Path Home Shows 2015 Show Archive March 2015 Show 1512 Gov. Mary Fallin - Oklahoma Works

Gov. Mary Fallin - Oklahoma Works

Oklahoma Works aims to increase Oklahomans’ wealth by helping create good jobs for workers and good workers for business and industry.
Gov. Mary Fallin - Oklahoma Works

Gov. Mary Fallin - Oklahoma Works

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Show Details

Show 1512: Gov. Mary Fallin - Oklahoma Works
Air Date: March 22, 2015



Rob McClendon: Well, in her State of the State address, Gov. Mary Fallin unveiled a new program called Oklahoma Works, an effort to realign education and skills training to better meet the needs of both students and employers. And I was able to sit down with Gov. Fallin to talk about the new program.

Rob McClendon: Madam Governor, what is your motivation behind the Oklahoma Works program?

Gov Mary Fallin: Well, the Oklahoma Works program is about making sure that we have a highly skilled, educated, prepared workforce to take care of the jobs that we have in the state of Oklahoma. And you know many times I’ll find employers who will tell me I could hire more workers if I could just find that employee that has the right type of skill sets or educational attainment. And then on the other hand, I’m a parent, you know my husband and I have six children between us, and so we have one more child that’s not out of college yet. And so, like a parent, we always think about what’s your child going to do once they graduate from college? Are they going to be able to find a job in Oklahoma? And a lot of kids come out of college, or maybe it’s a CareerTech school, and they’re not quite sure what they want to do, or even some high school kids aren’t quite sure what they want to do, so. Basically it’s about bringing together K-12 education, kindergarten through 12th-grade education, our wonderful career technology schools that offer vocational skill sets that people can actually use out into the workforce in a particular career, or helping them move into an associate degree or college, four-year college degree, and to align our education pipeline with the jobs that are actually out in the Oklahoma communities.

Rob: So if we are aligning this educational pipeline, what is industry’s role in this?

Gov Fallin: Industries play a huge role in this because they are the ones out there creating the jobs, needing the skill sets and hopefully growing and expanding in Oklahoma. And so we need their input. We need them to tell us, “Here’s what we need.” An interesting thing, if you look for an example, like at the manufacturing sector, because technology changes so very quickly. In other words, I buy an iPhone or an iPad or whatever it might be, and within two or three years they’ve got another version out, and I haven’t hardly mastered the first one I got, and then they’re trying to upgrade me to another one. Same thing happens in manufacturing. In other words, they may have a piece of equipment, a piece of technology that they train their employees to utilize, and within two to three to four or five years that technology is obsolete. And so their workforce has to have that critical thinking skills, the problem-solving skills and basically the basic math and science and reading to be able to learn that new process to keep that manufacturing company moving forward with the ever-changing technology that’s out there.

Rob: From this technology perspective, it seems like short-term skills training is going to be something that everyone can expect pretty much from here on out.

Gov Fallin: Well, back in the old days when my parents were growing up, you took a job and you pretty much stayed in that job until you retired. Now, back in these days, and I don’t know the exact statistics but, people change jobs every, sometimes, two to three years. It’s just a different mindset for our children than what it was when our parents were growing up. And so the skills change so rapidly, mainly because of technology and how we communicate. And so it is important that we have an education and a pipeline talent system that always encourages people to continue to improve upon their educational attainment levels. And that’s what Oklahoma Works is about. We know that two-thirds of the jobs between now and the year 2020, which is just five years away, will require more than a high school degree. That’s the new minimum for being able to have access to the majority of the jobs, not only in Oklahoma but across the nation. But the fact of the matter is that we only have about 49 percent of our workforce that has a portion of either a high school degree, an associate degree, a little bit of career technology education. But the reality is two-thirds of them need to have more than a high school degree to enter into the workforce. And then of course I’m always trying to grow our economy, grow our quality of life, increase the quality of the jobs that we have in the state so people can do better and support their families, and children can find a good-paying job in our state. But in order to do that, we’ve got to have the right skilled, educated workforce, and that’s what Oklahoma Works is about. It’s bringing businesses together with all of our educational institutions, making sure we’re aligning the skills and the education levels with the needs of the economy. It’s not just the state economy, but regional. In other words, the things that are needed skillwise in eastern Oklahoma where we have a lot of forestry and lumber, we have a lot of tourism, a lot of small business manufacturing, are different than western Oklahoma where we have a lot of agriculture. We have hog farms out in that area. We have a lot of oil and gas, other things, too, a lot of wind turbines in that area. But those skill sets are different than what’s needed in some cases down in eastern Oklahoma.

Rob: Madam Governor, thank you so much.

Gov Fallin: You’re welcome.