Path Home Shows 2015 Show Archive March 2015 Show 1512 Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1512

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1512

This week on Oklahoma Horizon, we focus on the skills gap within industry and education.
Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1512

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1512

For more information visit these links:

MidAmerica Industrial Park

State of Oklahoma

Oklahoma Military Connection

SuperGreen Solutions

Show Details

Show 1512: Oklahoma Horizon TV
Air Date: March 22, 2015



Here is what’s coming up on your “Horizon.”

Rob McClendon: Well, for several years now Oklahoma’s economy has been exceptionally strong for anyone with an in-demand skill or ability. Yet for those with a high school diploma or less, with no certifiable skill sets, their employment picture isn’t so rosy. In fact, unemployment for those with a high school diploma or less is twice that of those with a college degree or an industry certification. It’s called a skills gap, and it’s what we are focusing on today with state leaders at the Capitol, within industry and in education. Stay with us for “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Male announcer: “Horizon” is made possible by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

Female announcer: Oklahoma’s investment in CareerTech provides more than nationally recognized technology education and training. It produces solid financial returns for the state’s economic future; Oklahoma CareerTech, elevating our economy.

Male announcer: And the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, helping good people grow good things. And now, from the CareerTech studios in Stillwater, here’s your host, Rob McClendon.

Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone; thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” Well, manufacturing contributes roughly $2.9 trillion to our nation, and for every $1 spent in manufacturing, another $37 flows throughout the economy. In the governor’s State of the State address, she mentioned a program called MidAmerica Delivers, an initiative in Pryor, Okla., that she believes can be an example for the entire state.

Gov. Mary Fallin: So the goal is to expose the students to the job and career options available to them after graduation as well as the skill set they need to be able to obtain those jobs.

Rob: Our Alisa Hines visited the MidAmerica Industrial Park to find out how the program works.

Alisa Hines: As one of the nation’s largest industrial parks, MidAmerica is reshaping the way skills training happens. Through collaboration between education and industry, MidAmerica is bridging the gap between manufacturing needs and an available, skilled workforce.

Alisa: Like paper changing rolls, manufacturing is shedding its image and rolling out good-paying jobs while growing their local workforce. Jeff Wargo is with Orchids Paper Products and says manufacturing is transforming.

Jeff Wargo: Well, manufacturing has gotten a bad rap over the last 30 years, and manufacturing is starting to come back. America was built on manufacturing and is going to continue to be built on manufacturing. You have to make a product to have a viable economy. And right here in the MidAmerica Industrial Park, you know, we’re part of the manufacturing engine that’s running this county and the Pryor area.

Alisa: And to make that engine run, you need skilled employees. John Hawkins is with the Governor’s Council for Workforce and Economic Development.

John Hawkins: What we have seen recently is that the workforce was lacking in some skill sets. And so we organized with MidAmerica Industrial Park’s help through MidAmerica Delivers. We’re moving towards aligning everybody. And by everybody I mean common ed, the higher ed, the career centers, the governments in the county and the surrounding areas, and our sense of community has broadened dramatically but we’re getting some inclusiveness that we’ve never had before.

Alisa: Giving students different routes towards the same goal of working in the industrial park. Scott Fry is the director of the OSU Institute of Technology’s MidAmerica Industrial Park Advanced Training Center and says their hands-on training is helping close the skills gap.

Scott Fry: When the students complete our programs that they know how to do. It’s just not building a knowledge base but a true skill set.

Alisa: Randy Kersker is a former combat medic who is ready for a change, so he’s attending OSUIT’s electricity program.

Randy Kersker: The hands-on has been great. I’ve really enjoyed coming in here into the lab and just, that’s where I learn, with my hands, doing. I could read a book over and over and over again, and I still may not understand what they are trying to convey, but as soon as you let me do it, then I’ve pretty much got it. I decided the industrial park was a big opportunity. And everything around here works off of some form of electricity, and there’s always going to need to be people that work on electricity, so why not.

Alisa: And OSUIT also offers concurrent classes that Pryor High School student Brandon Cummings says will give him an advantage when he graduates.

