RRPS program helps manage mixed workforce in the construction industry

I think there’s been a need for (mixed construction jobs) for a long time – Larry Davis, Director of Vocational Technical Education at Rio Rancho Public Schools

While combing through recent state labor statistics, Larry Davis acknowledged that mixed-sex construction jobs are in high demand due to the diverse occupations that fall under this field.

This includes timber framing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning work, contamination control construction, carpentry and electrical work, the latter two being the most needed.

That’s why Davis, Director of Vocational Technical Education at Rio Rancho Public Schools, helped create a program which gives high school students in the Rio Rancho area a direct path to the job market. Students can get the training needed to work directly in mixed construction, especially if they are unsure whether to go to college.

“I think there has been a need for (mixed construction works) for a long time. The pandemic may have suppressed that a bit. Now everyone is getting out to some extent, and progress is moving again. Progress starts with the ability to build infrastructure and facilities, etc. said Davis, adding that industry capacity is not keeping up with demand.

The program schedule is flexible. A student who wants to become an electrician, for example, can enroll in Central New Mexico Community College’s electrician training program and work with RRPS union partners for apprenticeship opportunities.

“We want to position them to be on the front line no matter what direction they pursue, whether it’s graduate school or a career,” Davis said.

According to May 2021 data from the United States Bureau of Labor, the average annual salary for an electrician in the Albuquerque metro area is $52,810. For carpenters, the average annual salary is $45,990. Average annual salaries for construction workers, operations engineers, and building inspectors are $35,110, $46,080, and $38,980, respectively.

By Data from New Mexico Workforce Connection, the number of construction workers in the state increased only about 6.8%, from 47,100 in February 2021 to 50,300 in February 2022. This data includes seasonal adjustments. Without seasonal adjustments, the number increased by 7.8%, from 46,300 to 49,900 during the same period.

While a student may opt for a particular line of work, Davis said the program also conducts prescriptive internships in conjunction with working professionals so students gain specific expertise in a profession.

Even if a student’s background doesn’t exactly match a job description, the program is designed to address a healthy sample of an area to give that student options. It will also show potential employers that the student has taken the initiative to get certifications to get started, Davis said.

For more information about the program, visit cte.rrps.net/o/cte.

“We want to keep our best and brightest kids here in Rio Rancho because they are the ones who will benefit the community as a whole,” he said. “We want to make sure they see the opportunity that’s there to benefit this community.”

Michael A. Bynum