“Northeast Oklahoma has a workforce comprised of highly-skilled and educated workers who earn above a living wage by following career paths; a workforce that has easily accessible jobs and is motivated by businesses that hire within the community; a workforce with competitive opportunities to live, work, and play in northeast Oklahoma.”
Our Region should focus on retaining a skilled, ready workforce. We have a population that is growing in comparison to the rest of the state. Our youth and elderly populations exceed that of the rest of the state and the nation; however, our workforce population, aged 30 to 59, is less than that of the state and the nation. Regional wages are at the lower end of the spectrum in comparison with the state and two of our counties, Cherokee and Adair, are considered consistent poverty counties. As a Region, our unemployment rates are typically comparable with the state rates and lower than the national average, although it varies greatly by county. As a rural Region much of our workforce commutes to metro areas and as the rural business economy expands through planned growth we must find ways to retain our ‘best and brightest’ by focusing on career path jobs.
Workforce discussions drew many community participants, second only to the Infrastructure discussions, and focused on two central themes:
1) effectively engage skilled workers and reduce the underutilized workforce and
2) train unskilled workers or workers with non-transferrable skills.
Community deliberations regarding the themes brought forth three results:
1. Northeast Oklahoma will be a Certified Work Ready Community – this will not only help new businesses decide to locate in northeast Oklahoma, but it will provide a comfort level for existing employers regarding their workforce and expansion possibilities; currently thirty states participate in the Work Ready Community Certification program and Oklahoma is considered a Silver State with levels of Bronze, Silver, Gold, and most recently Platinum.
2. The Region has In-depth Knowledge of Existing and/or Expanding Industry Clusters – workforce, economic developers, communities, and educators all understand the regional industry clusters and prepare entrepreneurs and workforce to meet industry needs. 3. All Regional Workforce Programs are Collaborative and Share Resources – workforce and career training programs eliminate all boundaries to provide seamless transitions in training our workforce.