Brandon Cummings: Because I can be making college credits while I’m still in high school, and even if I don’t want to go into manufacturing, these credits are transferrable to RSU or any other local college.

Alisa: And the other difference it will make.

Brandon Cummings: Five dollars an hour at Pete’s Drive-In versus $15.75 at Orchids.

Alisa: Back at Orchids Paper Products, Steve Waldeck says the training he received at OSUIT helped him move up the career ladder.

Steve Waldeck: At first I was only going to take a few classes to solidify some technical training that, uh, things that I had previously worked on since I was a high school dropout. I found out that I could get an associate’s degree, have an opportunity to go the college, walk in the procession, so that motivated me. And from that point forward, I started doing three classes a semester. I didn’t qualify for any grants; everything was student loans. I write a check every month for a hundred dollars for my student loans. It’s the easiest check that I have ever put my signature on.

Alisa: At Northeast Tech Center, Craig Cooper teaches welding and says they are preparing their students for local industry.

Craig Cooper: Trying to prepare them is like trying to take a high school student and turn him into a pro ball player, to meet the industry standard in the short period of time that we have them. With the proper training, meeting industry standards, we make that happen. Our industrial park here in Pryor, we’ve got students working in it.

Alisa: Training students like Hunter Dawson who wants to work in the industrial park.

Hunter Dawson: Helped me skill-wise because I never really knew what I wanted to do, you know, when I got out of high school. And I didn’t really want to go to college. It wasn’t really for me. And we have an industrial park and, you know, it’s local. There’s a lot of jobs. Welding is a trade, and you’re always going to need welding, and that’s the kind of job I wanted.

Alisa: While developing skills needed to run local industry.

John Hawkins: What we are able to do is combine resources in order to give a product to the clients, and the students are the clients. So not only working for them, we’re working for the park and for the community.

Alisa: And keeping it all local.

Jeff Wargo: What I want to get out to the young people is, there’s an opportunity here in Mayes County to not only graduate high school, but to attain whatever level of secondary education you’re seeking, be it to have, you know, just various skills that you can get at the Northeast Technology Center, skills you can get at OSUIT with an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree programs out of Rogers State, all located right here in the industrial park. So you can graduate from high school here. You can obtain your secondary education here. And you can get a very good-paying job and have a career here and really never leave the area.

Alisa: The MidAmerica Delivers initiative is only successful because of the willingness of training and educational institutions to align their programs to meet the needs of local businesses. As John puts it, the egos were left at the door, and everyone agreed to cooperate. And so far, it’s been very successful.

Rob McClendon: Now, later in our show we’ll take a closer look at the MidAmerica Industrial Park and its role in revitalizing that area’s economy.

David Stewart: Well, we want people to wake up going, “I can be successful right here.” You know, wake up in that kind of environment, and then you’re not looking for a place to move.

Rob: But when we return, my conversation with Gov. Mary Fallin.

Male announcer: You’re watching “Oklahoma Horizon,” featuring some of the good things that are happening in the great state of Oklahoma.

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: 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.

Female announcer: Still to come on “Oklahoma Horizon” creating a world-class workforce. But first, Oklahoma’s Military Connection.

Rob McClendon: Well, the transition from military personnel to civilian life can be difficult. Veterans often have trouble matching the skills they acquired in the service to civilian jobs back at home, but thanks to a program called Oklahoma Military Connection, veterans now have a place to find a career out of uniform. Amy Ewing-Holmstrom is with Oklahoma CareerTech.

Amy Ewing-Holmstrom: The Oklahoma Military Connection numerous times throughout the year will hold hiring events specifically for military. And coming up April 2, we’ll be doing that same thing in the McAlester area at the Reserve Center there. We’ll have about 50 employers throughout the state that want to talk to them about possible employment. Our Oklahoma employers are very happy because they want the veterans to come to work for them.

Rob: Now, if you’d like to learn how to become involved in this event, just head to our website at where we have a link under this story.

Rob McClendon: Well, while some veterans may meet their future employer at the military connection job fairs, not every person returning home from active duty wants to go to work for someone else. Joining me now is our Andy Barth.

Andy Barth: Well, Rob, after serving our nation as a Navy man, one Oklahoman continued serving those around him when he went to work for himself, making where we live a little greener.

