By Steve Hansen
The Staff of The News 

Vocational programs focus of Heinrich visit to CCC


Last updated 8/22/2023 at 2:33pm

Steve Hansen

Jim Mitchell, left, industrial technology instructor at Clovis Community College, talks about a wind-turbine generator's power generation mechanism with U.S. Sen Martin Heinrich.

Vocational programs – the kind that result in $60,000 to $80,000 in annual income – had the spotlight Monday when U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., visited Clovis Community College.

Heinrich also had a particular interest in nursing and allied health programs, having helped arrange for $1 million to be set aside in a general appropriations act to help fund expansion of the campus's Allied Health building.

After meeting Monday with Robin Jones, CCC's interim president, and leaders of vocational-technical and allied health programs in CCC's boardroom, Heinrich toured the Allied Health building, then the campus welding building and an industrial technology classroom.

In the meeting, Heinrich talked about a new emphasis on apprenticeship programs that place students immediately into in-demand skilled jobs and away from exclusive attention to academic programs that lead to college degrees.

Melissa Reed, division chair of occupational technology at CCC, talked about the popularity of vocational programs at CCC and waiting lists for entry into some allied health and welding programs. Cosmetology programs, she said, are also very popular..

Welding students, she said, often go directly to well-paid jobs in the Permian Basin oil fields near Hobbs.

Jones talked about losing one vocational training program to Eastern New Mexico University, Roswell, because instructors were not paid as well as those who do the job and could not be lured away.

She also spoke in praise of CCC's early college high school and dual enrollment programs that often result in students receiving associate degrees and vocational certifications along with high school diplomas.

Heinrich said training in programs related to heat pump heating and cooling systems should be considered, because more heat pumps are being installed than heating and air conditioning systems.

He said he was impressed with welding programs that allow the option of certification within six months but also offer advanced certification levels requiring two semesters of classroom work.

Heinrich, along with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., has introduced an Apprenticeship Pathways Act designed to "expand access to apprenticeship programs."

"This legislation particularly focuses on apprenticeship programs for occupations with high need, including the building trades, healthcare, manufacturing, technology, telecommunications, and early childhood education," according to a Heinrich news release.

The bill would also direct the U.S. Department of Education to establish a system of "intermediaries" to advise educators on workforce needs to identify skills that should be developed to meet current and future workforce needs.

"Education should not be one-size-fits-all," Heinrich said in the news release.

As he toured the campus, Heinrich showed particular interest in simulation areas in the Allied Health Building, in which human-looking anatomy models are programmed to show symptoms and respond to treatments.

In the welding building, instructor Sean Poindexter showed Heinrich where new instructional welding booths will be located and showed Heinrich a classroom that will feature a large viewing screen for visual instruction.

In the industrial-technical classroom, Jim Mitchell, who conducts industrial technology and wind energy programs, guided Heinrich around to see equipment, including a small simulation of the power generating apparatus for wind turbine generator, used for hands-on training in electrical and other trades.

Heinrich was scheduled to remain in the Clovis area on Tuesday, with stops at the groundbreaking for construction of a finished water pipe from a treatment plant that has not yet begun construction to Cannon Air Force Base.

The pipeline is part of the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority's $700 million Ute Reservoir Pipeline project, which is designed to deliver water from Ute lake in Logan to Clovis.

Last year, the project was a beneficiary of a $5 billion set-aside for western states water projects in the federal infrastructure law, and Heinrich said in a news release he has helped to secure more than $300 million in federal funds for the Ute Reservoir Project.

Following the groundbreaking, Heinrich was scheduled to visit Cannon Air Force Base, where he was planning to preside over a "listening session" with U.S. Air Force ranking officials, the Special Operations Command of which Cannon is a part, and other federal, state and local officials.

Heinrich said Monday he hoped that the Tuesday meeting at Cannon would help secure new missions for the base and reinforce Cannon's prominence in Air Force operations, emphasizing the key roles of its location and the Melrose Air Force Range.

The Melrose range, he said, is unique because it is next to the base. Similar training ranges, he said, are located much further from the bases they serve.

Heinrich also said he helped engineer $600 million in new facilities at Cannon in recent years.

Within the next five years, up to 350 Cannon personnel and seven MC 130 J armed cargo aircraft are expected to transfer to Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz.


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