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Targeted workforce initiatives to support and grow Oklahoma’s key industries

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding recently submitted its final recommendations to the Legislature for the state’s portion of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Co-chairs of the Economic Development and Workforce Working Group Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, and Rep. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon, praised their colleagues’ dedication to meet Oklahoma’s workforce challenges and strengthen its economy following the pandemic. 

“The work done by our joint committee is going to positively impact the lives of Oklahomans for generations to come. I’m especially proud of what we accomplished in our working group because it’s going to transform our state by addressing our greatest workforce challenges through new educational opportunities and innovative job training to support critical, growing industries like aviation, bio tech, cyber security, and manufacturing,” Pugh said. “The pandemic revealed major issues in our state’s workforce, but we have worked tirelessly this past year and collaborated with other local, state, and federal government agencies, common and higher education, and various industries to strategically address these problems. We’ve recommended funding programs that will encourage students to pursue high-demand careers like aerospace engineering, cyber credentialing, and drone technology, while making investments in workforce development and training to meet the needs of our business community and help Oklahomans be successful.” 

Some of the workforce initiatives to go before the Legislature in the upcoming special session include:

  • $20 million (OCAST) - Create the Oklahoma Aviation Academy. Partnership between high schools, colleges, and career techs where 9th–12th grade students can take classes in jet mechanics, artificial intelligence, and pre-engineering, among others while also getting their pilot license.  
  • $12 million (OCAST) – Expand the University of Tulsa’s Oklahoma Cyber Innovation Institute to include class offerings for high school, undergraduate and graduate students, including micro-credentialing; expand lab space to allow for student-industry collaboration; and create mobile labs to take technology statewide.
  • $20 million (OCAST) – Lawton’s Fires Innovation Science and Technology Accelerator (FISTA) to develop a STEM hub for high school students and a small business accelerator to help fulfill Department of Defense contracts for Ft. Sill’s U.S. Army Futures Command Cross-Functional Teams and the Joint Counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems University.
  • $5 million (State Board of Career and Technology Education) – Broadband workforce training through a partnership with 11 career techs.
  • $6.2 million (State Career Tech Board) – Trucking workforce training/Commercial Drivers’ License classes at four career techs.
  • $8.1 million (OCAST) - Create the Oklahoma Manufacturing Skills Academy for students 18 to 24 years old.
  • $8.4 million (OCAST) - Create a national biopharmaceutical training center in OKC’s Innovation District.
  • $5 million (Department of Commerce) – Create Statewide Workforce Initiative to improve coordination of federal funds regarding workforce development.

Baker said the state has been successful in its efforts to recruit more job creators to relocate in Oklahoma but delivering more skilled workers will help further expand those efforts while boosting the state’s economy.

"Training and equipping Oklahoma's workforce is a top priority, and one I believe we can accomplish through these proposed projects," Baker said. "Preparing our students for better, higher-paying jobs improves their lives, their families’ and our entire state. Our robust university and career tech system as well as other entities throughout the state stand ready to help in these endeavors, but they need this additional funding. I'm proud to be one step closer to delivering it to them.”

On Tuesday, the joint committee advanced 13 projects from the Economic Development and Workforce Working Group, totaling close to $178 million. The Legislature will reconvene in special session on Wednesday, Sept. 28, to begin reviewing the joint committee’s project funding recommendations.


For more information, contact:  
Sen. Pugh: (405) 521-5622 or
Rep. Baker: (405) 557-7311 or