There’s a skilled worker shortage on the rise in Oklahoma and many young people aren’t even aware of it. In fact, most students aren’t thinking about what they want to do when they get out of school. So how do we start students thinking about careers earlier and fill the skills gap?

One thing Central Tech has implemented is hosting an 8th grade career fair every fall that allows students to explore their career fields of interest, educational requirements, and compensation. Then they experience a “reality check” by finding out how much it costs to live in the world and whether or not their chosen “career” salary allows them to live the lifestyle they prefer. It’s an eye-opening experience and gets the students thinking ahead.

While many students won’t know what they want to do early in life, this experience allows them to determine interests. Those interests help them identify a potential career and the educational path to get there. By starting early, they can help fill the skills gap in Oklahoma’s workforce.

As we look to the year 2020, the state’s greatest challenge will be increasing the number of students with workforce credentials or associate degrees, as well as increasing the number of college graduates*. In fact, more than half of all jobs will require a license or credential** and technology centers, like Central Tech, are preparing students to meet the demands of the workforce.

“Not only is it critical to get more Oklahomans a post-secondary degree or credential so that they can compete in our current and future economies,” said Erin Risley-Baird, executive director of the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development, “it is necessary for those credentials and degrees to be in the state’s high-demand occupations. There are jobs local businesses are hiring for right now that they can’t fill—and we have Oklahomans who are wanting and willing to work, but just don’t have the right skills. The more we connect training and education to the specific jobs, the more Oklahomans can achieve the American Dream.”

So, it makes sense to plan early, start thinking about what kind of career would be enjoyable, and research what it takes to get there. Children need to learn about the kinds of jobs available, what the job description entails, salary ranges, educational pathways, and of course, personal interest in the jobs they are exploring. Central Tech can help steer them toward high-skilled jobs in high-demand.

Another fun learning experience is Central Tech’s Open House where kids of all ages come and “explore” careers around the campus. Careers from healthcare to diesel, graphic design to interactive multimedia, cosmetology to drafting; there are lots of hands-on activities to try. Open House is Sunday, February 19 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on both the Drumright and Sapulpa campuses. For more information, visit CentralTech.Edu.

*Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development
**U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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