U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich was in southeastern New Mexico Friday on what his office called an innovation, technology and job creation tour.
Heinrich addressed about 175 students at the Roswell Job Corps Friday afternoon and later spoke with students at the International Law Enforcement Academy-Roswell.
Heinrich, of Albuquerque, began his tour Friday morning at the Southwestern Native Aquatic Resources and Recovery Center in Dexter to meet with staff and discuss the center's ongoing projects and research to protect endangered species in New Mexico.
The freshman Democrat senator elected in 2012 then went to Haley Farms in Roswell to discuss renewable energy programs. Haley Farms uses a solar photovoltaic system to operate a 260-acre pecan farm.
Heinrich, the only engineer in the U.S. Senate and its third youngest member at 42 years old, told the automotive repair, construction trades, culinary arts, electrician, facilities maintenance, health care, painting and protective services students at Job Corps their educations must never end in a competitive, global marketplace.
"So when you finish, whether it's Job Corps or any other program, it's not the end, it's really just the beginning." Heinrich said. "I think that's a shift in thinking in this country."
Job Corps is a no-cost education, career and technical training program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor that provides job training for students ages 16 through 24, located on 24 acres at the former Walker Air Force Base at the southern end of Roswell.
"My background is quite a bit different than the people I work with," said Heinrich, who obtained a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Missouri in 1995.
Heinrich said education, research and development, and investments in infrastructure are keys to economic growth.
"I would say never underestimate New Mexico," Heinrich said. "We're talking about a population that can do a lot with a little."
Matthew Cashman, 18, of Albuquerque, told the Daily Record after Heinrich's speech and question-and-answer session that his six months at Job Corps have given him a opportunity to remake his life.
"Honestly, I think of it as a second chance for me because honestly, back in school, I wasn't doing too well," Cashman said. "I want to have a future for myself. I appreciate what Job Corps did for me because it gave me that edge to succeed."
Heinrich told the newspaper the real-world job training the students are receiving at Job Corps would be good for the nation's economy.
"I met some great students," he said. "I think the kind of focus they have on skills-based training is really important. We're realizing that more and more all the time."
Heinrich then traveled the short distance to ILEA-Roswell, where he addressed about 40 delegates, otherwise students, from Bulgaria, Kosovo and Macedonia.
Heinrich explained the constitutional framework of United States government and his role in it before representatives from each Balkan delegation presented the senator a gift.
The representative of the Kosovo delegation said the academy has very experienced professors and its staff has shown great hospitality during her four-week training experience in Roswell.
"And the weather is just great," she said.
The Roswell academy has trained more than 4,000 delegates from 99 countries, speaking 29 different languages. The training area resembles the United Nations, with several interpreters translating speech between instructors and students from behind a glass-windowed room.
Heinrich, a member of the Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence, said exciting work is being done at ILEA-Roswell and the Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia.
"Roswell and southeast New Mexico as a whole…is a world leader in law enforcement in many ways," he said. "I want to be part of telling that story and figuring out how we can continue to grow that leadership in southeastern New Mexico. I learned a lot of new information. What's going on here at ILEA has security ramifications for everything that I see on the Intel Committee. Building those relationships…that's often our biggest challenge is getting people to cooperate on the security front. And it's happening each and every day in Roswell, which I think is a great story."
Heinrich is scheduled to host a roundtable discussion in Albuquerque today on raising the federal minimum wage, followed by a tour of the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Core Facility in Albuquerque.
"These sorts of interactions are, I find, where I learn the most and where we can find ways to partner with the local community," Heinrich said. "In challenging times, especially in challenging fiscal times, I think those partnerships are often things that bears the most fruit."