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THE BRIDGE OF SOUTHERN NEW MEXICO

Amid online learning, challenges can be overcome

Posted

It’s hard to believe it, but there will come a time when COVID is not ruling our lives. But right now, it’s stealing not just health and wellbeing, it’s stealing jobs, students’ learning, our sense of community and the freedom to move about unencumbered.

It’s also stealing hope and futures. What we thought would be something we dealt with for two weeks, then four more weeks, and then another month is now eight months in duration, with no clear end in sight. This feels like “normal” now. But it’s not.

And this version of “normal” is really hurting our kids, our families and our community.

We’re seeing student learning take a real hit across the board. A Spotlight report to the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee indicated that middle and high school students are failing their remote classes at far too high rates, and 20 percent of students hadn’t even been reachable by their schools.

The report projected that the challenges with remote learning could generate a 9 percent increase in the state’s dropout rates. We just can’t let that happen.

Long before COVID, we knew that the most effective strategy for student success was career development and job training. Why? Because it’s future-focused and helps contextualize learning in a practical, applicable way.  

What if we use this time to help students think about and explore prospective careers? What if we engage them in thinking about how they can be a part of building New Mexico’s future (and its economic recovery) by becoming a part of the incredible industries that drive our economy?

Interestingly, students are already gaining skills that will equip them for the seismic shifts in work that will last beyond COVID. Learning to navigate and succeed in remote learning will translate into the “soft” or employability skills they’ll need for remote work.

Those who are succeeding in remote instruction are mastering problem solving, critical thinking, self-direction and self-advocacy, and personal responsibility, alongside hard skills in digital literacy and use of technology.

If we can help them focus on the future and see the value in this season of remote learning, we can give them back a sense of hope and excitement about their future.

NewMexicoTrueTalent.org is perfectly positioned to be a resource for teachers and parents to help their students/kids dream about and explore their futures. They need to see what’s possible for them, because their prospects right here in our community are pretty amazing.

This one-stop website, available in both English and Spanish, has a section just for them called “Exploring Your Roadmap.” On that roadmap are free career exploration tools that help them evaluate their skills and interests and how they apply to future careers. There are videos about great careers here in our community in aerospace, defense and healthcare, among others. There are videos about how to make good choices about college and university relative to those careers to help them choose wisely.

We’ve also posted “Career Pathways” that show well-paying careers here and how to use education to get there, but also exactly what employers here are looking for in their future talent, from what are the essential skills they need to what trade, college, and university credentials they value. We’ve completed five of the eight industries listed there, with the other three on the way. And, there will be more to come.

Our job right now is to help our children and our families not lose their sense of hope and their belief in the possibilities that lie before them in the future. Please visit NewMexicoTrueTalent.org to get the information, and affirmation, that inspires us all to keep learning, growing, and believing for life beyond COVID.

Tracey Bryan is president/CEO of The Bridge of Southern New Mexico. She can be reached at TraceyBryan@thebridgeofsnm.org

Tracey Bryan