How do you create solutions to challenging problems in our community? Bring people together who share a common goal, give them the space to imagine, and magic happens. This is how the seed was planted for a new job training program that offers Socorro residents with barriers to employment a pathway to learn good employment habits, obtain skills, and get addtional support for long-term sustainable employment.

Last November, people from across the state gathered together during the 100% Socorro Summit. The purpose was to learn about the 100% Socorro Initiative: to ensure 100% of all residents in Socorro County have access to and are empowered to seek the vital services needed to survive and thrive. That gathering created a space for folks who wanted to make a difference to connect and create. In that space, members from Puerto Seguro connected with the Socorro County Compliance Office and realized an opportunity through the county RISE program to help local residents gain skills and have the needed resources and support for stable employment.

After a few months of planning and strategizing, the RISE collaboration formally began in April 2023. The team built a program that provides individuals who have been out of the workforce–including those who may lack job skills, have drug or alcohol addiction, or who are homeless–with a pathway to employment. Program partner Puerto Seguro provides referrals to addiction counseling, GED tutoring, mental health assessments, subsidized housing and job training in kitchen service and retail settings. This complements their existing programs which provide assistance with obtaining documents needed for employment (birth certificates, social security cards, and IDs).

Once program participants are connected with supporting services, they are assessed by partnering agencies in the RISE collaboration. This assessment includes two weeks of volunteer work, which demonstrates the dependability needed in regular employment. The RISE team also works with the participants to teach them about budgeting and they make agreements related to savings accounts. After this preparation, participants are given part-time employment opportunities in retail at Safe Harbor Second Hand Store, and in food preparation and service at Puerto Seguro Day Shelter. Following on-the-job training, program participants are assisted with applications for employment outside of the program with the hope that they will have a solid foundation to transition into steady employment in a community business. The entire process is expected to last three to six months.

This is an amazing example of what can happen when we bring caring people together who want to make a difference, and give them the space to create and make it happen.

I would like to acknowledge Shay Kelley and Zach Holcomb from Puerto Seguro Safe Harbor for help with this article.

Sharon Sessions, Guest Columnist