By Cassie McClure
Published in Las Cruces Bulletin 7.24.22
For the second year, Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) welcomed 12 interns from Doña Ana County’s (DAC) 2022 Summer Enrichment Internship Program. LCU staff not only set out to give the interns the real experience of how different services are provided to the community but were also tasked to build a detailed curriculum that gave the student interns a holistic view of what careers their futures could hold.
Funded by the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED), the Summer Enrichment Internship Program allows high school students to work with private businesses and government agencies. Students could earn up to $2,600.00 by participating in the internship, being paid $13.00 per hour, up from $10.50 per hour in 2021, and working up to 200 hours, as opposed to 120 hours last summer. Also, unlike the previous year, 15-year-olds with a work permit were eligible to participate in the summer internship program. This year students were juniors, seniors, and returning interns in their first year of college.
The 12 interns were placed in different areas throughout LCU. Some assisted the LCU administration, and some worked with Solid Waste or shadowed staff in Technical Support. Natural Energy and Gas received DAC Intern Matthew Ochoa, a junior from Alta Vista Early College High School in Anthony, New Mexico. For Ochoa, the internship opportunity wasn’t just about learning about the jobs at LCU, but learning from the people.
“I took part in this internship to find people who have been working at LCU for years and ask them, how did they end up here?” said Ochoa. “As a teen, sometimes I’ve felt lost in finding what I would like to do in my future. Everyone who has told me their story explained how they, too, felt lost at one point. Hearing these stories has helped me gain insight on steps others have taken to get a job and be happy with it.”
Like the other DAC interns, Ochoa has not only worked with the crews in the field but took structured classes at LCU. The classes, taught by staff at all levels, gave an overview of things related to the services of LCU – like microbiology, water conservation, or drinking water regulations – but also used the scope of LCU to teach topics like basic accounting, resume writing, cybersecurity, and even how to become better at customer service.
“LCU has been committed to the success of the summer interns by building a curriculum that will enhance their hands-on experience,” said LCU Director Delilah Walsh.
“We want them out in the field to see how the crews put in pipes or how they work directly with customers, but we also want them to leave with a well-rounded idea of what happens at all levels throughout LCU that ensure quality services for our community,” she said. “It’s about pipes in the ground, but also about things like regulations and in what ways we keep the customers safe with oversight and new technologies.”
Ochoa said he discovered more about the business aspect of LCU, some of it unexpected. “The fact that the utilities department makes its money based on providing services for people and not being given tax money surprised me the most,” he said.
LCU – Your Utility Connection. Customer Central can be reached at 575-541-2111 from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides clean, safe, and reliable services to Las Cruces residents and businesses. Learn more at: las-cruces.org/180/Utilities
For emergencies, call Dispatch at 526-0500.
PHOTO 1: LCU Intern Matthew Ochoa, one of the 12 students from the DAC Summer Enrichment Internship program, was able to work with the Natural Energy and Gas crews, but also got a sense of what finding a career might look like for him.