OKLAHOMA CITY (OBV) – A bill filed in the Oklahoma Senate aims to grow the state’s workforce by incentivizing institutions of higher learning to launch degree programs that create the types of jobs Oklahoma’s workforce needs.
Senate Bill 1358, written by Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, creates the Workforce Development Revolving Fund for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The bill appropriates $200 million from the General Revenue Fund to the Revolving Fund. That money will be provided to post-secondary schools that create degree programs that would help the critically-needed occupations identified by the Oklahoma Workforce Commission.
The bill orders the Workforce Commission to identify those critical occupations.
“A lot of economic development is tied to our workforce, and as you have heard all of us mention for many years now, we see education and workforce as inseparable in that it’s really a continuum,” Pugh said while presenting the Senate’s education legislation. “The education systems that we have in place feed the future workforce, and we can’t be trying to solve a problem in the year 2024 for workforce in the year 2024 legislative session.”
The Oklahoma Legislature and business leaders must be future-minded when developing Oklahoma’s workforce, Pugh said.
“We need to be forward thinking and visionary, thinking about what does a workforce look like in 2030 or 2040, and where is the economy going, and where is Oklahoma’s inherent advantages to grow our GDP and increase outputs, and increase GDP and increase economic freedoms for our citizens,” Pugh said.
The bill states the following about the fund that will incentivize universities, colleges and other post-secondary institutions to create workforce-minded degree programs:
“The fund shall be a continuing fund, not subject to fiscal year limitations, and shall consist of all monies received by the State Regents from state appropriations provided for the purpose of increasing the number of degrees granted to fulfill workforce needs identified pursuant to subsection B of this section.”
Pugh’s bill is one of three bills supported by The State Chamber of Oklahoma which call upon schools to help grow the state’s workforce. The other two bills are as follows:
- HB 3274 by Rep. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon. A bill that expands graduation requirements by adding optional career-readiness and armed services assessments for certain students.
- HB 3278 by Baker. A bill that creates the Graduation Act of 2024.
“We’ve been having great conversations with K-12, CareerTech and higher education leaders about how Oklahoma can do a better job of getting students ready for their next chapter. How do we make it easier for students to move within the system with purpose towards a career goal? When all those systems are aligned, it works best for all Oklahomans. It gives everybody an opportunity to get on a career pathway that’s going to put them in a job that’s going to change their family tree potentially. That’s what our workforce system should be all about,” said Chad Warmington, president and CEO of The State Chamber.
Pugh has become a champion of workforce growth. Last year, he wrote Senate Bill 621, which established the aforementioned Workforce Commission.
The Workforce Commission is working to coordinate the state’s workforce efforts. Their objective is to streamline workforce processes into a more efficient and effective system that will grow the economy and produce greater numbers of skilled workers.