LOS LUNAS — Los Lunas High School marked the first stop of a skilled trades mobile workshop embarking on a state-wide tour through the Be Pro, Be Proud program.  

The BPBP program is designed to engage and connect youth to in-demand technical careers and skilled trades through augmented reality and virtual reality simulators. The technology is housed in a specialized truck that makes tour stops at schools and community centers throughout the state. 

On Nov. 9, LLHS students had the opportunity to tour the truck and utilize the technology to virtually complete common tasks in a variety of technical and skilled trades. The simulators featured virtual and augmented experiences in professions such as welding, healthcare, heavy equipment operation and more.  

Through this, students were able to put themselves in the shoes of a worker in that field and get a sense of what they do on a regular basis.  

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and several local and state dignitaries were also in attendance.  

Felina Martinez | News-Bulletin photos
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham gives the excavator simulator a whirl while touring the inside of the mobile workshop. Lujan Grisham said the trades present incredible opportunities and are in high demand statewide.

“We want every student to realize a successful career path after high school,” Lujan Grisham said in a press release. “The trades present incredible opportunities and are in high demand in every corner of our state, providing the chance for every New Mexican, their families, businesses and communities to thrive.”  

New Mexico is the sixth state in the nation to launch a BPBP program and first in the nation to undertake BPBP as a public-private partnership.  

The program was launched by The New Mexico Center for Economic Opportunity and the education, charitable and research foundation of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. 

“I’m excited the first stop is in Los Lunas because it’s a great experience for our kids,” said Los Lunas Schools Superintendent Ryan Kettler at the event. “It exposes them to successful careers in industry and peaks their interest in it because it’s using cool, cutting edge technology. I’m excited for not only the kids in Los Lunas, but statewide all the kids who get to experience this.” 

Kettler said LLHS was the first stop in the state-wide tour because Meta, who operates a data center in Los Lunas, is a big sponsor and driver of the initiative.  

LLS Superintendent Ryan Kettler tries out the VR simulator to virtually complete common tasks in a variety of technical and skilled trades.

LLHS Principal Eric Tiger said BPBP is a great opportunity to introduce students to different career paths they may not have considered or known about previously. 

“Not every student wants to go down the traditional college path, so we just want to show them what’s out there and what they can achieve through the trades,” said Tiger. 

Michael Starks, a senior at LLHS, said he appreciates how BPBP opens doors and opens people’s eyes to what the trades have to offer. 

“I think it’s really cool,” Starks said. “It gives you a hands-on experience without having to go out there and do it, and it shows you what it’s like through their eyes and how you have to be fast to get paid and all that stuff.”  

LLHS students experiment with an augmented reality simulator designed to provide engaging insight into the skilled trades. 

LLHS senior David Tena appreciates how the VR and AR technology provide a more immersive learning experience.  

“It gives you a job and multiple tasks on how to perform the job accurately and precisely,” said Tena. “My favorite is the electrical one, because of the complex and different procedures. Plus, this way you get experience that’s risk free; you don’t have to worry about anyone getting hurt.” 

The New Mexico BPBP program is also the first to provide follow-up career counseling to interested students to help them explore, plan and launch careers in the skilled trades. 

“Students will be provided with information on pre-apprenticeships, registered apprenticeships and employment within the trades,” said Stacy Johnston, communications and marketing director for NMDWS. “The wrap-around services provided by NMDWS engages students in their career planning efforts to secure jobs in in-demand fields so they can live and work in New Mexico after graduating high school.” 

Johnson said career consultants are currently working with 38 students from LLHS, who expressed interest after visiting the BPBP mobile workshop.  

Throughout the remainder of fall semester, BPBP made stops at high schools state-wide and will continue touring the mobile workshop during the spring 2024 semester.  

“Right now, there’s enormous demand for technical professionals across the country. As the skills gap grows, the number of unfilled roles is expected to reach two million by 2025,” said Rob Black, president and CEO of NMCC in the press release. “We see two million opportunities across the country to connect today’s young people with rewarding skilled technical careers, and we are proud to offer New Mexico’s students access to that opportunity through the Be Pro Be Proud program.” 

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Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.