OKLAHOMA CITY (OBV) – The Oklahoma State Senate approved a bill that is an integral part of a comprehensive plan to restructure and revitalize Oklahoma’s workforce.
Senate Bill 621, written by Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, passed the Senate with a vote of 41 to 3.
“Workforce is a natural area of policy to tackle,” Pugh previously said to Oklahoma Business Voice. “Workforce developments have been siloed instead of a coordinated statewide effort. My bill will begin that coordination effort.”
If SB 621 passes the House of Representatives and is signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt, it will create the Oklahoma Workforce Commission. The Commission will have the power to coordinate and develop Oklahoma’s workforce, create a workforce plan and utilize public and private funds to carry out its purpose.
The bill includes the following objectives:
- Makes the Oklahoma Workforce Commission the single, accountable owner of workforce development;
- Places leaders from the private sector as members of the Commission who are ultimately accountable to the legislature;
- Creates a process and reporting structure that will hold the workforce development system accountable to the strategic vision and needs identified by the legislature and private sector.
Pugh filed the bill in January, days after Stitt issued Executive Order 2023-02, a sweeping initiative to streamline the state’s workforce management process. The order calls for the creation of a Workforce Transformation Task Force that will build a plan to restructure workforce and lead to the appointment of a state workforce leader.
The Task Force’s purpose is to transform workforce delivery from a process spread across several state agencies into a more focused, streamlined entity led by a workforce leader. A primary focus of the Task Force will be to envision educational avenues that will provide students specialized training that will create job opportunities in a wide variety of workforce sectors.
The Workforce Commission will use public and private funds to carry out its purpose.
Pugh said he spoke with business owners across the state and learned that workforce was their most pressing concern, with many hoping the labor pool will get back on track in a post-COVID-19 economy.
“Business owners tell me they need qualified people. We need teachers, we need healthcare professionals. A lot of that was highlighted during the pandemic,” Pugh said.
The state unemployment rate is 3.2 percent and routinely stays below 4 percent, but Oklahoma has thousands of open jobs every month.
“We have low employment, but we have significant under-employment in the state of Oklahoma,” Pugh said during a committee meeting in February.
SB 621 will next be heard in the House of Representatives.