UNM-Los Alamos (UNM-LA), UNM School of Engineering and the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) recently celebrated the creation of a program in mechanical engineering to meet local workforce needs.
UNM-LA hosted an event Monday, June 7 to recognize the partnership. The collaboration will expand the existing two-year pre-engineering program to a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (BSME) program on the UNM-LA campus.
UNM–LA Chancellor Cynthia Rooney said while many area students were succeeding in the university’s two-year, pre-engineering program, few could overcome the logistical demands of work-life balance and a lengthy commute to complete a four-year degree at the main campus in Albuquerque. LANL Director Thom Mason corroborated that a four-year program at UNM–Los Alamos could be beneficial to Laboratory employees seeking to upgrade their skills while working full time.
“Partnerships like this are essential to providing possibilities for our current workforce and for preparing the workforce of the future,” Mason said. “I thank the University of New Mexico and UNM-Los Alamos for recognizing the need to train new mechanical engineers for high-paying jobs that are in demand at the Laboratory and nationwide.”
Mason said there is high demand for skilled engineers in the face of a changing workforce and the adoption of new initiatives in support of the national security mission. The new technological and scientific landscape will present great opportunities for those hoping to work on the front lines of developing new innovative solutions to the world’s most challenging problems. In recent years, the role of engineers in research and development and other areas at LANL has expanded.
“This collaboration is a genuine community effort, spotlighting so many of the foundational values of the University of New Mexico," said UNM President Garnett Stokes. "We’re giving students an amazing educational experience and paving the way for a great career. We’re working as an entire university system to support, and play off of, the strengths and expertise of our main and branch campuses. And we’re creating a pipeline of qualified graduates to meet the needs of a regional employer – who just happens to be one of the most innovative laboratories in the world. This is a local collaborative that can truly change the world.”
A pilot program began last year, and even with the challenges of the pandemic, during the Spring 2021 semester, a total of forty LANL employees were enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering program:
- 15 in the pre-engineering program through UNM-LA
- 25 in the Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering program taking upper-division courses.
“This program serves as a model for innovation and cooperation – where UNM-LA, a branch campus-community college, works with the School of Engineering on the UNM-Albuquerque campus to serve as partners with LANL to provide the academic preparation needed in the local workforce,” Rooney said.