Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell must work to shape its future for the next five years as the need for local business growth remains crucial and competition for students in the state grows fierce, not just from other schools but from companies in the oil industry looking for workers.
To devise its strategic plan, the university’s president is looking to the community for input.
Some of the identified priorities for the university, according Dr. Shawn Powell, are enrollment growth, additional funding, technology acquisition and upgrades, and facility and infrastructure maintenance and improvement, including a critical need to replace the electrical backbone of the campus put in decades ago when the property belonged to the Walker Air Base.
When it comes to current and future academic program needs, which influence enrollment strategies and results, the university is turning to community members for their ideas.
The university now has 37 programs of study—ranging from fundamental arts and sciences to very career-specific training such as commercial driver’s license instruction—and 175 members of these program’s advisory boards gathered on campus Thursday night to discuss education and the job market.
Powell said that the purpose of the evening was “to get a lot of information from our advisory board members to help us guide our programming for the future and to also tell us what their needs are so we can help meet the needs of our community and region.”
The advisory board members were asked to discuss five topics concerning needed career preparation, industry trends, perceptions about the university and its mission, and how the university and the people attending can collaborate.
Vickie Thomas, director of the Center for Workforce and Community Development, a non-credit educational division of the university, says that one of the center’s aims is to help businesses train their existing employees and that she expected the ideas discussed to help identify what skills are needed in the local market.
“We need to make sure that we are listening to the employers and giving them employees that are exactly what they need,” said Thomas. “It is not up to us to give them what we want. We have to stay within educational standards, but we still need to meet employers’ needs.”
On Jan. 10, another planning session will occur on campus with members of the Roswell Chamber of Commerce and the Hispano Chamber of Commerce. Ongoing meetings with various student, staff and faculty groups also are part of the process that began in October and will culminate with a published plan in July.
A sampling of conversations among the 20 or so tables Thursday found advisory board members talking about a wide range of topics, from basic needs for employees to areas of potential job growth.
A couple of people talked about the need to teach not only skills but also basic workplace decorum and good work habits. One man said he thought apprenticeships or internships should be required parts of academic programs because some graduates show up at work without any real understanding of the work or whether they will enjoy it.
Another man said area high schools are graduating people who don’t have basic reading, writing and math skills. He also said students should be encouraged to pursue their passions, whether that involves college or not. Otherwise, he said, people pursue degrees and income and can enter a medical or mental health field, for example, without feeling compassion for people or having an authentic interest in health and wellness.
Another woman said that local students needed to appreciate the strength of ENMU-R training and degrees so that they did not think that success could come only if they attend an elite university. A graduate of an ENMU-R Airframe and Powerplant license program said he found that he could have used additional training after beginning his career because the academic program could not cover all areas required for the job.
One participant said a real market need is for independent licensed behavioral health clinicians, while identified future industry trends for the area included drone piloting and design and engineering, and genetics and medical-related 3-D printing.
The information provided at the planning session will be posted on the university’s website for participants to view and will be incorporated into goals and objectives in the strategic plan, said Dr. Ken Maguire, vice president of academic affairs.
“This was the first time that we have done this type of planning session,” he said. “We want it to be an annual event, something we would hold each spring. We think this went well. We invited all members of our advisory boards and at least one member from each board showed up.”
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at email@example.com.