The Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) issued a report last week on Oklahoma’s workforce readiness which confirmed nearly all of the findings the State Chamber Research Foundation has uncovered in its extensive study of the issue over the last three years.
The in-depth report, covering some 90 pages, concludes that the newly created Oklahoma Workforce Commission will play a pivotal role going forward in coordinating the various stakeholders involved in workforce and talent development, serving as the state’s central hub for policymakers, industry and workforce development agencies to convene and align on state workforce initiatives.
LOFT’s conclusion about the Workforce Commission’s coordinating role reflects precisely the legislature’s purpose in creating the Commission last year with its landmark legislation, the Oklahoma Workforce Transformation Act (SB 621).
The legislation codifies in Oklahoma law that the private sector-led board of the Oklahoma Workforce Commission is charged with “coordinat[ing] the development of the workforce needed to grow Oklahoma’s economy and Oklahomans’ prosperity” and vests the Commission with the authority “to coordinate the funding and activities of each element of the state’s workforce development programs, systems, and entities” and to “achieve better alignment, accountability, and results for the state’s workforce development efforts.”
The LOFT report highlights that the Workforce Commission will serve as Oklahoma’s “centralized data and information repository for workforce development activities for the state,” and is empowered to make recommendations that will guide legislative investments in workforce development.
The report painstakingly documents the fragmentation that has previously characterized Oklahoma’s workforce development ecosystem, echoing previous findings of the State Chamber and the Governor’s Workforce Transformation Task Force. For example, the report describes the lack of alignment between Oklahoma’s K-12 and post-secondary education systems with the needs of the economy and provides detailed analysis of the more than $1 billion the state spends annually on workforce development. Despite this significant investment, the report finds that due to the lack of coordination of the various entities involved in workforce development, the state experiences significant gaps in its talent pipeline. The report highlights an example of the state’s failure to coordinate and align activities in its discussion of the Governor’s Council on Workforce and Economic Development, largely describing the Council as ineffective.
Fortunately, brighter days are on the horizon. The report previews a much more cohesive, efficient, and effective workforce development system that is taking shape in Oklahoma, with the Oklahoma Workforce Commission at the center. Working with stakeholders across the government and private sector, the Commission will serve as a hub of information and activity, set clear strategic vision for the state, and provide invaluable guidance to policymakers in the legislature as they invest state appropriations for workforce development. The Commission will also ensure much needed—and typically missing—accountability and results tracking on programs and investments made by the legislature.
As the LOFT report makes clear, the Oklahoma Workforce Commission is a transformative step in building a cohesive, high-octane workforce development system and leading the country in talent development and economic growth. Workforce development is on the rise in Oklahoma and greater prosperity awaits.