OKLAHOMA CITY (OBV) – A Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) report on workforce readiness in Oklahoma found that schools across the state are not prioritizing college and career readiness.
LOFT presented the report to the Oklahoma Legislature’s Legislative Oversight Committee this week.
The report noted that Oklahoma business leaders are concerned about the ability of the state’s workforce to meet projected industry needs. The report also cited Oklahoma’s labor participation rate as a point of concern.
“While the overall availability of workers is a concern – Oklahoma’s labor force participation rate is lower than the national average – the ability to find a worker with the required skillsets is of greater concern to businesses,” the report states.
The LOFT report referenced The State Chamber Research Foundation’s 2023 Business Leaders Poll, which states that less than 10 percent of the business leaders surveyed rate the quality of Oklahoma’s workforce as “very” satisfactory. Most found it to be “somewhat” satisfactory.
Workforce development happens across multiple sectors, including primary education, higher education, career technology, the business community, economic development agencies and state agencies dedicated to training, according to the report.
The report made the following four findings:
- Finding 1: Oklahoma invests at least $1 billion annually on workforce development, delivered across 30 agencies. The state invests workforce development funds across 30 state agencies, paying for activities that include education, training, recruitment, dropout recovery, scholarship awards, tax credits and coordination efforts for various occupations and industries.
- Finding 2: Oklahoma has a gap between current workforce training levels and degrees required for projected growth sectors. Oklahoma’s worker shortage has, on average, 52 available workers for every 100 job openings, ranking Oklahoma 25th nationally. “Workforce projections from all major sources agree that future jobs will require more education, especially bachelor’s degrees in STEM, managerial, and professional fields.”
- Finding 3: Most high schools are not prioritizing college and career readiness; postsecondary programs succeed when responsive to industry needs. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) academic programs are essential for meeting Oklahoma’s workforce needs because those skills are required in many jobs in the state’s top industries, including energy and aerospace.
- Finding 4: The legislature is the appropriate owner of state workforce development; the commission and executive agencies can support this function. The legislature being the “owner” of workforce development will help fulfill the promise of the Oklahoma Workforce Transformation Act. The Transformation Act puts the newly formed Oklahoma Workforce Commission in charge of coordinating the state’s workforce development activities, but prohibits the commission from governing other entities.
LOFT’s complete workforce readiness report is shared below: