Oklahoma CareerTech director: Closing the technical skills gap

Oklahoman Published: February 12, 2014

Selecting and preparing for a career is an important decision for a young person and, as Oklahoma has seen firsthand, it’s a decision that can have far-reaching economic ramifications personally and for the state as a whole. Oklahoma’s long-term economic prosperity depends upon the ability of its residents to master the skills — both academic and technical — required by local companies to remain competitive in the marketplace.

Unfortunately, a skills gap exists in Oklahoma. In recent years we’ve failed to acknowledge the value of building, doing and creating. Highly skilled technical jobs are going unfilled because the available workforce doesn’t have the necessary training and skills to succeed in these positions. If left unchecked, this trend spells trouble.

That’s why Oklahoma CareerTech educators and leaders are seeking a $35 million funding increase to help advance collaborative relationships among K-12 education, CareerTech and higher education that will help students find their passions and make their learning relevant to their career paths.

We want to challenge the existing one-size-fits-all education model and expose young people to a wider array of career options, while also increasing the number of industry credentials and college credits earned, so Oklahomans can move into high-quality careers and lifestyles.

CareerTech will accomplish these goals by financially rewarding schools that show improved performance. Schools that show greater student success — more industry credentials earned, for example — will get a portion of the $35 million, but only after more students succeed. Investing in schools that have proved themselves will allow them to guide even more students to success.

CareerTech also will use the money to expand Oklahoma’s workforce by providing customized training to existing state businesses, encouraging new companies to come to Oklahoma and working more closely with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to target skilled growth in key industries.

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