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New Mexico State University

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NMSU's New Mexico Works provides vocational training to clients

ALBUQUERQUE - "It's Monday. Everyone works on Monday." This quote from the movie "Dave" is not necessarily true for all people.



NMSU's Extension nutrition educator Natalie Castillo, left, watches as New Mexico Works clients Aarica Tyler, center, and Joseph Baca put the finishing touches on the creamy green chile soup. The Ideas for Cooking Nutritional class was part of a vocational training given in Albuquerque by New Mexico State University's New Mexico Works Central Region program. (NMSU Photo by Jane Moorman)

While New Mexico's unemployment rate is ranked sixth in the nation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with a state historic 3.1 percent of the labor force not working in October, there are still those who are not headed to work on Monday morning.

To help the participants of the New Mexico Works program acquire employment skills needed for financial advancement and self sufficiency, the program administered by New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service is designed to work with the individuals by assessing their current situation and then identifying community partners that can assist clients in being successful in obtaining and retaining employment.

"We are assisting individuals to get back to a level of basic self-sufficiency," said Katrina Vigil, assistant director of New Mexico Work's central region.

"There are various components to assist our clients to reach that level including vocational training, life skills training, work experience and community service. The time frame varies for each of the components," Vigil said.

The Central Region office wrapped up 2007 with a three-week vocational training where 25 clients participated in training 35-hours per week. The training was organized by Juan Chavez, New Mexico Work's central region liaison for training development, and New Mexico Works central region assistant directors Vigil, Tracy Sampson and Mannie Gaiter.

"The training involved components of successful employment," Chavez said. "They learned basic computer and office skills, and about workplace safety including CPR, domestic violence and nutrition, plus received motivational encouragement. We also did a component in career exploration," he said.

Each participant said the training was beneficial and gave them information they had not known before.

"This class has taught me a lot of new information that you need in the working world now a days, as well as refreshed me in a few skills that I have forgotten," said participant Kristi Alcorn. "I also really liked the teachers and it is also a great way to make new friends."

Community partners for the program included Natalie Castillo, Bernalillo County Extension nutrition educator, who taught a segment in Ideas for Cooking Nutritionally. She demonstrated healthy cooking by preparing several recipes for the participants to taste.

After eating a creamy green chile stew that contained zucchini and broccoli, participant Aarica Tyler said she normally doesn't like either vegetable but she found she liked the flavor when they were combined in the stew.

NMSU staff partnered with Central New Mexico Community College, which taught the computer skills training and safety including First Aid and CPR. The New Mexico State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation LINCS program provided employment skills training along with a motivational component.

"This training is good because it really has an affect on the peoples' lives," said Lou Cimalore, Middle Regional Council of Government consultant and Temporary Assistance for the Needy Family (TANF) manager for New Mexico Works. "It's also good that the various educational groups come together for the program because we all are serving the same clients."

As the clients participate in the program they know that someday they to will be able to say "It's Monday. Everyone works on Monday" because of the services they have received from New Mexico Works. Of the 25 who began the three-week training, three found jobs during the program and two decided to attend Central New Mexico Community College in the spring semester.

New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service administers the program to 4,000 mandatory TANF clients in the southwest, central and northern region of the state. For more information about New Mexico Works visit the website at http://cahe.nmsu.edu/ces/nmworks.