.

"We started this conversation pre-recessive times when we were all really scrapping kind of the bottom of the barrel for workers. It became very evident when we were losing almost 50 percent of our potential workers,” said Mitchell.

However, since the recession hit, she says despite a higher number of applicants and unemployment numbers, the quality of job seekers has not increased.

"The market shifted in terms of you see more applicants, but we've not necessarily seen advancement in the skill and capability of those applicants. So, it's still, you know finding the right mixture of skill and work ethics is still a challenge every business owner faces,” said Mitchell.

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