Southern New Mexico Pre-Engineering Task Force seeks pathways

By Elizabeth Myers

The recently formed Southern New Mexico Pre-Engineering Task Force aims to create pathways linking three organizations to help high school students prepare for a future in engineering and technology.

The task force consists of representatives from New Mexico State University, Las Cruces Public Schools (LCPS), Doña Ana Community College (DACC) and other community organizations.

The task force is seeking to refine existing agreements and develop new pathways for students through dual-credit options, advanced placement and Project Lead the Way classes to meet the future demands of a high-tech work force necessary for economic development in southern New Mexico. Additional partners will be brought in over time to help the build the number of students going into engineering and engineering technology in southern New Mexico.

“The goal of the task force is to increase the number of students who will choose to study math, science and engineering after high school,” said Dean of Engineering Steven Castillo.

“We would like to produce more graduates in these disciplines, which are in high demand,” Castillo said. “We hope to accomplish this through creating efficient and easy pathways for students to pass through into higher education. We also want to build awareness of opportunities available to students in these disciplines.”

Jennifer Amis is a member of the task force and director of Secondary and Career and Technical Education for LCPS.

“The goal of LCPS is to support college and career readiness for all students,” Amis said. “This means providing rigorous academic and career and technical preparation so that students can enter post-secondary education without remediation and/or immediately enter the competitive work force. The task force is planning pathways that not only lead to the College of Engineering and other high-tech degree programs, but also may culminate in industry certifications at the high school level and associate programs at the community college. The task force provides us direction regarding work force needs and assists us in maintaining a curriculum that reflects industry expectations.”

Amis cited data from Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a nonprofit corporation that works with schools nationally to implement pre-engineering programs.  PLTW reports that in 2003 there were 1.3 million engineering and engineering technology jobs without trained people to fill them. By 2020, the engineering and technology fields will need 15 million workers.

Jerry Welch, dean of Technical and Industrial Studies at DACC, is another member of the task force.

“I think the biggest thing we want to do is to provide a career path for students who are interested in a technology career and strengthen their knowledge and their interest in the sciences, technology and mathematics,” Welch said. “The task force helps DACC by helping us meet the needs of the community; both the students who will be participating and the employers who need graduates.”

Castillo said the task force would like to expand to include other school districts such as Gadsden and Hatch.

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