As the cost of higher education continues to rise, more high school graduates are continuing to look towards vocational education and subsequent jobs.According to the ECMC Group, a nonprofit, 61% of Gen Z survey members thought skilled based education was a “sensible option.” And 45% claimed that it “makes sense” to consider an education program of two years or less.

The shift towards trades and skills-based education likely comes from the growing student debt crisis that largely plagues millennials. A growing industry right here in New Mexico may begin to look attractive to new high school graduates. 

“Movie making requires a wide range of skills. We need people who are good at spreadsheets, and we need people who like to swing hammers, and we need people who are really interested in fabrics, and we need people who can get up early and we need those who can stay up late. Essentially, if you have a skill you can find a home in this industry,” said Rebecca “Puck” Stair, President of IATSE Local 480, New Mexico’s chapter of the national IATSE film union. 

IATSE Local 480 covers 99 movie crafts. “We are what’s called studio mechanics, so basically when you go to the movies, and if you stay for the credits, you see all of those names. Most of them are covered by IATSE,” Stair said. 

Aside from representing and protecting film workers, IATSE also works to continuously train their workers. “One of the benefits of union membership is that we provide training for our existing members,” Stair said. She explained that the technology in movies is constantly changing and keeping members up to date is important. 

“In addition, we offer training to our members in case they want to move laterally from one craft to another,” Stair said. 

While high school graduates have to wait until they get some hands on experience to join the union, Stair said, “There are cases where a college degree may or may not help you in the jobs that we cover. For someone who has just graduated from high school, you can certainly look towards the movies as a career; and it’s somewhere where you can get good honest wages and support a family right out of high school, potentially. Without needing to acquire all of that college debt.” 

Stair mentioned that there are many trade and film schools that will aid high school graduates in accumulating experience in order to join the union. The University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and Santa Fe Community College, for example, all have film-trade courses of study.