Andy Barth: After wearing Navy blue, Andrew Mason is going green.

Andrew Mason: We are energy-efficient products. We do solar panels, wind power, LED lights, tankless water heaters, hybrid water heaters, solar tubes and many, many more.

Andy: And with the motto “reduce before we produce,” Mason opened Supergreen Solutions, Oklahoma’s first green franchise.

Mason: So we want to come in, we want to look at where your money is going. If you’re wasting it on lights, then we want to replace your lights. If you have gaps under your door, and your heat is just going out under the door, well, we need to fix that first. And doing those things will save you, will bring your $800 electric bill down to 300.

Andy: And after 20 years in the Navy, Mason launched his civilian career.

Mason: I learned so much in the Navy, and it was a very interesting career. And when I was done with the Navy, I knew I wanted to get into being my own boss and having a business.

Andy: Where he reports to his customers.

Mason: Either you like helping people or you don’t.

Andy: And Mason does. By helping people lower their energy bills, he believes his business prospects will brighten.

Mason: Electricity is only going to go up. Unless some other factor changes that nobody else is talking about, you’re going to pay more for your electricity. And one of the answers is you either have to use less, or you’re going to have to start producing your own.

Andy Barth: Well, now, Mason was born with the military in his blood. With a father in the service, Mason lived overseas and grew up with a love for the armed forces. His father also worked for the U.S. Department of State and lived in multiple embassies around the globe.

Rob McClendon: All right. Well, thank you so much, Andy.

Andy: You’re welcome, Rob.

Rob McClendon: Want to share something you’ve seen here today? Well, all of our episodes are streaming on our YouTube channel at OklahomaHorizonTV, or you can subscribe to our weekly free podcast on iTunes.

Rob McClendon: Well, Pryor’s MidAmerica Industrial Park is a powerful economic engine for northeastern Oklahoma, not only providing jobs, but helping people get the skills to get hired. I sat down with David Stewart, the park’s chief administrative officer, to learn more about their approach to meeting the needs of both industry and the workforce.

Rob: So Dave, I believe when anyone drives in, they’ll be struck by how sprawling the MidAmerica Industrial Park is.

David Stewart: Yes, it’s actually 10,000 acres, of which about half is still available for development. And that’s really what we’re focused on is bringing companies into that 4,000 acres, creating jobs for this area.

Rob: How has that industrial park, or this industrial park, how has it developed over the years?

Stewart: Well, it was formed in 1960, and strangely enough, it acquired the assets of a black powder munitions plant from World War II, so the infrastructure is very well-developed, and over time we have acquired 80 companies, and 3400 employees come to work here every day.

Rob: And the jobs are very different. I mean, things from Google to a trucking company.

Stewart: Right, very diverse group of companies, and that’s what’s interesting is because we can cater to a wide range of employee type skill set. And as a result we have a lot of different kind of training programs and assets to bring to those companies.

Rob: How important is location?

Stewart: Well, it’s critical. When you look at why companies locate, they locate for workforce, and they locate for location, so distribution, access to highways, transportation. Of course, we’re right next door to Tulsa International Airport. We have an inland waterway. So it’s very critical. When you put all those together, it makes for a unique combination.

Rob: So what makes MidAmerica Industrial Park so unique? What does it offer?

Stewart: Well, really four areas. One is governance. You know we have five trustees, of which I am one, that make all the decisions. We have no zoning, no permitting, and basically five trustees can make those decisions. So at a time when you know permitting and speed saves money, companies look at that very critically, so a very probusiness environment. Second of all, we have all of the infrastructure. We have power, water, waste treatment and plenty of land to offer. Third, we have on-site training. We have Rogers State University with a campus on-site, OSUIT is on-site, and Northeast Tech, part of our careers program, is on-site. So those assets are here available for the companies. Now, how do we deliver those? And that’s the fourth asset that we bring to the table. We bring a collaboration, the ability to collaborate with all of our stakeholders, the superintendents of high schools, the community leaders, representatives from the higher education and educational institution and representatives from business. So when you bring the CEOs to the table, along with those other stakeholders, that is where the competitive work of MidAmerica, I believe, is because when you bring those together and you deliver all of those resources in a way that is directed by the CEOs, that means it’s going to be probusiness. And that is what is unique, and that is what MidAmerica delivers. It is that unique collaboration and group of stakeholders that meet regularly to provide all of these resources, whether it be workforce, legislation, you know, unique legislation needs, anything, those companies can get from the resources of this organization.

