Column by Fred Morgan, President & CEO of the State Chamber, published in the Journal Record on September 24, 2018
Currently, one of the most important conversations we’re having at the State Chamber is about our future workforce and what the needs of businesses will look like five, 10 and 20 years from now. I hear from businesses constantly about how they have the jobs to fill, yet they don’t have students with the necessary skills to fill them. We are left with a problem that won’t go away; we are not prepping today’s students for the jobs of tomorrow.
That is why the State Chamber partnered with Oklahoma Achieves and America Succeeds to host an event that highlighted how the rapidly evolving world of technology is shaping the way we work and the skills we need to thrive. Our schools, unfortunately, aren’t keeping up. At the event, we heard numerous business and education leaders discuss their personal struggles with this ongoing task, but also about how they are adapting to a changing world. There are bright spots across this state and we must do more to highlight and replicate them.
As we heard about some of the obstacles businesses and educators face, we heard a keynote message that says we must move away from the college-for-all mentality that puts a strain on students who may not perform at the top levels academically.
“We have to find new ways of looking at the world. We have to find new ways of thinking for students,” said Jody Kent with Universal Technical Institute.
That isn’t to say we don’t need more college degrees in Oklahoma, because we do. The number of jobs that can be done with nothing more than a high school diploma are quickly dwindling. We must encourage students to pursue their passions and careers that will allow them to adapt as technology continues to evolve.
This ever-changing world can open great opportunities but also creates the possibility of being left behind. We heard from a CEO saying he doesn’t know what his jobs will look like five-10 years down the road.
Before the iPhone, it was hard to imagine the connected world we have now, a short 10 years after its technology changed the way we all interact. The school-to-work pipeline needs to be redefined, and the business community must lead the effort. Students won’t know what skills they need to be successful if we don’t tell them and stand with educators as we all seek to prepare students for their dream job.