Last month, I wrote about a new program at Oklahoma State University aimed at helping students bridge the gap between education and employment. This program is supported by the business community because of the opportunities it offers its students. In addition, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Central Oklahoma have created their own programs to support students in their quest for a career.
In 2013, the University of Oklahoma conducted an internal review of the Price College of Business to find inefficiencies and revamp its program to benefit its students. Student leaders, professors, regional employers and university staff were interviewed to get a wide range of feedback. From those interviews came a new mission statement for the college and a new outlook on the role higher education plays in the future employment of its students. The new motto of the Price Business College is to ensure “the enduring competitiveness of Oklahoma and the nation” and speaks highly of their renewed focus.
By tackling big issues, generating business insight and prepping leaders, the business school signals that they are ready to equip the 21st century workforce with Oklahoma graduates. They have revamped a section of classes altogether to ensure all business students take a business communications course to aid in those much-needed soft skills.
Reaping the rewards of good decisions made, the Price College of Business has seen an increase of enrollment by 1,000 students in the last four years. It is also encouraging to see most professors have private sector experience in addition to their academic credentials. The State Chamber has consistently advocated for development of a closer relationship between business and academia to address our workforce challenges.
What about students already in the workforce? The University of Central Oklahoma recognized the soft skills gap and filled it with their Workforce Advantage program. Employees can attend to increase their professional image and learn strategies for career advancement. Knowing that not all people were lucky enough to attend a major university or receive the needed training, the Workforce Advantage course allows a level playing field for current and future employment.
These examples detail the forward-thinking mindset needed to equip our students for the 21st century job market. In Oklahoma, we are fortunate to have the backing of our state’s public universities in the quest for national recognition and development of a competitive workforce.
Column by Fred Morgan, President and CEO of the State Chamber of Oklahoma, printed in The Journal Record on October 13, 2017