Rob: So essentially, shovel-ready, whether it be building something to providing the workforce?

Stewart: Absolutely, including spec buildings that are readily available for companies to move in, and also we have resources and incentives that if a company comes in here with 200 employees, we can actually provide some incentives similar to what the state provides as a third bucket of incentives. So when you add that to the picture, then it really is unique and differentiates us from most other parks.

Rob: How important are skills to meet the job demand that you have here?

Stewart: Well, when you look at why companies locate, there is a lot of research that is done with site locators and such. They locate, you know they have land, they have water, they have power and all of those foundational type assets and resources, but at the end of the day if they don’t have qualified employees, they can’t make money, and they can’t prosper. So we identified that, and so we are focused now on bringing all of the community resources, the assets that we have in such a way that it is very unique, deliberate, aligned, so that those companies, the companies here, can succeed and grow. And so it’s critical, absolutely critical.

Rob: And there is a picture right behind us of a proposed MidAmerica Career Center. Tell us about that.

Stewart: Absolutely. When we strategically, when we looked at the resources that we had and why companies relocate and why they grow and expand and make choices to grow and expand, it turns out that their qualified workforce, having that available is the most critical. So when we look at what we need to bring to those companies, we need to locate, we need to coordinate a process where we can deliver employees, qualified employees, to those companies, we need to evaluate, and we need to educate. So when you look at that process, there is really no one place where that can happen, and that’s where the idea of the career center came up. The career center will provide all of those activities under one roof, a one-stop show if you will. We think it’s going to be unique. We’re under design right now. It’s about a $10 million project, and we’re very excited about what it’s going to provide to the companies here.

Rob: What would you tell the young person or really just tell anyone about the jobs that can be offered here and why they ought to look at something like this?

Stewart: Well, first of all we have to acknowledge that really people here want to stay at home, right? They want to be with their families. I mean, this is rural America, and it’s a great place to live. We have Grand Lake, we have Lake Tenkiller, Eufaula, Gibson, we have the Illinois River, we have the Ozarks, you know, 30 minutes away. So people want to stay here. So how do you do that? Well, you have to have the skill set training that is needed in order to get the jobs that are available. So combining those two and aligning them is what we have to communicate to our, I call them kids because I’m older, but to our kids that are looking for these kinds of opportunities and information. And what we believe is that they just don’t have the information. It exists, but we need to communicate it to them. So I would tell them it’s right here. You can get a great job. In fact, we have jobs today that are available, a wide range of jobs all the way from, you know, plant maintenance to robotics to Google, and you can do, you know, computer work. So whatever you want is here. We just need to find out what you like to do, and then we need to train you and give you skill sets to be productive right here in northeast Oklahoma.

Rob: Now, if you would like to see my entire interview with David Stewart, it is streaming on our website at

Rob McClendon: Next time on “Oklahoma Horizon,” we profile basketball superstar Cheryl Miller and learn about her coaching rebirth right here in Oklahoma.

Cheryl Miller: You know, my brothers were always, you know, iron sharpens iron, and if you want to get better you’ve got to compete against the best at all sports, at all levels. So, you know, growing up in that environment of a very competitive family certainly stoked the fires.

Rob: Basketball coaching legend Cheryl Miller on Oklahoma’s show for the heartland, “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Rob McClendon: Well, that is going to wrap us up for today, but you can see more of any of our stories on our website at You can listen to us on the go with our weekly podcast on iTunes. Follow us throughout the week on twitter at OKHorizonTV. Or, just become a “Horizon” fan on Facebook. I’m Rob McClendon. Thanks for including us in your day. See you back here next week.

Male announcer: “Horizon” is made possible by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, helping good people grow good things. Thank you for watching “Oklahoma Horizon.”