MCC considers course recommendations
November 25, 2020
A consultant recommended that Mesalands Community College rejigger future course offerings for in-demand trades that include building construction, early childhood education, automobile repair and truck driving.
Two members of the college’s board of trustees, however, became skeptical during the Nov. 17 meeting during a recommendation to develop off-campus housing in Tucumcari’s downtown.
Sean Garretson of Pegasus Planning and Development, based in Austin, gave a review of findings regarding a possible update to the college’s master plan. The meeting’s agenda listed it as an action item, but board members made no motions about it afterward.
Garretson, noting the region’s decline in population, high poverty rate and lower median household income, said Mesalands needed to offer more courses aligned with sectors of high projected job growth. He said his company analyzed trends in the region, plus conducted 20 phone or virtual interviews and led five focus groups in the Tucumcari area.
He said the largest job growth likely would come in healthcare and social assistance; mining (mostly in quarries); professional, scientific and technical services; and construction.
Job declines are forecast in information systems, federal government and utilities.
Garretson recommended Mesalands expand its vocational and trade courses. Among the “undertrained” job sectors that are “low-hanging fruit” to help students land good-paying jobs are building construction, early childhood education, automobile mechanic or technician and truck or bus driving.
He said among the “overtrained” areas the college might de-emphasize are computer support, metalworking and liberal arts or humanities, though Garretson acknowledged Mesalands’ silversmithing courses are among a specialized sector that may not require downsizing.
Garretson said Mesalands also might consider boosting its offerings in plumbing, electrical and climate control trades; home health aides; building construction; accounting; and human and development services.
He said the need for qualified electricians is especially acute, especially when 50% of them likely will retire in the next few years. He also advised Mesalands partner with industry groups or local businesses as advisers to address the growing deficit in skilled trade workers.
Garretson also floated the possibility of Mesalands using the empty Alco building as a innovation hub, much like one being developed at Amarillo College.
Regarding college housing, Garretson said rent at the Stampede Village apartment complex is “not competitive” to off-campus options. He said Stampede Village offers rooms for $394 a month, while other spots in Tucumcari can be rented for as little as $50 a month.
After consulting with Tucumcari MainStreet, Garretson said the college should consider partnering with an off-campus housing developer in downtown. He said such an influx of students would give a big boost to downtown’s struggling businesses.
Jessica Gonzales, a secretary for Tucumcari MainStreet, clarified the downtown housing would mostly be in the second floor of existing buildings after they’re rezoned.
Board Chairman Jim Streetman and fellow board member Jimmy Sandoval expressed skepticism about the downtown housing idea.
“I have a hard time seeing it ever being what it used to be,” Streetman said of downtown, noting most of Tucumcari’s development is nestled at Interstate 40 and Tucumcari Boulevard.
Streetman said he was more receptive to Pegasus’ course recommendations. Garretson said grant programs are available to help the college be “more aggressive” in trade instruction.