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MidAmerica Delivers

MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, Okla., is collaborating with local businesses, schools and industry to create a skilled local workforce.
MidAmerica Delivers

Northeast Tech Center student learns welding for local industries.

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MidAmerica Industrial Park

Northeast Technology Center

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Show 1512: MidAmerica Delivers


Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone; thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” Well, manufacturing contributes roughly $2.9 trillion to our nation, and for every $1 spent in manufacturing, another $37 flows throughout the economy. In the governor’s State of the State address, she mentioned a program called MidAmerica Delivers, an initiative in Pryor, Okla., that she believes can be an example for the entire state.

Gov. Mary Fallin: So the goal is to expose the students to the job and career options available to them after graduation as well as the skill set they need to be able to obtain those jobs.

Rob: Our Alisa Hines visited the MidAmerica Industrial Park to find out how the program works.

Alisa Hines: As one of the nation’s largest industrial parks, MidAmerica is reshaping the way skills training happens. Through collaboration between education and industry, MidAmerica is bridging the gap between manufacturing needs and an available, skilled workforce.

Alisa Hines: Like paper changing rolls, manufacturing is shedding its image and rolling out good-paying jobs while growing their local workforce. Jeff Wargo is with Orchids Paper Products and says manufacturing is transforming.

Jeff Wargo: Well, manufacturing has gotten a bad rap over the last 30 years, and manufacturing is starting to come back. America was built on manufacturing and is going to continue to be built on manufacturing. You have to make a product to have a viable economy. And right here in the MidAmerica Industrial Park, you know, we’re part of the manufacturing engine that’s running this county and the Pryor area.

Alisa: And to make that engine run, you need skilled employees. John Hawkins is with the Governor’s Council for Workforce and Economic Development.

John Hawkins: What we have seen recently is that the workforce was lacking in some skill sets. And so we organized with MidAmerica Industrial Park’s help through MidAmerica Delivers. We’re moving towards aligning everybody. And by everybody I mean common ed, the higher ed, the career centers, the governments in the county and the surrounding areas, and our sense of community has broadened dramatically but we’re getting some inclusiveness that we’ve never had before.

Alisa: Giving students different routes towards the same goal of working in the industrial park. Scott Fry is the director of the OSU Institute of Technology’s MidAmerica Industrial Park Advanced Training Center and says their hands-on training is helping close the skills gap.

Scott Fry: When the students complete our programs that they know how to do. It’s just not building a knowledge base but a true skill set.

Alisa: Randy Kersker is a former combat medic who is ready for a change, so he’s attending OSUIT’s electricity program.

Randy Kersker: The hands-on has been great. I’ve really enjoyed coming in here into the lab and just, that’s where I learn, with my hands, doing. I could read a book over and over and over again, and I still may not understand what they are trying to convey, but as soon as you let me do it, then I’ve pretty much got it. I decided the industrial park was a big opportunity. And everything around here works off of some form of electricity, and there’s always going to need to be people that work on electricity, so why not.

Alisa: And OSUIT also offers concurrent classes that Pryor High School student Brandon Cummings says will give him an advantage when he graduates.

Brandon Cummings: Because I can be making college credits while I’m still in high school, and even if I don’t want to go into manufacturing, these credits are transferrable to RSU or any other local college.

Alisa: And the other difference it will make.

Brandon Cummings: Five dollars an hour at Pete’s Drive-In versus $15.75 at Orchids.

Alisa: Back at Orchids Paper Products, Steve Waldeck says the training he received at OSUIT helped him move up the career ladder.

Steve Waldeck: At first I was only going to take a few classes to solidify some technical training that, uh, things that I had previously worked on since I was a high school dropout. I found out that I could get an associate’s degree, have an opportunity to go the college, walk in the procession, so that motivated me. And from that point forward, I started doing three classes a semester. I didn’t qualify for any grants; everything was student loans. I write a check every month for a hundred dollars for my student loans. It’s the easiest check that I have ever put my signature on.

Alisa: At Northeast Tech Center, Craig Cooper teaches welding and says they are preparing their students for local industry.

Craig Cooper: Trying to prepare them is like trying to take a high school student and turn him into a pro ball player, to meet the industry standard in the short period of time that we have them. With the proper training, meeting industry standards, we make that happen. Our industrial park here in Pryor, we’ve got students working in it.

Alisa: Training students like Hunter Dawson who wants to work in the industrial park.

Hunter Dawson: Helped me skill-wise because I never really knew what I wanted to do, you know, when I got out of high school. And I didn’t really want to go to college. It wasn’t really for me. And we have an industrial park and, you know, it’s local. There’s a lot of jobs. Welding is a trade, and you’re always going to need welding, and that’s the kind of job I wanted.

Alisa: While developing skills needed to run local industry.

John Hawkins: What we are able to do is combine resources in order to give a product to the clients, and the students are the clients. So not only working for them, we’re working for the park and for the community.

Alisa: And keeping it all local.

Jeff Wargo: What I want to get out to the young people is, there’s an opportunity here in Mayes County to not only graduate high school, but to attain whatever level of secondary education you’re seeking, be it to have, you know, just various skills that you can get at the Northeast Technology Center, skills you can get at OSUIT with an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree programs out of Rogers State, all located right here in the industrial park. So you can graduate from high school here. You can obtain your secondary education here. And you can get a very good-paying job and have a career here and really never leave the area.

Alisa Hines: The MidAmerica Delivers initiative is only successful because of the willingness of training and educational institutions to align their programs to meet the needs of local businesses. As John puts it, the egos were left at the door, and everyone agreed to cooperate. And so far, it’s been very successful.

Rob McClendon: Now, later in our show we’ll take a closer look at the MidAmerica Industrial Park and its role in revitalizing that area’s economy.

David Stewart: Well, we want people to wake up going, “I can be successful right here.” You know, wake up in that kind of environment, and then you’re not looking for a place to move.

Rob: But when we return, my conversation with Gov. Mary Fallin.

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