Rapid advances in technology are continually changing workforce needs and how students today need to be educated for the jobs of tomorrow.
The first day on the job is the day workers begin retraining to learn new skills, Steve Hahn, president of AT&T Oklahoma, said Thursday at a workforce and education summit in downtown Oklahoma City.
“What that looks like in five years, I have no idea,” Hahn said.
Education and business leaders gathered to address those challenges at the Age of Agility summit presented by America Succeeds and Oklahoma Achieves.
Of the 20 jobs expected to be most in demand in the next decade, only three require a bachelor’s degree, said keynote speaker Jody Kent, a vice president at Universal Technical Institute, which has campuses in nine states.
“We’ve been told a degree is what’s needed for success,” Kent said. “The traditional college path is an excellent option for many kids.”
But families may be overlooking trade and technical education that can provide rewarding careers for students, she said.
“When we support them, they can do extraordinary things,” Kent said. “Developing the workforce America needs will provide careers kids can enjoy.”
Gov. Mary Fallin called it one of the most important issues facing Oklahoma and the nation.
“We have to make sure that our workforce is relevant and skilled for the needs of the employers,” Fallin said. “It’s amazing how fast things change.”
She said Oklahoma is facing a 23 percent gap in the skilled workforce it has and the skilled workforce it will need in 2025.
Jaared Scott, assistant superintendent of instruction at Francis Tuttle Technology Center, said school officials work with industry advisers to make sure what they are teaching meets workforce needs.
High school students are solving real-world problems and earning U.S. patents, Scott said. “They become creative problem-solvers, no longer fearing failures, but learning from them,” he said.
The University of Oklahoma College of Business is tackling the most pressing needs of the business community in the state, Dean Daniel Pullin said.
“We think of ourselves as an economic engine for Oklahoma,” Pullin said. “If we’re relevant and provide the outcomes desired, they (businesses) will invest in education.”
Oklahoma has made significant increases in STEM degree completion, access to high-speed broadband internet service statewide, and the number of apprenticeships and internships for students, Fallin said.