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Oklahoma Works 2018 Accomplishments

Created a new state program to expand and diversify apprenticeships and internships

Throughout 2018, the Governor’s Council for Workforce and Economic Development (GCWED) continued its efforts to expand and diversify work-based learning opportunities in Oklahoma and make progress towards the state “Earn and Learn Oklahoma” goal of having 20,000 internships and apprenticeships by 2020. During the 2018 legislative session, Senate Bill (SB) 1171 was passed, establishing the state’s work-based learning program as an official duty of the GCWED and creating the first-ever state investment in work-based learning. As a result, we are working to implement a strategic plan to engage employers, industry associations, and other partners in building work-based learning programs suited to their individual needs.

Throughout 2018 we built upon the success of launching Oklahoma’s first youth apprenticeship and first I.T. apprenticeship through a partnership with Dell and ASTEC Charter School in 2017. Under the new work-based learning program this year, we launched 4 new apprenticeship programs, including an innovative employer consortium model. Additionally, two more youth apprenticeships will be launched in early 2019.

Piloted sector partnership initiative to create industry-driven workforce solutions

In 2018, we launched a sector partnership pilot program to foster industry-driven alignment across workforce development, economic development, and education. This regional approach was made possible through grants awarded to three Local Workforce Development Boards (LWDBs) in Northeast, South Central, and Western Oklahoma. The sector partnerships are centered on healthcare and advanced manufacturing and the development of strategies to build a strong talent pipeline based on employer needs. Lessons learned from this pilot program are being used to develop a State Sector Partnership Network that will increase employer engagement in 2019.

Joined national conversation about closing the skills gap through skills-based strategies

Last year Oklahoma joined the State Skillful Network as one of 20 founding member states. Oklahoma and other Skillful states are working to achieve a skills-based labor market to help millions of Americans overcome barriers to obtaining better-paying jobs in today’s rapidly-changing digital economy. Skillful helps employers achieve the workforce they need by providing data, tools, and resources that enable the adoption of skills-based hiring and training practices. Coaches and digital services enable job seekers to learn what skills are in demand and access training at any stage of their career. At the same time, Skillful aligns employers and educators so that their training programs teach the skills required to succeed in today’s economy. After spending 2018 learning best practices from other states, we plan to launch a skills-based hiring pilot project in Oklahoma in the coming year.

Continued to leverage partnerships to increase investments in workforce development

Last year, Oklahoma Works partners secured nearly $8.5 million to support workforce development strategies. This includes the implementation of state occupational licensing reforms and work-based learning opportunities and classroom training for dislocated workers impacted by the energy sector downturn. The Office of Workforce Development also implemented a policy to require at least 40 percent of WIOA Title I Adult and Dislocated Worker funds to be used for costs directly associated with training. That is an increase from the 25% that was spent on direct training costs in 2015. As a result of aligned efforts and strong partnerships, the state has received more than $13.5 million in outside investments in workforce development since 2015. These funds have been used to build infrastructure, provide services, and create policies to better support Oklahomans entering and succeeding in the workforce.

Undertook efforts to improve business services in Oklahoma 

Focus groups were held in six of the seven workforce development areas in the spring of 2018 to learn more about Rapid Response delivery, business services, and other workforce issues. It was discovered lack of relationships with local businesses, lack of quality jobs and wages, lack of knowledge about workforce resources by businesses, and job-seeker drug use were all issues needing to be addressed. The following recommendations were made to improve business services:

  • Analyzing OKJobMatch in terms of how it assists job-seekers and employers;
  • Researching wage sustainability in the different regions in Oklahoma; and
  • Improving relations with employers through the development of business services assistance.

The State Rapid Response Coordinator will develop training and strategies to improve businesses services throughout the state in 2019.

Built strategic partnerships to foster entrepreneurship and innovation

Through a strategic partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and the Center for Work Ethic Development, we worked to build entrepreneurship and innovation in Oklahoma. Five trainings were offered to workforce community partners and service providers across the state, sharing resources for an entrepreneurial mindset, self-sufficiency, work ethic, and financial education tools. The training promoted partnership by featuring local panels of engaged workforce stakeholders who shared how they apply an entrepreneurial mindset to partnerships and innovation. More than 300 attended sessions held in Lawton, Oklahoma City, McAlester, Woodward and Tulsa.