Why Oklahoma Has More Jobs Than Qualified Workers

  • Joe Wertz

There aren’t enough qualified Oklahomans to keep up with the growth in jobs related to the aerospace, energy, and information technology industries.

At a committee meeting Thursday, lawmakers, education officials and agency officials discussed ways to fix the skills gap, which is expected to worsen. The biggest growth area in Oklahoma is in jobs that require post-high school education, but less than a four-year degree. Half of those jobs will require associate’s degrees or some sort of professional certification, The Oklahoman‘s Silas Allen reports:

The state is expected to see more than 6,900 jobs created related to science and technology each year for the next 10 years, McKeever said. But only about 4,000 students graduate from state colleges and universities with degrees in those fields per year.

Manufacturers in Broken Arrow are trying to find skilled workers, and there’s unfilled jobs in trucking and big growth in wind turbine technicians.

Most of those who graduate with science and technology degrees in Oklahoma are from out-of-state or overseas, and those graduates tend to leave the state after they graduate.

Secretary of Science and Technology Stephen McKeever worries that Oklahoma’s economic growth could be hampered by the lack of qualified workers. Sen. Jim Halligan, R-Stillwater, agrees. A new aerospace manufacturer, ASCO, is opening a plant in Halligan’s district — a major win, “but only if it can supply workers qualified to fill them,” The Oklahoman reports:

“We have lots of jobs, but we don’t have people with the requisite skills to do those jobs,” Halligan said. “We need to do something to try to get our skills and the market matched together.”