Northern New Mexico College Receives $33,000 To Support Technical Trades Students


In November 2019, voters in five school district communities in northern New Mexico approved a Mill Levy for Northern New Mexico College’s (NNMC) co-located Branch Community College, to expand access to affordable, post-secondary workforce training and career technical education needed in the region.

Annual Mill Levy funding of $2.4 million has enabled Northern to establish its Department of Technical Trades, refurbish classrooms and labs on its historic El Rito campus, and develop accredited certificates and associate degree programs in Electrical Technology and Plumbing.

These programs teach the core skills required for positions in residential and commercial construction, building maintenance and utility companies, among others. Students enjoy a low tuition rate of $110/per credit hour with no fees, and state and federal financial aid can be applied toward program costs.

While COVID kept instruction remote in 2020, Dr. Frank Loera, Chair, and Plumbing and Electrical instructors, Stephen Skelton and Marvin Romero are on track to deliver in-person classes beginning August 16, 2021.

The Solar Initiative, a collaboration of Cornerstones Community Partnerships and Remy’s Good Day Fund have granted $20,000 to fund ten $2000 tech trades student scholarships to cover tuition, fees and living expenses. The Solar Initiative supports projects that promote individual well-being, economic enterprise and community improvements. 

 “The Electrical and Plumbing Trades program at Northern New Mexico College embraces all of these criteria by offering education and job training, creation of a skilled local workforce, economic development for the region, community partnerships, and the opportunity for students to transition into community-supporting jobs,” stated Maureen Vosburgh, The Solar Initiative Director. “By funding scholarships, The Solar Initiative joins NNMC President, Rick Bailey in his quest to bring modern-day solutions to unresolved issues. We are so proud to share innovative thinking with the college. An equally important dimension of the program is exposure to the benefits and inclusion of solar energy in students’ and community lives.”

The application for the 2021-2022 Cornerstones Scholarship is now available on Northern’s website: 

Current and newly admitted students studying in the Technical Trades Plumbing or Electrical programs may apply. The application deadline is June 11, 2021.

When Mrs. Sue Watts of Los Alamos learned about Northern’s new trades programs in 2019, she and her two adult children visited President Rick Bailey and Major Gifts Officer Judith Pepper. She wanted to determine how a financial contribution in honor of her late husband, Electrician Walter G. Watts, could make a difference for the Electrical Technology program.

She shares her deeply personal reasons for making this donation to tech trades students.

“The Walter G. Watts Memorial Fund was established to celebrate a man who believed in the importance of practical, hands-on education to help young people find their place in the world. He had grown up learning the basics of electrical repair from his dad in the family electrical appliance shop. By the time he was eight, he was re-wiring lamps for the customers. With the last name of Watts, electrical engineering was an obvious choice for his career. As a field engineer for General Electric, he was a valued mentor to newly graduated engineers, and he helped the employees of a paper mill learn the basics of electricity.

“In the last months of his life, he wished he could establish a school to teach the basics of auto mechanics to new generations. When we learned of President Bailey’s plans to establish a trade school for needed skills in the plumbing and electrical fields with the possibility of expanding into electrical auto mechanics, we knew we had found the place that would have warmed the cockles of Wally’s heart. As a token of our affection, we have also donated Wally’s Roadrunner, one of a group of experimental, small electric cars, to the program.”

Wallys Roadrunner.jpg

‘Wally’s Roadrunner’, an experimental electric vehicle constructed by the late Walter G. Watts has been donated to Northern New Mexico College by Mrs. Susan Watts. Courtesy photo