Over the next two months, Gov. Mary Fallin and the State Chamber are hosting a series of meetings across the state on the challenges businesses face finding and keeping skilled workers. We are partnering with Oklahoma Works and the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative to host nine regional meetings that will feature the governor and the Key Economic Network Business Champions she announced earlier this month.
It’s important to go out to different areas of the state. Undoubtedly, no two areas are experiencing exactly the same problems. Yet the solution to the problem – whether a community needs more engineers, more welders or both – is an education system that produces individuals who are ready to pursue their dream job.
During the debate over what Oklahoma’s education standards should be, we heard many times – from so-called education activists and lawmakers of both parties – that the business community should stay in its own lane and not get involved in education. We think that is exactly the wrong tactic. Survey after survey shows the most important issues to the public are the economy and jobs. The students of today will become the employees and taxpayers of tomorrow. If we want them to have jobs that pay well, we need to make sure they are graduating with skills that can take them to college or the start of their working career without remediation.
To the business community, we say: If you have ideas or think that lawmakers aren’t aware of the problems your company is facing, this is your chance to speak up. Let us know about the challenges you deal with when you put out the help-wanted sign. This is also a good time to share innovative solutions your community is using to meet its workforce needs. Either way, the key is getting engaged.
We know it’s not easy to run a business and keep track of what is going on at 23rd and Lincoln. That’s why the State Chamber exists, to be the voice of business at the state Capitol. But to be your voice, we have to hear your concerns. These meetings are your chance to join the conversation about what you expect from Oklahoma’s education system.
This article was posted in The Journal Record as part of Fred Morgan's monthly opinion editorial.