Good jobs for New Mexico's workforce

February 27, 2015
By Steve Shepelwich, Senior Community Development Advisor

Mark your calendar for Raise the Floor, Build the Ladder: Good Jobs for New Mexico’s Workforce, a statewide summit to explore program, policy and funding supports for low-wage workers and employers. The summit, April 28 in Albuquerque, N.M., will be presented by the New Mexico Direct Caregivers Coalition in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and the Con Alma Health Foundation.

A good job has long been the foundation for both financial stability and economic mobility. However, labor markets have changed in the years after the recession and continue to evolve. Job growth has occurred in lower-wage occupations, reducing demand for middle-skill jobs. The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that of the 30 occupations expected to have the largest growth in the next decade, 23 will require only a high school diploma or less.

In addition to lower wages, these jobs—in industries such as home healthcare, retail sales, food preparation and service—often have irregular hours, limited benefits and limited opportunities for advancement. These factors greatly affect a worker’s opportunities for financial stability and economic mobility.

The New Mexico Direct Caregivers Coalition, like many organizations, is trying to address these issues on a number of fronts. In the past year, the coalition has worked with employers and industry support organizations to define potential career ladders for home health workers as well as provide educational supports and opportunities for its members. In addition, the coalition has started an employer roundtable to discuss ways that jobs can be improved to increase outcomes for employers and workers.

“There are a number of employers we are learning about in New Mexico that are finding ways to invest in their staff,” said Adrienne R. Smith, president and CEO of the coalition. “Given caregivers’ current low average wage of $9.50 per hour, employers are demonstrating that they value their workforce through education, additional training and other workplace supports.”

Through this work, the coalition has built relationships with organizations in New Mexico that share similar interests in other sectors. The April summit will explore strategies that can make a difference for lower-wage workers and employers beyond the health sector. While the summit will focus on developing specific outcomes for New Mexico, it should be of interest to all employers, workforce and economic development professionals and philanthropists engaged in these issues. 

The agenda includes presentations by national leaders and state-level discussions about local opportunities. Maureen Conway, executive director of The Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program, will describe new policies and practices in this emerging field, drawing on her paper “Build Ladders and Raise the Floor: Workforce Strategies Supporting Mobility and Stability for Low-Income Workers.” Fred Dedrick, executive director of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, will discuss the experiences of local coalitions that have implemented these types of strategies with employers and communities.

For more information about the summit, please visit New Mexico Direct Caregivers Coalition or the online registration page.