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FARMINGTON — The Public Service Company of New Mexico is investing $500,000 to sustain a scholarship program to help Navajo students studying energy-related professions at either San Juan College or Navajo Technical University.

The scholarships are available under the PNM Navajo Nation Workforce Training Program, an initiative that started in 2013 to aid Navajo students in job training and schooling in energy industry trades.

PNM and the Navajo Nation partnered with San Juan College in Farmington and Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint to develop and administer the program.

It is designed to ensure the Four Corners area and the state has the trained workforce needed to fill existing and emerging jobs, according to a press release from the tribe's Office of the President and Vice President.

PNM Resources Chairman, President and CEO Pat Vincent-Collawn and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez were among the officials who signed the memorandum of agreement on Dec. 20 to continue the program through 2025 at San Juan College and Navajo Technical University.

A press release from PNM Resources states that, to date, the program has provided close to 700 scholarships and has helped 337 Navajo students earn trade certificates, associate degrees and bachelor's degrees.

"In the transition of moving New Mexico forward together and becoming 100% emissions-free by 2040, our continued partnership with the Navajo Nation continues to be a highly valued relationship. PNM is dedicated to the success of the Navajo workforce in the Four Corners area and today's signing of this memorandum of understanding demonstrates that," Vincent-Collawn said in the company's release.

Nez said in the release that PNM and the Navajo Nation understand the potential closure of the San Juan Generating Station will have an impact on the Navajo workforce.

"It is incumbent upon our nation and PNM to look to the future by joining forces to make it easier to pursue education and training for future job opportunities by fostering economic success through programs such as this," he said.

When the program was created in 2013, PNM committed $1 million – which was distributed at $200,000 over five years. The company release states the funding is provided by PNM shareholders, not its utility customers.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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