Transforming Oklahoma’s Workforce

The State Chamber of Oklahoma is teaming up with state government leaders to tackle Oklahoma’s workforce issues. Chamber research shows workforce issues are the number one concern of business owners in our state. Clearer pathways are needed for Oklahomans to get the education and training needed to fill the 40,000 jobs currently available, and in turn, grow our state’s economy.

Private sector and government leaders rolled out a plan to transform Oklahoma’s workforce operations. With Executive Order 2023-02 from Gov. Kevin Stitt, the Workforce Transformation Task Force has been established. It’s made up of private sector leaders and public officials charged with identifying ways to align funding to goals and economic needs.

SB 621, if passed, creates the Oklahoma Workforce Commission, a new commission made up of private sector business leaders who will direct the state’s workforce development strategy long-term and administer and oversee funding allocated by the legislature for workforce development initiatives.

The two initiatives work hand in hand to break down silos and limit duplication in the current workforce pipeline, ultimately leading to more direct and efficient completion of education pathways. That means more skilled workers for state businesses and better paying careers for Oklahomans.

“I want Oklahoma to be the most business-friendly state in the nation, and for Oklahoma to keep up with the jobs of tomorrow, we have to reimagine our approach to workforce,” said Gov. Stitt. “I’m eager to see the bold vision cast by the Workforce Transformation Taskforce.”

“Many state agencies and individuals touch workforce development, but nobody owns workforce. This is a great opportunity for the business community, the governor’s office and the state legislature to come together to transform workforce. We have a significant workforce problem and there is a significant effort in progress to fix it,” said Chad Warmington, Task Force co-chair and president/CEO of The State Chamber.

“Workforce is a critical element of economic development and without a strong system and talent pipeline in place to provide the workforce needed, Oklahoma can‘t reach its full potential, “ said Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development, Chad Mariska. “However, with an optimized workforce system, Oklahoma can set itself on a trajectory to achieve historic economic prosperity.”

“Senate Bill 621 seeks to provide answers to workforce issues. It will work with business leaders in the private sector, with education leader and with government leaders to ensure that Adam Pugh as a senator, Brian Hill as a representative, Kevin Stitt as a governor are not the ones growing the economy. It will make sure that we’re giving Oklahoma companies all the tools you need to grow the economy,” said Sen. Adam Pugh, (R) Edmond.

“Today to be able to stand here knowing that our governor is leading the way, and with all of these industry leaders, knowing that we as Oklahomans have acknowledged our workforce issue and that good is not good enough,” said Rep. Brian Hill, (R) Mustang. “The days before when ‘Oklahoma is OK,’ we’ve moved past that. Because of industry leaders in this room, were taking the next steps for the next generation to succeed.”

“It’s really exciting times for Oklahoma when it comes to workforce development,” said Ben Lepak, Executive Director of The State Chamber Research Foundation. “This is a challenge in every state. Oklahoma’s business community is coming up with solutions to address workforce problems, and I’m proud to see our governor and legislature stepping up to the plate as well.”

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