Calls on Educators to Guide Students into ‘Critical Occupations’
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin on Thursday hosted the Oklahoma Works Summit at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City. Nearly 250 business and education leaders attended the event, which focused on the governor’s Oklahoma Works initiative, launched in 2015, to ensure students are being educated for the high-quality, high-paying jobs the state wants to retain and attract.
“Oklahoma must concentrate on steering students into critical occupations, or those careers where the demand for workers is strongest,” Fallin said
The governor outlined a plan to align education and work skills with businesses and job openings. More CareerTech certificates and college degrees are needed to meet the demands of the workplace that will require higher education levels than nearly half of Oklahomans currently have, she told those attending the Oklahoma Works State Summit.
About 46 percent of Oklahoma’s workforce has a high school degree or less, but in nine years only 23 percent of new jobs will be available to people with those qualifications, Fallin said.
In 2025, 77 percent of all new jobs will be available only to those who have education beyond high school. Currently, only 54 percent of Oklahomans currently have that level of education.
“In order to reach the middle class, students will have to have a credential or a two- or four-year degree,” Fallin said.
“Oklahoma gains in countless ways when it meets the needs of energy, aerospace or technology,” she said. “Top industry sectors pay nearly twice as much the state average for all jobs in Oklahoma.”
Surveys conducted as part of the Oklahoma Works initiative gathered data on employability skills needed now and in the future by business, existing relationships between industry and education, and opportunities for students to explore career options and participate in post-secondary opportunities in high school.
“College graduates and students who earn credentials put themselves in a position to earn substantially more money during their careers than their counterparts without such advanced degrees, but merely earning a degree is not enough,” Fallin said. “Education for the sake of education is a noble endeavor, but we all know that all degrees are not created equal.”
Information released during the summit showed the top job openings in Oklahoma included registered nurses, general and operations managers, accountants and auditors, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, and elementary school teachers. The highest-paying jobs in the state included surgeons, petroleum engineers, architectural and engineering managers, pharmacists, and mining and geological engineers.
Additional speakers at the Oklahoma Works Summit were a keynote speech by Brandon Busteed, executive director of the Center for Education and Workforce for Gallup, and Oklahoma Secretary of Education and Workforce Development Natalie Shirley. The summit also featured a panel discussion with Fallin; Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister; Brad Krieger, representing the State Chamber of Oklahoma; and Nathaniel Harding, founder and president of Antioch Energy and Oklahoma Works Key Economic Network champion from the central region.