As a new decade begins, Oklahomans are toiling at jobs that weren’t around 10 years ago, and adapting to modifications to others that have evolved significantly along with advances in technology. According to a 2009-2012 strategic planning report from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission prepared early last year, there are about 100,000 employing establishments representing industries from retail to aerospace, and a labor force of more than 1.7 million. As 1999 came to a close, the state’s labor force was at 1,654,709, said Lynn Gray, OESC’s research economist. And in 2001, the number of employing establishments was at 90,603, Gray said. But how Oklahomans work, and where, has changed. "There are occupations and industries now that didn’t exist in 2000,” said Norma Nobles, the state’s deputy secretary of commerce for work force development.
Different optionsA growing nanotechnology sector that didn’t have a presence a decade ago now boasts 33 companies doing billions of dollars worth of business, she said. Healthcare services can be found at facilities staffed with technicians and specialists doing the work once only doctors could perform. New opportunities have come from the evolving aerospace industry, Nobles said. Ten years ago, Oklahoma’s energy sector was focused as always on oil and gas. Today, "we’re all about wind, and wind technology,” she said, which has created new companies and jobs such as wind technicians. Outsourcing and automation have both impacted the state’s work force, Nobles said, decreasing the number of different processes any one company does. But that has increased the number of business services firms in the state, "and that’s a big change,” she said. Although hit hard by the recession, manufacturing remains an important industry for the state, Nobles said. "There is still a lot going on here,” she said, with a sector representing from 10 percent to 12 percent of the state’s work force. Today, "manufacturing has become more sophisticated, and more technology is involved,” Joe Epperley of the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance said. "Manufacturers are doing more with less.”
At a glanceWorker shortage decreases Norma Nobles, the state’s deputy secretary of commerce for work force development, said a decade ago there was a real concern about worker shortage in Oklahoma. Yet the perception of Oklahoma as a good place to work and live has changed that situation. Workers are also remaining in the labor force longer, which should also help with any shortage of skilled employees. Providing ongoing training to help all workers gain new skills to multitask and tackle online problem solving is the state’s goal, she said, especially for the 45 percent of the labor pool that work in "middle skilled” jobs.