Gov. Fallin urges closing of ‘skills gap’ at Oklahoma workforce workshop

Governor Mary Fallin emphasized the importance of "closing the skills gap between the skills employees have now and the skills employers will need" in her keynote on Oct. 16 at the Oklahoma workshop of the Western Governors' Workforce Development Initiative.

Gov. Fallin, who hosted the workshop in Oklahoma City, added that it's "important to talk to students at a younger age about a career so that we make sure our students know the courses they might need to get where they want to go." (Watch the keynote)

The governor also discussed the many workforce efforts that she has launched during her time as governor, including "Oklahoma Works." That initiative connects businesses, state agencies and educators to discuss what skills employers need and educational leaders can better align degree programs to better achieve that employee pipeline.

South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, who has made the Workforce Development Initiative his central policy effort as WGA Chair, added that states need to make sure that they work to enable a workforce that "business and industry need now and not what they used to need."

Richard Laine, who served as the workshop moderator, offered opening remarks that helped further frame the two-day conversation at the Skirvin Hilton in Oklahoma City. Specifically, the President of DFI Consulting highlighted the fact that the majority of U.S. students are underperforming academically while there is an increasing demand for more credentials, such as degrees and certificates. (See slides) The result is the skills gap highlighted by Gov. Fallin in her remarks.

The theme of the Oklahoma City workshop is to examine how states can better utilize data to identify critical skills gaps and then align resources to guide jobseekers from career awareness to the training and credentials that will prepare them for in-demand careers. (Read the Oklahoman story about the workshop)

The workshop, which is the third of four for the Chairman's Initiative of Gov. Daugaard, is being livestreamed and subsequently archived on WGA’s YouTube page. The initiative seeks to leverage the region’s best thinking to bridge the gap between prospective workers and employers in the West to create enhanced career opportunities for students, graduates and displaced workers.

Use the following links to watch videos of the workshop's keynotes and roundtables.

Keynote by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin: Includes opening remarks by James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director of WGA, and a speech by WGA Chair and South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard (Download Gov. Fallin’s presentation slides)

Roundtable I: Career Awareness: Engaging Students to Motivate Their Educational Journey to a Career: The session highlighted how two states are using state employment data to identify high-wage, high-demand jobs and then using web-based tools to engage students, make them aware of career opportunities, and help direct them to the education necessary to achieve the job. Moderator: Richard Laine, President, DFI Consulting. Panelists: Cindy Koss, Deputy Superintendent for Academic Affairs and Planning, Oklahoma State Department of Education; Mindy Stitt, Executive Director, Oklahoma Energy Resources Board; Marcia Hultman, South Dakota Secretary of Labor; Erin Risley-Baird, Executive Director, Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development.

Roundtable II: Identifying Credentials of Value: How States and Employers Address the Skills and Credential Gaps: Economic data shows that a relevant workforce credential or postsecondary degree is the “new minimum” for young job-seekers. As states project economic growth in their private and public-sector jobs, they recognize the urgency to fill the gap between the number of young people with a postsecondary credential and the number employers need. This session highlighted the challenges facing states’ education and training institutions to meet the growing demand. Moderator: Richard Laine, President, DFI Consulting. Panelists: Allison Bell, Director, HCM Strategists; Roy Swift, Executive Director, Workcred; Christine Niero, Vice President, Professional Testing Inc.

Roundtable III: Resource Alignment: Governors are working to create the talent pipeline their state’s employers need to thrive and grow their companies. But too often the vision is undermined by budgets and other issues that prevent state agencies and the public and private sectors from collaborating. This session provided examples from states leading the way in realigning resources. Moderator: Richard Laine, President, DFI Consulting. Panelists: Nova Gattman, Legislative Director, Washington Workforce Training & Education Coordinating Board and Co-Chair, NGA Policy Academy on Work-Based Learning; Steve Hendrickson, Chair, Oklahoma Governor’s Council on Workforce & Economic Development and Director, Government Operations, The Boeing Company; Aaron Fichtner, Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. 

Keynote:  Giving Students Real World Experience - Apprenticeships, Work-Based Learning, and Mentors: Chauncy Lennon, Managing Director and Head of Workforce Initiatives, Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase.

Roundtable IV: Creating Opportunities for Students to Learn at Work: Work-based and experiential learning opportunities for youth have myriad benefits, including developing soft skills, increasing career awareness, and offering young people the opportunity to earn while they learn. This panel will explore effective work-based learning programs. Moderator: Richard Laine, President, DFI Consulting. Panelists: Natalie Shirley, Oklahoma Secretary of Education and Workforce Development and President of OSU-OKC; Kimberlee Carlile, Director of Industry and Talent Initiatives, Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development; Chauncy Lennon, Managing Director and Head of Workforce Initiatives, Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase; Sean Thurman, Director of Global Public Policy, Walmart.

Putting the Pieces Together: Reflecting on lessons learned at this workshop, this session will explore what actions to take -- from Governors to the private sector to education institutions -- to build high-quality, equitable opportunities for young people. Moderator: Richard Laine, President, DFI Consulting. Panelists: Governor Mary Fallin; Lindel Fields, Superintendent & CEO, Tri County Tech; Nathaniel Harding, Chair of Oklahoma Governor’s Council on Workforce & Economic Development; Jennifer Monies, Executive Director, Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative.

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