Some people will excel with a college education. Talents of other people shine when they work with their hands.

When a young person is considering what path to take when they finish high school, there are more choices now than ever. And although that's a good thing, Oklahoma has a workforce shortage that affects whether the state can handle large manufacturing facilities, industry officials say. 

Oklahoma is experiencing a shortage of maintenance technicians, machinists, welders, technical sales and robotic specialists.

Industry leaders told lawmakers during an interim study that there aren’t enough workers available to meet current demand in Oklahoma. They said more needs to be done to expand the workforce pipeline and incentivize talented Oklahomans to remain in and relocate to the state. That lack of workforce was a factor in why Panasonic did not choose Oklahoma to build a new electric battery manufacturing facility that was expected to create at least 4,000 new jobs, said Jennifer Springer, with the state Department of Commerce.

Brook Simmons, president of the Petroleum Alliance, said the state’s oil and gas industry can’t operate without CareerTech-trained graduates and a skilled labor force that performs a wide variety of high-paid trades, such as welding and truck driving.

“We have to focus more resources on (CareerTech),” he said. “And we have to also communicate to the next generation that CareerTech is fine. Being a welder is a noble profession. There is honor in all work."

It's not just skills who potential employers are seeking. They are seeking a work ethic to go along with those skills. They want people who have the drive to be a good employee — show up for work. They are on time. They are enthusiastic about their job.

What we need to do is encourage students and provide the training availability for CareerTechs and trade schools all over Oklahoma. We need to make sure students know that there are great careers out there that pay well and don't require college degrees. 

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