By Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels
In 2017 the Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) Board of Commissioners approved the initiative to establish a new LCU Internship Program, due to the increasing difficulty in hiring and retaining certified operators. The difficulty is not only felt in Las Cruces and throughout New Mexico, but across the U.S.
The hope of the Internship Program was threefold: to hire and retain competent certified operators who would become invested LCU employees; to help students interested in the water resources industry earn a college degree in Water Technology from Doña Ana Community College (DACC); and to provide on-the-job training and income while the students attend DACC classes.
Now, three years later, Errol Lockett is the first LCU intern to complete the program, moving on to a full-time position in Wastewater as of Jan. 22, 2020.
While Lockett had a chance to work in different LCU lines of business and programs - Water, the Water Quality Lab, and Wastewater - it’s the latter that held his interest.
“It’s always something different in Wastewater,” Lockett said. “The amount of knowledge gained through classes and while I’ve been on the job, it’s really opened my eyes.”
The LCU Internship Program is for students wishing to, or who currently are, pursuing an associate degree in Water Technology. LCU pays for tuition and other reasonable education-related expenses, including a monthly stipend and paid on-the-job training to assist with educational and living expenses. The interns also work 20 hours per week during semesters and a maximum of 40 hours per week during academic breaks. When they’ve graduated, interns commit to working two to eight years with the City of Las Cruces.
“From the time the LCU Board of Commissioners first approved the program in 2017, to Errol’s completion now, we could not have hoped for a better outcome,” said LCU Deputy Director Water, Adrienne L. Widmer, P.E. Three interns are currently still studying and working, and more interns are expected to start the program in the fall.
Lockett’s advice? “Make sure that it’s what you want to do - it’s academically challenging,” he said. “For me, one benefit is not having a job where you sit at a computer all day; it’s hands-on and the expectations of the quality of your work is high. Know yourself and trust in the process.”
Lockett came to the Feb. 13, 2020, LCU Board of Commissioners meeting to express his gratitude and receive recognition for his hard work. City Councilor and LCU Commissioner Gill Sorg said, “This is a great program and exactly the right way to develop a solid well-educated workforce and get high paying jobs for Las Cruces.”
If you or someone you know might be interested in applying for an LCU internship, head to www.las-cruces.org/1243/Internship-Program.
You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 575/528-3500 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
LCU’s first intern to complete the program, Errol Lockett, will now become a full-time employee in the Wastewater line of business and plans to earn his certifications now that his degree in Water Technology from DACC is complete.
Note: This story was recently published in the Las Cruces Sun-News.