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New Mexico State University

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NMSU awarded workforce development contract from the state

The Human Services Department Income Support Division of New Mexico awarded New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service a contract to provide New Mexico Works Programs in the Valencia, Sandoval, Torrance and Bernalillo counties.

"We decided to go with NMSU because the university has been a proven New Mexico Works Program provider for several years," said Cathy Sisneros, bureau chief of the state's Work and Family Support Bureau.

Designed to help families reach a higher level of economic independence, the New Mexico Works Program (NM Works) offers job skills assessment, education and training to participants of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

According to Sisneros, there are more than 16,389 New Mexico families receiving TANF benefits, and of those families there are 7,917 participants or individuals who have to meet a work activity requirement. NM Works helps participants fulfill that requirement.

An NM Works provider for about eight years, NMSU has been helping families in the southern region reach financial goals.

"New Mexico Works in the southern region has been successful in part because of the leadership we've had and because we've had strong outreach and educational philosophies," said Paul Gutierrez, vice provost for outreach services at NMSU.

Gutierrez said program specialists make every effort to meet clients in a comfortable location, whether it's at the client's home or a coffee shop around the corner.

"Once we connect with the client, we really strive to stay with them," he said. "They are going to have their ups and downs, so we really work hard to keep them motivated and on track with their case."

Education is also an important topic of discussion for NM Works specialists.

"We provide services, but if we are going to help them achieve a higher level of social economic achievement, then they need skills and knowledge. Many of our clients have gone on to college," Gutierrez said.

In 2005, more than 2,100 jobs were filled through NM Works.

Corrie Stone, a single mother who after 10 years in a blue-collar job knew she wanted more out of life, is a recipient of the services NM Works provides.

"I honestly believe that I never could have attained my bachelor's degree without the support and friendship of everyone that helped me in the New Mexico Works office," she said.

Stone, who earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from NMSU, now works at the Dona Ana County Information Technology Department.

With the addition of the biggest TANF region in the state, NMSU NM Works now serves 5,200 participants or individuals.
For more information on the NMSU NM Works Program, go to http://nmworksprograms.com.

Jeany Llorente-Ontiveros
Oct. 6, 2006