March 2018Sustainability

SFCC: Advanced Trades and Technology as a Path to Continued Community Resilience

By Camilla Bustamante

There is much truth in the statement that today’s trades (as in skilled vocations) are not our grandfather’s trades, which, characteristically, were not woman’s work. There were no expectations that our grandmothers would have an interest in such work, whereas today women are increasingly employed in such sectors. Welcome to an era of new expectations!

Keeping up with and contributing to advancements in the trades requires full participation by a diverse and skilled community. Anyone with an interest in community resilience and improved quality of life can defy the perception that organic and natural must be distinct from technology. It’s about continuously learning how to support life’s longing to live—to support quality of life and community resilience by creative technical means.

Santa Fe Community College’s School of Trades, Advanced Technologies and Sustainability has stepped up to address the complexities that come from technological and social change to integrate the values of sustainability, creativity and quality of life that are a hallmark of northern New Mexico. At the heart of community infrastructure is access to food, energy, housing, transportation and clean water. As illustrated throughout this issue of Green Fire Times, SFCC is aligned with the community’s values in focusing on the food-energy-water-waste nexus while teaching skill-sets needed to get a good job or start a business.

We are fortunate to have a faculty and staff that value community, environment and sustainability. With climate change and the resultant changes in weather patterns, adaptation is necessary and crucial. SFCC’s Controlled Environment Agriculture program, led by Charlie Shultz, offers students and the community hands-on education in greenhouse production. Through the use of hydroponic and aquaponic systems, food production is assured year-round with shortened growing time, and as much as 96 percent less water than outdoor, soil-based production. These technologies also allow food production in areas not otherwise suited for food cultivation, as conditions for growing are managed for consistency and optimum productivity—healthy, fresh green food that doesn’t supplant but supports existing regional food sources. Many students aspire to have their own greenhouse, though currently, graduates have tended to work for an employer in New Mexico, or in Colorado where greenhouse production can be lucrative.

The SFCC Biofuels Center of Excellence, led by Luke Spangenburg, has established collaborative relationships with research universities, national labs and industry partners. As a partnering recipient of National Science Foundation funding, the program is part of the Bioalgal Energy Team and is recognized as the leader in algal energy education at community colleges. This work has led to extended research and use of algae for other beneficial uses and has inspired students to continue to advanced studies and research at the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, Arizona State University and the University Washington, among others.

With Siemens, the Microgrid Systems Laboratory and other industry partners, SFCC is developing educational capacity as a leader in micro- and nano-grid technologies. Assurance of clean, safe and locally controlled energy is not only a widely held value but is also recognized as a necessity to our national security. These capabilities widen the possibilities for true and sovereign rural and tribal energy.

Skill-sets are crucial in the development and maintenance of community infrastructure. Programs in welding, solar, plumbing and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and building trades provide training and education for anyone seeking jobs in these areas. With better than 90 percent job placement after attending these programs, qualified students can enjoy jobs that will allow them to stay in their community and are transferable anywhere in the country.

The SFCC welding lab, managed by Jake Lovato, with support from Los Alamos National Security (LANS) and Caterpillar, provides students hands-on experience with state-of-the-art equipment and guidance from knowledgeable and highly skilled instructors who are dedicated to helping students succeed. Graduates have gone on to work with the UA Local Union 412, with the national laboratories, or have started their own business. This popular program offers both day and evening classes and is increasingly popular with women, as it is highly employable with good pay.

The Building and Construction Trades program at SFCC adopted the National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER) curriculum endorsed by the Associated General Contractors. This education offers coursework that qualifies a person to work professionally in both the residential and commercial construction sectors and gain certifications and time toward an apprenticeship. Uniquely, SFCC also offers a certificate in Adobe Construction, arguably among the most
of sustainable of building materials. (Seriously, a “guy up north” and I would love to argue with anyone who disagrees with us on this.)

Community partnerships are crucial to a community college, and SFCC is no exception. The Santa Fe Public Schools’ Early College Opportunities (ECO) Applied Science High School, overseen by Dr. Will Wade, aligns standards-based curriculum with SFCC coursework. ECO students receive hands-on academic instruction in career pathway programs in Building Science, Welding and Auto Technology, from the trades areas, as well as offerings in Criminal Justice and Early Childhood Education. These students have the capability to complete an associate degree or certificate before or in conjunction with earning their high school diploma.

As with any interdependence of an ecosystem, it is through collaboration and partnerships with community and business that we can assure that the content of our programs is relevant to our community. We rely on subject matter expertise from all sectors to assure current and innovative content that serves as a catalyst for the creative and critically thinking community in which we serve. The SFCC student demographic is representative of our community, a diverse group of learners all seeking to grow and improve themselves in specific ways.

Today’s trades and advanced technologies are the future offered to girls and boys, men and women of all cultures, in the interest of improving quality of life and community resilience. Santa Fe Community College provides access to this future.

Camilla Bustamante, Ph.D., is Dean of the School of Trades, Advanced Technology and Sustainability and the School of Business and Professional Studies, and Education at Santa Fe Community College.

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