Fallin launches initiative

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Mary Fallin has announced a goal to increase post-secondary education and training attainment for Oklahomans. The goal, named Launch Oklahoma, is for 70 percent of Oklahoma’s residents, age 25-64, to complete a postsecondary degree, certificate or credential by the year 2025. About 40 percent of the state’s residents now have that level of education or training.

“Projections show that in 2025, 77 percent of the state’s new labor market will require greater than a high school diploma, highlighting the critical need for higher education,” said Fallin, who authorized Launch Oklahoma in Executive Order 2016-41. “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. Launch Oklahoma will help ensure Oklahoma has enough workers with the right skills to enter and succeed in the workforce. In return, Oklahoma will succeed.”

Launch Oklahoma was developed as a result of recommendations by the Oklahoma Works Leadership Team, led by Secretary of Education and Workforce Development Natalie Shirley. The team includes representatives from higher education, CareerTech, the state Department of Education, the Commerce Department, the Office of Workforce Development, and the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative.

“The state is facing a critical gap between the skills of the current workforce and the skills that are needed to fill vital jobs,” Shirley said. “Launch Oklahoma will address this issue by encouraging youth to seek postsecondary education and training, and by helping Oklahomans who have left the education system to get back in and upskill. Through these efforts, Oklahomans will have the opportunity to get the higher wage jobs that are critical to our economy.”

The statewide goal to increase the overall postsecondary educational attainment of Oklahoma’s workforce from 40 percent to 70 percent means nearly 600,000 more workers will need a postsecondary degree, certificate or other high-quality credential in just eight years. The need for this goal is outlined in a 2016 research study of Oklahomans who have neither started nor completed postsecondary education. The study, commissioned by the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development and paid for with funds from the U.S. Department of Labor, will be released next month. Among other findings, the report revealed that students and parents/guardians need more evidence of the importance of a postsecondary certificate or degree.

“The state of Oklahoma must employ a globally competitive workforce to attract companies with high wages to increase the wealth and quality of life for all Oklahomans,” Fallin said. “To meet this challenge, I created Launch Oklahoma to build upon my existing Oklahoma Works initiative. By aiming for this ambitious postsecondary education attainment goal of 70 percent by 2025, we will put Oklahoma on the path to meet labor demands, recruit new and grow current businesses, and increase the opportunity for all Oklahomans to achieve the American Dream.”

To meet this goal, state agencies, educators, businesses and workforce partners will collaborate during the next several months to create a strategic plan to increase overall educational attainment. This plan will be due to the governor by Nov. 1, 2017.

“Gov. Fallin’s ambitious Launch Oklahoma goal demonstrates the vital role that postsecondary degrees and credentials play in meeting Oklahoma’s current and future workforce needs,” said Higher Education Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “Oklahoma’s state system of higher education strongly supports the Oklahoma Works initiative through our college degree and certificate completion efforts in Complete College America. “Our public colleges and universities continually collaborate with business and industry partners to link our academic programs directly to employment needs in high-demand occupations, including critical STEM disciplines.”

“Oklahoma CareerTech programs — such as those in common education 6−12, in technology centers and the skills centers programs in correctional facilities — afford students the opportunity to earn certificates, industry-recognized credentials, career readiness certificates, and college credit toward an associate degree,” said Marcie Mack, director of the state Department of Career and Technology Education. “These opportunities are solutions to both the workforce gap and to meeting the established educational attainment goal. Oklahoma CareerTech empowers middle school, high school and adult students to add workforce value to their education, and our partnerships with business and industry are vital to ensuring workforce needs are met in our state.”

Jennifer Monies, executive director of the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative, said: “Gone are the days where a high school diploma alone will lead to a quality job for most Oklahomans. This ambitious goal will put every Oklahoma student on a trajectory of life-long learning, while encouraging students and adults alike to pursue career training or college no matter their stage in life. I applaud Governor Fallin and the entire Oklahoma Works team for setting high expectations for all Oklahomans with this education attainment goal.”

To learn more about the goal, current research and data, visit the Oklahoma Works website (http://oklahomaworks.gov/attainmentgoal), or follow Oklahoma Works on Twitter and Facebook.