ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – One of the tech industry’s biggest challenges is finding and cultivating the next generation of talent in New Mexico. Derek Plummer, 22, is in his final year at New Mexico Tech. “I’ve been fortunate enough to really know what I’ve wanted to do with my life since eight, maybe ten, you know, even as early as second grade in elementary school, I knew that I wanted to be some sort of engineer,” said Plummer.

Participating in programs like the first Lego league, Plummer’s young interest would follow him through middle and high school taking him all the way to Japan for an international robotics competition in 2015.

When it came time for Plummer to pursue a degree, he says the decision was easy. “I came into to New Mexico Tech and came into college choosing chemical engineering, really, because I wanted a job, I wanted to be marketable,” said Plummer.

As with many industries, part of the job-seeking process is an internship. Plummer found his opportunity with Blue Halo, a company developing next-generation defense solutions.

During his summer internship, Plummer worked on a number of projects that gave him an inside look at real-world engineering applications, a lesson he says can’t be found in a classroom.

Marissa Bowman, who works closely with the interns at Blue Halo says the benefits of such programs are actually a two-way street. “our engineers learn a lot from the interns. They’re trained in the newest software. They’re much fresher out of school, and in return, the interns get mentorship and hopefully come away with some networking,” said Bowman.

Among the many programs, Newspace Nexus is developing its “Pathways to the Stars.” The initiative links K-12 students up with internship opportunities, special programming, and experiential learning all aimed at igniting interest in STEM and space-based careers. For interns like Derek Plummer, who is just months away from graduation and the start of his career, developing such a strong foundation in a competitive field is a priceless component for work with a greater purpose.

Plummer is set to graduate next spring from New Mexico Tech and he says a job with a company like Blue Halo would be a dream come true.