Jobs Are Looking For Workers
Show 1518: Jobs Are Looking For Workers
Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” Well, Oklahoma has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, which by all accounts is good news. Yet, there is a growing concern over the availability of qualified workers. It’s called a skills gap, and it is where we begin today. Joining me now is our Andy Barth.
Andy Barth: Well, Rob, unlike most other states, in Oklahoma, workers aren’t looking for jobs as much as jobs are looking for workers. It’s an issue that has everyone’s attention from the state capitol to industry and education.
Andy Barth: Energy and manufacturing – both key players in today’s economy. But with baby boomers retiring, they’re leaving behind a big problem.
Kristine Schmidt: We’re seeing more and more retirements coming up of legacy knowledge leaving our operations.
Andy: ITC Transmission is a Kansas-based company that’s expanding into Oklahoma, and President Kristine Schmidt says while the industry is growing, its workforce is not.
Schmidt: So our frontline technicians, our frontline construction workers, etc., welders, they’re all starting to retire, and we’re needing more and more young people to go into those type of skill, uh, skilled positions.
Andy: A common problem. And Carlisle Food Service CEO Mark Meadors says the answers to the problem must evolve.
Mark Meadors: Obviously the solutions that are in place today aren’t working for us. We’ve got lots of people that are looking for work. We have lots of jobs – all industries -- and they’re not fitting well together. So the solutions that we’ve lived with in the past aren’t working.
Andy: And Meadors says the solution – a strong partnership between industry and education.
Meadors: I think one of the solutions is to try to, is for employers to take a more active role in engaging educators and finding ways to create training programs to meet the needs that employers have.
Andy: Which is where the Oklahoma Department of CareerTech comes in. State Director Marcie Mack.
Marcie Mack: From our standpoint in career and technology education, it’s very important to make that partnership with business and industry to make sure that we are providing the technical skills and the training to future employers or even employees, future employees or employees they may currently have, and they’ve updated their technologies or their way of competing, not only within Oklahoma, but globally. We can step in and help them customize that, or, and help them get a workforce that they need to be able to continue to grow.
Andy: Glen Johnson is Oklahoma’s chancellor for higher education and says today’s good-paying jobs require education after high school.
Glen Johnson: The data shows that over 90 percent of the fastest growing jobs in this new knowledge-based economy will be jobs that require some postsecondary education and/or ultimately even a bachelor’s degree.
Andy: And while education is imperative, Meadors says students must know that a CEO is not an entry-level position.
Meadors: I think kids have to recognize and understand it’s OK not to be the head of a company or not to be the head of sales, not to be an engineer, not to be in IT. It’s OK to operate a machine. It’s OK to be a tradesman. It can be very lucrative. It can be very lucrative.
Andy: And at Mills Machining, Chuck Mills says it’s often hard to convince potential employees to join the manufacturing workforce.
Chuck Mills: It’s pretty tough. Because I think that with media and with parents, you know, it’s like, “Oh, let’s all go to college and be a doctor, be an attorney, you know, be a scientist, be a forensic scientist, whatever.” You know, they don’t really think about manufacturing as, as a career. And there are great opportunities. You can easily make $50,000 to $100,000 in a manufacturing environment. And people just don’t realize it.
Andy: But training is a must.
Mills: In many instances, of course, they don’t have to go to college. They can go to a CareerTech and get a certificate or a community college. With just a little education, maybe even just a year or two past high school, you could be knocking down some pretty good dollars.
Andy: And Mack says CareerTech is poised to meet the needs of companies from all across Oklahoma.
Mack: It is diverse across the state. So we want to make sure that we’re getting that local perspective of how we can fill that skills gap.
Andy: All while keeping costs low.
Mack: Our average tuition per hour is anywhere from $1.75 to $2.20 for an adult student who wants to come back and obtain technical skills or continue out of high school to obtain technical skills. We’re fortunate that high school students can come to a technology center or be in career and technology education at no cost. It’s free public education for them to obtain those skill sets.
Andy: Skill sets Meadors says are lacking in the state.
Meadors: At our particular company here in Oklahoma City, we’re having trouble finding people with enough skills to do changes in our machinery for us. So we need to change molds as our product changes. We’ve had to go outside the state to hire the last five positions, which is not something we like to do.
Andy: All the more reason Johnson says to have a quality postsecondary education.
Johnson: More college graduates, more individuals with certificates will mean that Oklahoma is going to be more competitive as we go into this new environment and this global economy.
Andy: Where having in-demand skills will be the key to succeeding in our ever-changing economy.
Andy: Well, now Gov. Fallin has unveiled her Oklahoma Works Initiative, which is a strategic plan to not only meet industry needs, but educate tomorrow’s workforce on wealth-generating jobs.
Rob: Now, I’m assuming we’re not the only ones in the nation facing this skills gap dilemma.
Andy: We’re not, Rob, but our situation is unlike most other states. Our low unemployment rate creates a low supply of skilled labor. Now, that could have long-term effects because it could discourage outside business coming into the state or slow the local growth of business because of the lack of skilled labor.
Rob: All right. Thank you so much, Andy.
Andy: You’re welcome, Rob.
Rob: Now, when we return, we will look at a new industry initiative to fill the skills gap.