Tinker Air Force Base employs more than 26,000 military and civilian workers, making it the largest single-site employer in the state, with an annual economic impact totaling $3.6 billion.
The huge operation, which had its beginnings in 1941, works with two Oklahoma colleges for help with workforce training.
The relationship between Tinker AFB and Rose State College dates back to 1970, the year Rose State was founded, says Stan Greil, vice president for corporate and continuing education at Rose State. Tinker’s partnership with Oklahoma State University is more recent.
When Tinker joined with Rose State, Greil says, “The nation was embroiled in the Vietnam War, and Tinker, as a major Air Force logistical depot, was a key national asset in the combat mission. Rose State, located within a half-mile of the base, was poised to provide educational opportunities to the many war fighters stationed at the base.”
Today, Rose State provides credit classes and non-credit training workshops at the base, on campus and online.
The Oklahoma City (OKC) campus of Oklahoma State University (OSU) in August begins its third cohort with Tinker Air Force Base.
“We were approached by Tinker probably in 2013,” says Robin Roberts Krieger, vice president business & industry training and economic development at OSU-OKC. “Tinker had some unique software testing jobs, and they were having a hard time finding a workforce, so they approached us and said, ‘If we would identify existing employees, how would we get them trained up in an academically accredited program to do what we need them to do?’”
Krieger and her team went to work, ultimately creating an electronic engineering technology certificate.
While OSU is a four-year college offering bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D’s, OSU-OKC is primarily a certificate and associate’s degree institution, Krieger says, with the average age of students at 28. “Most of our students are working; they have families. Our parking lots are fuller sometimes at night than during the day,” she says.
“During that first cohort, the students were working full time and going to night school to get their certificate, and they knew that at the end they would be qualified to apply for a software testing position at Tinker that I believe paid about $60,000 a year,” Krieger says.
The bottom line, she says, is that Tinker is investing in its workforce and training them up. The vast majority in these cohorts are continuing on for their associate’s degree, and some have indicated they want to pursue their bachelor’s degree, which they can do through OSU in Stillwater (and most of that will occur online).
Tinker’s first cohort was extremely competitive, with about 50 applicants for 10 slots. OSU-OKC’s testing turned up “some of the highest math scores we’ve seen in a long time,” Krieger says, noting that the vast majority of students in that first cohort were veterans.
Rose State, Greil says, has trained virtually thousands of future supervisors for Tinker AFB. “As a result, these trained and certified employees will be able to provide productive, efficient and mission-focused services to the Tinker community and the global customers they serve.”