Natalie Shirley: A win-win for Oklahoma employers, job seekers

Friday, November 17, 2017

by Natalie Shirley


Oklahoma will soon face a critical shortage in the number of skilled workers available to fill in-demand jobs and grow the state's economy. By 2025, 70 percent of Oklahoma's jobs will require education and training beyond high school, according to data from the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development. Currently, only 40 percent of the state's workforce has such education and training.

Gov. Mary Fallin's Oklahoma Works Initiative is designed to close this skills gap and increase wealth generation in the state by aligning education and training to the needs of businesses so more Oklahomans can achieve economic success. To do this, our private and public partners are investing in long-term strategies to develop and nurture our current and future talent pipeline. One of these strategies is Earn and Learn Oklahoma, a goal established to increase the number of paid apprenticeships and internships in the state to 20,000 by the year 2020.

Registered apprenticeships and paid internships are a win-win for job seekers and employers. Job seekers are able to limit their student debt by earning a wage while learning valuable, demand-driven skills through on-the-job training. Nationally, apprentices earn an average starting salary of $50,000 and nine out of 10 are employed after completing their apprenticeship. Paid internships also expose job seekers to career possibilities and help them to cultivate their employability skills such as communication, problem solving, teamwork and self-management. Meanwhile, employers are able to build internship and apprenticeship programs that are designed to specifically meet their needs.

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