Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman comments on Tuesday’s Senate passage of legislation that will help match Oklahomans with jobs identified by the state Department of Commerce as high-need occupations.
Senate Bill 1639 would create the Quality Workforce Act, which would incentivize Oklahoma companies to pay for employees to gain an associate’s degree or industry certificate in high-need job areas.
“We are fortunate in Oklahoma to have a low unemployment rate, but we do have jobs sitting unfilled right now because we don’t have enough skilled applicants available,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa, who is author of the bill. “This legislation will help match Oklahomans with critical, high-paying jobs needed in our state right now.”
Details of Senate Bill 1639:
Companies would pay the cost of tuition and materials for a current or potential employee to gain a certificate or degree. After completion, and with documentation from an accredited organization of both the certificate/degree and proof of payment, the business would be eligible for a rebate that refunded the cost.
Only firms that met the stringent thresholds to qualify for Quality Jobs would be eligible. This would include factors such as industry classification, average wage and insurance.
Qualifying companies would be eligible for a rebate not to exceed five percent of the average wage of their employees on an annual basis. For example, if the average wage is $50,000, then the company could receive a rebate of $2,500 per certificate/degree completed. The amount would be fiscally neutral as the newly certified employee will have increased production capacity, earn a higher wage and contribute to a positive state return.
To incentivize companies to actively recruit and invest in specific cohorts, a premium could be applied to the rebate amount. For instance, a 10 percent premium could be added if the certificate/degree is earned by someone previously on Soonercare. An additional five percent could be added if the person is a veteran. These costs would be offset by the reduction of public assistance that may have previously been needed.
To assist companies in identifying and recruiting potential candidates, www.okjobmatch.com could be expanded to provide a jobseeker database of the specific industry jobs.
The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 45-1 and now moves to the House for further consideration.