San Juan County teamed up with New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions for an employment event May 4 to help employers and job seekers connect. The second annual event, held at McGee Park Convention Center, drew about 90 employers and was well attended.
Workforce Solutions and government officials who attended the event were optimistic about the area’s economic outlook and the availability of jobs in diverse industries and professions.
Katelyn Atkley, a counselor with New Mexico division of Vocational Rehabilitation, said, “Everything has been kind of dormant because of the pandemic … people are really excited to be here.” She said the event was for those whose careers have not panned out as expected or who want to change careers or seek more training.
Atkley said that there is “absolutely” plenty of opportunity for employment in the area given the 90 potential employers who were in attendance.
Workforce Solutions helps adults and youths find employment, acquire training, retrain or continue their education.
Ericka Van Eckhoutte, one-stop operator for Workforce Solutions, said her job title represented her role as collaborator and coordinator who connects clients with the proper agencies who can best help them.
Job seekers face multiple challenges when job hunting and acquiring training, and Eckhoutte said Workforce Solutions is geared toward meeting as many needs as possible.
“I need a job and I need child care, or I need a job and education, or a job and supportive services,” Eckhoutte said when giving examples of challenges faced by many job seekers.
Eckhoutte, based in Taos, said her district serves 10 counties in northern New Mexico. “There’s just a ton of opportunities … we have new businesses constantly opening up, expanding and creating new roles,” she said.
Eckhoutte said there were layoffs in the area that affected many people, alluding to the closure of the San Juan Generating Station, but many local entities were actively hiring such as San Juan County, San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, Farmington Police Department, Gallup Police Department, the FBI and military branches.
The event was organized by Tracee Loughran, business consultant for Workforce Solutions, who said businesses were very cooperative and excited about the event.
San Juan College, Bloomfield and Farmington Municipal Schools, Central Consolidated School District, Shiprock Associated Schools, Navajo Prep and Dine College were all looking to fill vacancies.
“There are over 1,000 positions available in this building right now,” Eckhoutte said. She added that there is Title 1 funding available to help those struggling with learning or those who want to get into the education profession. The need for more teachers in New Mexico is significant. For example, Bloomfield Municipal Schools has 44 positions open, as listed on their website.
Jonathan Berhose, recruiter for San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, said the office has about 15 open positions. “We’ve adapted a lot to the changing needs of applicants to get the hiring process a little shorter,” he said.
“A lot of things we do internally, so you’ll have results the day of,” Berhose said about the written and physical testing. He said it takes about two to three months to hire someone, but they are expediting however possible. Some coaching is offered to help applicants who struggle in certain areas, he said.
Berhose, who has been with the Sheriff’s Office for about four years, said the command structure, communication and open-door policy is superior and he would not work for another law enforcement agency. He added that the department offers great support for the overall well-being of first responders.
Airman First Class Enriquez Paez, who was helping with recruiting, said most jobs in the Air Force translate well to civilian life. Jessy Lee, a new Air Force recruit, said that once a person joins, he or she can be financially stable because rent and health insurance are fully covered.
Lee will soon head to Colorado Springs for basic training. He plans to eventually work in intelligence work, possibly with the FBI or other federal agencies.
Matt Wright, FBI recruiter from Albuquerque, said they are hiring in Albuquerque. The basic requirements are a four-year college degree in any field and at least two years of professional work experience. Applicants must be at least 23 years old and must apply before age 36, unless the applicant has veteran’s preference or federal law enforcement experience.
Aztec Ruins National Mountain park ranger Norleen Poyer Begay said two ranger positions are open at the Chaco Canyon National Park Service location.
Shonto Greyeyes, placement coordinator with Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps in Albuquerque, said there are currently 13 open positions with the company. Interested applicants should visit their website to get started.
Greyeyes said the application process is easy and the basic requirements are that applicants must be a minimum of 18 years old and have a GED or high school diploma. “We’ll feed you, clothe you and train you,” he said.
He said there are openings at Mesa Verde in the Traditional Trade Anthropology Program, as well as an open position for an interpretive ranger position, with housing provided at Valle Caldera, and an open intern position at BLM Rio Puerco to develop fuel a wood usage program.
Employers also sought general and skilled laborers and professionals.
American Equipment Manufacturing had open positions for welders, warehouse workers, accountants and human relations support.
Tim Conyers, personnel supervisor for the city of Farmington, said the city had 58 open positions with the parks and recreation department, electric utility and police and fire. “We get more every day,” Conyers said.
He said hiring prospects have improved and the city is “getting more applications than they had been … so we’re happy for that.”
Jonas Harrison, route manager for Waste Management, said that there will soon be an opening for a Class B CDL driver. He added that WM job listings typically post on Indeed and other recruiting sites, as well as on the Waste Management site.
“Nationwide, there’s tons of opportunities with WM,” Harrison said. He said there were openings for front-line workers and engineers, as well as positions in recycling and natural gas.
Evan Noel, with Noel’s Inc., said they have multiple open positions in sales and warehouse, and for mechanics, in both their Bloomfield and Farmington stores. Noel said he is looking to fill four to eight positions.
“If there’s a recession, I haven’t seen it yet,” Noel said.
Job seekers attended the event in search of better opportunities, benefits and career planning.
Brian Cornelius, who is employed at Animas Valley Mall, said he was looking for better opportunities and improved benefits. He said he would like more stimulating work and attend the event to see what the job fair had to offer.
Aiyana Joe, a graduating senior from Kirtland, said she was working on her pathway and wants to pursue a career in law enforcement. She planned to talk with the various agencies at the event.
Jeff Jordan of Farmington said he has been looking for work for about a month. He attended the event in hopes of on-the-spot interviews for an administrative position, but expressed disappointment he had not been able to interview that day.
Sebastian Lee, who works as a personal care attendant, stopped by the event to learn more about additional work opportunities should his current position not work out long-term.
Those who are actively seeking employment may contact New Mexico Workforce Connection at (505) 566-4268 or www.jobs.state.nm.us.