To explore the expanded training and higher education options available to them, impacted mine employees and contractors flocked to the community’s first drive-thru training expo hosted by Western New Mexico University and Freeport-McMoRan on Wednesday afternoon.
The WNMU Fine Arts Center Theatre parking lot was packed, as dozens visited campus to receive personal consultations about WNMU programs and get help applying for Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act tuition assistance and Trade Adjustment Assistance funding.
Initial numbers indicate that Drive Thru Training Expo attendees were most interested in welding and electrical technology as well as law enforcement programs. Some workers expressed interest in WNMU graduate degrees, and others had already enrolled in courses on campus.
The Drive Thru Training Expo is a culmination of months of collaboration with partners all focused on providing resources for employees who have been impacted during the past months, said Laura Phelps, who is Strategic Community Development Manager for Freeport-McMoRan New Mexico Operations. “It’s clear, the pandemic hasn’t changed our community’s willingness to rally and support each other. If anything, it’s strengthened our resolve. The expo exemplifies how innovation and partnership can overcome barriers and get resources where they are needed most,” she said.
For attendees, WNMU waived application fees and offered an expedited admissions process. University staff members also provided one-on-one career services, shared leadership development resources, and conducted academic advisement, even setting future appointments with those needing more in-depth information.
Mustang mascot Rawhide gave activity books to children in the cars, while the Associated Students of WNMU provided snow cones and popcorn for attending workers and their families.
On-site Trade Adjustment Assistance and Workforce Connection representatives counseled attendees, many of whom turned out specifically to complete their applications for tuition assistance.
“We were pleased to see this partnership result in such success,” said James Ortiz, Director of Community and Workforce Development at WNMU. “Western New Mexico University is humbled to be able to assist community members in enhancing their training and advancing their educations.”