Santa Fe Community College and Los Alamos National Laboratory announced last week a new collaboration to revamp the college’s machinist program.
With the campus providing the latest equipment and curriculum and the lab offering hands-on internships, community college President Becky Rowley said she hopes the first group of students can begin working toward a certificate or associate’s degree in the overhauled program this fall.
The announcement of the initiative comes as the campus is closed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Director Thomas Mason said LANL is investing $400,000 in equipment and paid internships to help support the machine engineering technologies program for five years. Starting salary for a machinist at the lab is around $60,000 per year, with growth potential, and students who are hired at the lab after completion of the program will be reimbursed for tuition, fees and books, Mason said.
“Chances are good that students will be hired at the laboratory when they’ve completed the program,” Mason said. “Although, I think there will be employment opportunities throughout the region given the demand for this skill set.”
Rowley said the partnership will make the community college’s engineering tech program “much more modern and up-to-date.”
“We’ll be able to train students in the latest skills in a way we can’t right now,” she said.
Students accepted into the degree program will attend classes Monday through Thursday and have an opportunity to participate in an internship at the lab on Fridays and during the summer. The internship will pay around $15 an hour, lab spokeswoman Tricia Ware said.
In a news release, Santa Fe Community College staff said designing the curriculum for an associate degree in machining engineering technologies was a joint effort between college faculty and lab staff.
“This is a hands-on STEM program,” community college Associate Dean Colleen Lynch said. “It would be a good fit for students who like to solve practical problems, can read plans and diagrams, are good at visualizing in 3D and are both creative and precise. It requires students who are ready for intermediate or college algebra, who like using tools and computers, and who like to understand how things work.”
Rowley said the college will begin recruiting high school students for the program, which is aimed at broadening local job opportunities for young people in Northern New Mexico.
“When we think of how we grow jobs in New Mexico, we need to think about creating a full spectrum of opportunities that will allow all New Mexicans to earn a good wage, raise their family and prosper here in our state,” U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján said during a video conference announcing the initiative.
“This is exactly what New Mexico needs more of — a program that will provide not only specialized skills but connects those students with a local employer,” he added.