The University of New Mexico-Gallup recently hosted the inaugural Workforce Development Summit to improve the economy and the workforce landscape of the region. The first panel discussion of the Summit offered attendees the opportunity to interact with representatives from New Mexico Workforce Solutions, the Zuni Education and Career Development Center and the Economic Development Division of the Navajo Nation.

Keynote speaker Brigette Russell, director at the GEAR UP New Mexico program, represented Jose Garcia, New Mexico Higher Education Department cabinet secretary at the event. Russell noted that education is the most important aspect of workforce development as many incoming and existing businesses are forced to recruit out-of-state because of a limited supply of qualified workers.

The first day of the summit concluded with a panel discussion on challenges to employment, including transportation issues, immigrant workers, incarceration, literacy and addiction.  Breakout sessions were then held on each of these issues, and were led by specialists in each of the challenge areas. The keynote speaker was Brigette Russell, director at the GEAR UP New Mexico program.

The second day opened with welcoming remarks by Jackie McKinney, mayor of Gallup, Ben Shelly, Navajo Nation president, and Arlen Quetawki Sr., governor of Zuni Pueblo. Additionally, the keynote speaker was Ian Record, director, Rebuilding Native Nations course series Native Nations for Leadership, Management and Policy. 

The summit concluded with a series of breakout sessions regarding future employment opportunities and challenges in the region.  Topics included aligning educational institutions to meet workforce challenges, local employment opportunities within the school district and Gallup and identifying untapped employee resources available to employers.

Overall, the summit laid the groundwork for future conversations and collaborations and allowed interested parties the chance to identify assets, challenges and opportunities for growth of the local workforce.