Oklahoma's colleges, universities look to new tools to gauge industry demand

As Oklahoma struggles to produce enough qualified workers to keep pace with industry demands, higher education institutions throughout the state are looking at new tools to help gauge hiring trends and tailor their course offerings to those trends more quickly.
by Silas Allen Published: August 26, 2012

Two years ago, it was impossible to major in leisure services at Oklahoma City Community College.

Now, nine students are majoring in the program.

The program is one of the newest at OCCC, said Susan Tabor, dean of the college's social sciences division. It can lead students to a range of careers, including the hotel and restaurant industry, as well as jobs aboard cruise ships, she said. The college began offering courses in the program two years ago, in response to industry demand.

“I'm really rather pleased with the involvement,” she said.

As Oklahoma struggles to produce enough qualified workers to keep pace with industry demands, higher education institutions across the state are looking at new tools to help gauge hiring trends and tailor their course offerings to those trends more quickly.

State officials have expressed concern in recent years about a lack of credentialed workers in Oklahoma.

Georgetown University's Center for Education and the Workforce predicts 57 percent of Oklahoma's workforce would need some kind of postsecondary degree by 2018. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, only 22.7 percent of Oklahomans held a bachelor's degree or higher in 2009, the most recent year available. Just 7.4 percent of the population held an advanced degree.

In years past, colleges, universities and CareerTech centers relied on labor reports to keep up with the needs of industry. Those reports often were months or even years old, making it difficult for those institutions to keep up with those needs as they came up.

Now, an Oklahoma Department of Commerce program allows those institutions to see the areas of greatest need at any time.

The program, called Labor Insight, scans job postings from across the state to create a breakdown of the skill sets that are in greatest demand, said Dustin Pyeatt, the department's outreach program manager.


by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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