Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Oklahoma City has an opportunity to grow our economy by increasing our number of skilled workers. Most of us know about the STEM-related shortage, but we face another workforce gap.
According to a report from the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative, there are an estimated 600,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs nationally and this number is expected to continue to climb. Oklahoma will experience a jump in the number of skilled workers needed by 2020. As a state, we have good training resources in place – if we strengthen those and educate about the growing need for workforce training, we will see economic benefits.
John Ratzenberger, best known as Cliff Clavin from the TV series Cheers, is an advocate of workforce training programs. He is on the national task force on apprenticeships to help reinvigorate the practice of business apprenticeships as a way of reducing unemployment and boosting the economy. Last week, he spoke at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s annual meeting about the need to bring back trades training in schools, build apprentice programs for returning veterans and support the “reshoring of American companies.”
Oklahoma has several initiatives to help fill the talent shortfall. The Oklahoma Works initiative connects employers, employees, job seekers and higher education to ensure businesses have access to a pipeline of talent. It offers key workforce training programs such as the Training for Industry Program through the technology centers.
OK2Grow is a workforce development and career nonprofit focused on entrepreneurship, high school completion and career awareness. The state also works with credentialing programs for students with the National Institute for Metal Working Skills, the American Welding Society and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. These certifications prepare skilled workers for jobs that use high-tech equipment, advanced robotics and other intelligent systems.
When companies look at expanding or building in Oklahoma City, they need to find enough skilled workers and a trainable workforce with a solid understanding of math, science and reading skills. If we have the workers, we stand a better chance of being selected for the move or expansion.
Oklahoma City is often cited in national magazines as having a strong manufacturing base that supports our energy, science and aerospace sectors. Through more technical education, awareness and workforce development we can continue to grow our skilled workforce and bring more quality jobs to our city.
Cathy O’Connor is president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.