By Cassie McClure
Published in the Las Cruces Sun News 11/08/20.
While a career in utilities may not be the go-to answer for kids when they’re dreaming about being a police officer or fire fighter, it can be a career discovered after being guided by their skills and finding fascination with the science behind it.
“I really love seeing the microscopic world,” said Shane Gonzales, a Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) temporary student laboratory technician at City of LCU Water Quality Laboratory (WQL). He was encouraged by his advisor at Doña Ana Community College (DACC) to look at the water technology degree. That suggestion allowed him to build a path for his goals that includes testing the city’s water supply.
LCU participates in a co-op (co-operative) teaching environment with DACC to bring students, like Gonzales, into the lab. DACC students spend 20 hours a week at the WQL and has worked there a year now.
Gonzales routinely checks to make sure that samples of water stay as clean of contaminants as possible. “You might have to get out of your comfort zone first, but I recommend the experience,” he said.
Even though he currently peers into a microscope at work, his long-term career goals will be thinking about the big picture. With an associate degree in water technology, he’s continuing his education to get a degree in civil engineering in order to someday design wastewater treatment facilities. The WQL is located near the Jacob A. Hands Wastewater Treatment Facility, a crucial part of the treatment process for the waste that the city produces.
“I get to talk to wastewater operators and see how the treatment facility works in person, and it gives me an idea of how things might need to be set up,” he said.
Luis Guerra, LCU water quality lab manager, explained that students get plenty of different experiences, ones that are not found in a book.
“We want to teach them precision and stress that what they do truly is a value to their fellow citizens,” Guerra said. “They become a part of the process that makes sure that our water is clean and that what the wastewater facility discharges into the Rio Grande also keeps our environment healthy.”
LCU can be reached at 575-528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: Shane Gonzales, a temporary student LCU lab technician, works in the WQL to help progress his career goals and supplement his education. Consider a degree in water technology at DACC and open more opportunities for yourself and your career.