(Albuquerque, NM) – The state is exploring how to expand a Santa Fe work-based learning program that connected young people with the leisure and hospitality industry to more communities. 

The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions (NMDWS) will begin the process of introducing a mirrored version of the “LevelUP ” program, tabbed “Level Up Your Career,” into Taos and Las Cruces to pilot the program before taking a statewide approach. The New Mexico Tourism Department (NMTD) will be providing marketing and outreach support. 

The “LevelUP!” program was launched by a small group of employers in the Santa Fe leisure and hospitality sector and provided work-based learning experiences to a cohort of 24 young people. While learning about a career in hospitality, interns worked in paid tourism positions such as event coordination, facility management, logistics, human resources, culinary, sales and marketing, guest experience and more. This program was co-designed and supported by the Los Alamos National Labs Foundation and held in partnership with Santa Fe Public Schools. 

NMDWS is aiming for 60 participants aged 16-24 years old in both Taos and Las Cruces for the pilot. Through the program, NMDWS will offer wages up to $15 per hour and up to 400 hours per participant so employer participants can focus on providing mentorship and a worthwhile workplace-based learning experience. 

“The support of hospitality industry employers within the Taos and Las Cruces communities are helping to create a skilled and motivated workforce that is capable of delivering exceptional customer service,” said NMDWS Secretary Sarita Nair. “Employers who invest in youth looking to step into this industry not only see the benefits in terms of improved performance and customer satisfaction, but also in terms of increased loyalty and retention rates. Connecting youth with jobs that will help them find their passion allows them to develop new skills and make connection within a dynamic and rewarding field.” 

"LevelUP! was a win for our hoteliers who built a youth-centered program, met their summer workforce needs, and invested in their future talent. It was a win for young people who received paid experience while they developed transferable skills in communication, leadership, and professionalism. The LevelUP! program highlights hospitality careers in New Mexico," said Tobie Baker Wright, Director of C3P Programs at the LANL Foundation.  

“This program model is about more than just helping tourism businesses with employment – this is about demonstrating the entrepreneurship and career opportunities that exist in the tourism industry,” said Tourism Secretary Jen Paul Schroer. “Opportunities for mentorship and soft skill development are critical for providing young professionals with a foundation from which to build a career in tourism.” 

Participating employers in Taos and Las Cruces include hotels, restaurants, civic centers, and museums. Employers with a NAICS code of 71-72 interested in participating can reach out to the New Mexico Workforce Connection in their community. 

In the March Employment News Release, NMDWS reported that leisure and hospitality was up 4,600 jobs, or 5.0 percent for the state of New Mexico. 

Over the past few years, NMDWS and NMTD have worked together on various tourism workforce development programs and initiatives. The two agencies worked together on a previous partnership that offered up to $4,480 per employee to cover the training costs of new and promoted employees within the leisure and hospitality sector.