PARTNERSHIPS VITAL FOR GROWING SKILLED WORKFORCE, OFFICIALS SAY
Oklahoma City’s continued growth and prosperity is a reflection of its community leaders and organizations, such as the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, and the partnerships and collaborations it has forged or shared to transform Oklahoma City into a place that many cities now envy. For years, the metro’s colleges and universities, public school systems, private schools and career technology centers have worked together to help provide Oklahoma City with a workforce that meets the needs of business and industry. For instance, Rose State College, a two-year college located in Midwest City has many articulation and partnership agreements in place. Its president , Dr. Jeanie Webb, understands just how vital these and other kinds of initiatives, such as concurrent enrollment , can be for their students and the companies they eventually work for. “Let’s get these kids in and give them a jump start.
With concurrent enrollment , they can get their bachelor’s degree in three years and be out to work . I think that is really what the workforce wants to do,” Webb said. Francis Tuttle Technology Center is also honed in to providing graduates with the necessary skills and tools required by the business community today. They have created four college prep academies for students as early as 10th grade that pair high-level math and science skills with technical skills. The newest academy – an entrepreneurship academy – opens this fall. “Since 2003, when we opened our engineering academy, we have had 755 students graduate. About 90% of those students will go on to major in engineering. And just kind of a side success, since about 2015, 15 student teams have applied for and gotten U.S. utility patents because of the work they are doing on their senior projects,” said Francis Tuttle Superintendent Dr. Michelle Keylon. Even local high schools are becoming more involved
in workforce development. At Cristo Rey Oklahoma City Catholic High School , students are not only exposed to rigorous coursework but are also required to work five days a month for a local business as part of the school’s Corporate Work Study Program. “We are pretty much a first-generation college-bound school ,” School President Chip Carter said. “Over their four years at Cristo Rey, our students will typically be at two or three different companies, maybe even four, so they are going to get exposed to a lot of different career opportunities. When they go to college, our kids are already having a much deeper idea of what they want to major in than what I had when I was their age,” he said. Santa Fe South Public Schools Superintendent Chris Brewster said if he had a magic wand and unlimited resources, he would, “have every business employ high school seniors as paid interns into a profession so we can draw a great workforce in and value these students and their expertise from day one.”
When it comes to specific areas in which students need more training , two reoccurring themes that many educators point to today are teaching students how to learn and training in interpersonal or soft skills. “Students have to know how to learn, how to seek new information and how to apply that back to what they are doing ,” Keylon said. Webb believes students are coming in much more technology oriented, which is vital as they begin their college coursework . Nonetheless, she believes common education, higher education and Career Tech will all need to work together to help students succeed in school and in the workplace. “Partnerships are our answers to the future,” she said. “If we all come together, regardless of what college or career tech you are at , I think Oklahoma can be a top-10 state.”
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