Oklahoma could see lack of skilled workers by 2020, Georgetown University report shows

Oklahoma could be on pace to see companies begin to leave the state because of a lack of qualified workers, a Georgetown University economist said. State university officials are working to address the issue.
by Silas Allen Modified: June 26, 2013 at 3:13 pm •  Published: June 26, 2013

If the state continues on its current path, Oklahoma could be on pace to see companies begin to leave the state because of a lack of qualified workers, a Georgetown University economist said Tuesday.

A new study from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce shows educational institutions in Oklahoma and nationwide aren't producing enough graduates to keep up with industry demand.

The report, “Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020,” was set to be released Wednesday. According to the report, Oklahoma employers will create 668,000 new job openings by 2020.

By then, 64 percent of jobs in the state will require some form of education beyond high school, according to the report. But according to a 2013 report from the nonprofit Lumina Foundation, only about 57 percent of Oklahomans have any education beyond high school.

“We have a shortfall in the rate at which we're training the workers for these jobs,” said Nicole Smith, a Georgetown economist and a co-author of the report.

Of the 688,000 new job openings in 2020, 297,000 openings will be jobs that didn't exist before, and 371,000 will be positions that came open as baby boomers retire, according to the report.

Major areas of growth will include oil and gas extraction, health care and professional, scientific and technical services.

If Oklahomans aren't qualified to fill those jobs, the state could find itself in a position where workers educated elsewhere come here to find jobs, while Oklahoma college graduates are forced to leave the state to find work they're qualified to do, Smith said.

The state also could begin to see companies leave the state in search of a more qualified workforce, Smith said.

Addressing the issue

Oklahoma higher education officials already are working to address the issue, they said. Over the past year, higher education officials have seen success in ramping up the number of degrees the state awards. Together, Oklahoma's public and private colleges and universities awarded nearly 3,000 more degrees last year than the previous year, topping the state's annual goal of awarding 1,700 more degrees and vocational certificates.

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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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We have a shortfall in the rate at which we're training the workers for these jobs.”

Nicole Smith,
The Georgetown economist is a co-author of the job growth report.

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