As cutting-edge technology advancements continue to change the modern workforce, it’s vital for Oklahoma’s economy and future that our students are prepared for the ever-changing workforce.
That’s according to State Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair, who hosted an interim study on Thursday regarding how the CareerTech system is preparing and funneling qualified employees into the state’s workforce.
Study participants heard from 16 speakers including business leaders, CareerTech center administrators, K-12 school superintendents and Dr. Marcie Mack, director for the Department of Career and Technology Education.
“How well Oklahoma’s CareerTech systems are meeting the needs of Oklahoma businesses is critically important,” Bergstrom said. “We must train and retrain our citizens to help them be successful in meeting the needs of our businesses, and we need to be agile enough in our system to meet changing needs. We also need to be able to quickly adapt so Oklahoma can provide the workforce needed by the industries we want to see established in our state.”
Bergstrom said it’s important to focus on return on investment when it comes to CareerTech programs and its students.
“We want to look not at just what the state gets back in tax dollars as CareerTech graduates go to work or start a business, but also the return on investment for our citizens who invest their valuable time and money into the programs,” Bergstrom said.
According to Mack, state CareerTech programs had a 94 percent positive placement rate in 2019, meaning nearly all graduates were employed after finishing their program. She added that CareerTech works with K-12, higher education and business and industry leaders to develop curriculum and educational alignment for career pathways and needs across the state.
One example of CareerTech programs working with business and industry leaders to develop the state’s workforce is Tulsa Technology Center’s partnership with Oklahoma-based aerospace manufacturing and repair company, Nordam. Bailey Siegfried, Nordam’s vice president of culture, communication, IT, HR and corporate responsibility, said their partnership with Tulsa Tech has led to the training of about 500 of their employees in the last year alone.
He explained their partnership with CareerTech is collaborative – rather than the educational material being built without input, the company works with Tulsa Tech to develop practical curriculum that can translate immediately to the workforce.
Student organizations through CareerTech, like the National FFA Organization, can also create a pipeline of qualified workers into industries in need of a skilled workforce like the meat packing industry.
COVID-19 underscored the vulnerability of the meat packing industry and how quickly it can be taken down by a nationwide event such as a health pandemic, explained Jake Nelson from the Oklahoma/Texas Meat Processors Association.
He said agricultural education programs and the FFA organization through CareerTech can help create interest in the meat packing industry through meat judging teams and related curriculum, which can help train and produce skilled professionals to expand and grow local processing plants.
“While Oklahoma has probably the best CareerTech infrastructure in the nation, there’s always room for improvement,” Bergstrom said. “This study was eye-opening because it truly showcased how many students and businesses across the state are touched and trained by CareerTech programs. I will continue to be a huge supporter of CareerTech and strongly encourage my colleagues to take a look at the positive steps these programs have taken to train our students to be productive and skilled employees in the ever-changing workforce.”
For more information, contact:
Sen. Micheal Bergstrom at 405-521-5561, or email Micheal.Bergstrom@oksenate.gov.