WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) announced a funding award of $1.6 million to the University of New Mexico to train STEM workers for jobs specializing in the development of microsystems. The money will go to UNM's Southwest Center for Microsystems Education (SCME) program, which provides materials, models, and professional development activities for microsystem technicians to develop a workforce that is prepared for research and development and industry manufacturing positions in this growing field.
SCME is designed to give students and educators in the field of microsystems — technology that is becoming more and more prevalent in daily life, found in wearable sensors, gaming consoles, sporting gear, smart phones, medical devices, and autonomous vehicles — the opportunity to hone their skills and qualify for the industry manufacturing jobs in science labs. This funding will help SCME transition into a Support Center from which they will work with community colleges, professional organizations, and tech programs in New Mexico and across the nation to incorporate microsystems educational materials into standardized job training and educational systems across several STEM fields.
"The University of New Mexico has been working hard to prepare New Mexicans for jobs in STEM, and SCME has played an important role in training workers and students in the field of microsystems," said Udall. "Each time a new technology takes off, we see a jobs and skills gap open. It is critical that we have a workforce prepared to fill these gaps and take advantage of these emerging markets to keep New Mexico's thriving STEM field as competitive as possible. This funding will strengthen the pipeline from New Mexico universities, community colleges, and organizations to the labs and tech companies to ensure that New Mexico's students and STEM workers are highly qualified for these jobs within this new and growing industry, especially as Sandia and Los Alamos national labs prepare to fill over 5,000 job vacancies. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I'll continue fighting for resources to strengthen education programs that prepare our students and workers to compete in the global economy and help develop our state's next generation of leaders."
“This funding will prepare New Mexico students and workers to compete for the STEM jobs of the future,” said Heinrich. “We owe it to our children and our economy to make smart investments in STEM education and target areas where we have the potential to create jobs and major new industries. By preparing our students and retraining our labor force for a lucrative high-tech job market, we can build pathways toward a more diverse future generation of innovators and entrepreneurs and create a prosperous future for our state.”
“We need to leverage every resource that’s available to train New Mexicans and create STEM jobs in the state,” Lujan Grisham said. “I love the fact that this grant money will help build a workforce for an emerging technology, while also providing support to community colleges, professional organizations and tech programs across the state. New Mexico has the potential to lead the nation in STEM-related job growth, and this program is an important step in that direction.”
“This important award from the NSF’s Division of Undergraduate Education will greatly enhance UNM's ability to educate technician and under-graduates to participate in New Mexico’s emerging high-technology manufacturing sector and thus has significant potential for economic impact in our state,” said Gabriel Lopez, vice president for research and economic development at UNM. “Principal Investigator, Dr. Matthias Pleil, and his team have a superb track record and have assembled an excellent set of partners to execute the project's mission. Through its online programs, SCME will also have a national scope and impact, thus significantly leveraging UNM’s educational mission to make it an educational leader in the area of microsystems manufacturing.”
The grant has been awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE), Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program which focuses on technician education. The award will fund SCME's Support Center for four years.