Since 2008, when our skilled jobs increased in number over the amount of skilled workers that we have to fill them, employers have had to get creative about their workforce needs. The manufacturing industry, especially, has been hit by this issue that is lovingly called the 'Skills Gap.'
Leading corporations from around the country have started apprenticeship programs to train up our next generation of skilled workers. Yamaha just announced their plans to invest heavily in their Marine University, which they will amp up their hands on training programs for technicians (http://bit.ly/2D6ZkW7.) The Governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimond, shared some of her agenda items from the last 2 years to get Rhode Island out of their slump on Freakonomics Podcast this week (http://bit.ly/2AQFDeX.) She spoke about their workforce development efforts which include free community college, and alignment between high schools and industry. Because of these state wide efforts more then 10 new industries have moved into the state.
These are just a few of the national stories that I've heard this week on the skills gap. It's a real issue that is effecting us, even here in Ponca City, Oklahoma. Our local efforts shouldn't be minimized. MJ&H fabrications owner, Gary Harvey, spends time each week at our local technology center watching and quizzing the welding students. He started a program that we hope to see grow in 2018, called Weld to Work, that will give full time jobs to the top 3 competitors. The Ponca City High School has begun an internship program this year where 25 of our local seniors are working for local industry 2 hours per school day this trimester. Ponca Work's program, Careers and Cookies, put 75 high school students in touch with local employers last year for interview training and job shadowing. The program is on track to grow this year as well!
For all the good we are doing, we are also aware that there is still more to do. Apprenticeships are in low volume in our area, and our state for that matter! Let's work together to find solutions to our workforce needs.
Ponca Works director Liz Leaming shares her musings on the state of workforce in Ponca City, Oklahoma.