Producing enough workers who can do the job — today and tomorrow — is a challenge that keeps Oklahoma’s CareerTech system buzzing.
CareerTech looks at workforce needs from a company perspective to make sure workers are getting the training for high-demand, high-wage jobs, Director Marcie Mack said.
“We get the opportunity to work directly with business and industry to ask what their needs are,” Mack said. “How do we help train not only their current workforce, but how do we help prepare our students to be their future workforce?”
When a business puts in a new computer system, and its staff needs programming and application training, CareerTech can do that.
“It’s very important that we work at the speed of business,” Mack said. “We make sure that we can turn the training they need in a timely manner because their business is going to continue on, and we want to make sure that we help them move forward.”
CareerTech also reaches out to those who are not yet employed or who are in low-paying jobs to help them to obtain the post-secondary credential or certification needed to get a good job.
“Our partnerships with business and industry are vital to ensuring workforce needs are met in our state,” Mack said.
Citing projections that 77 percent of the state’s jobs in 2025 will require education beyond high school, Gov. Mary Fallin announced a workforce initiative last month called Launch Oklahoma.
The goal is to increase the number of Oklahomans ages 25-64 who have postsecondary education or training from 40 percent to 70 percent — or about 600,000 more workers.
“The workplace is changing rapidly with the growth of technology, and it is vital that today’s students possess the skills to meet this reality,” Fallin said in the announcement. “Launch Oklahoma will help ensure Oklahoma has enough workers with the right skills to enter and succeed in the workforce.”
CareerTech launched an online tool in 2015 called OK Career Guide to help Oklahomans find out where their career interests lie, from a sixth-grader just starting to explore careers to an adult looking to change careers.
More than 56,500 registered users have logged on to the free career planning site.
It’s important to help individuals currently in the workforce pipeline, but equally important to continually fill that pipeline, Mack said.
“We provide students with an opportunity for a career plan, an opportunity to look at what is available here in Oklahoma and what skill sets do you need to obtain employment in that career field,” she said.
CareerTech has career and technology programs in 395 school districts and cooperative alliance agreements with the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.
High school students attend technology centers at no cost, and have the opportunity to obtain college credit toward an associate degree as they obtain industrial credentials and training.
Health programs continue to be in high demand, and companies always ask for more truck drivers, welders and machinists, Mack said.
Since 2007, career academies have been offered to high school students in high-demand areas like pre-engineering, biomedical, gateway to technology and computer science.
The academies include a number of advanced placement courses that count for college credit for students who pass the test, said Paula Bowles, communications and marketing officer.
“There are so many more options for younger students now to explore things. It’s not just auto body or HVAC,” Bowles said.
People’s educational needs vary greatly, so CareerTech strives to be flexible, Mack said.
“As individuals come in, we can look at the educational experiences or skills they already have learned on the job to help them obtain credentials, certification in those areas to further their career,” she said.
A certification program may be six weeks long or the person may need a two-year program to achieve his or her goals.
“It’s not one size fits all,” Bowles said. “It’s what do you need to be successful in what you want to do, and we’ll try to help you get there.”