Real and meaningful change is coming to Oklahoma's workforce development system!
Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 621 during a June 14th ceremony hosted by The State Chamber of Oklahoma at the AAR Aircraft Services hangar at Will Rogers World Airport.
Stitt, State Chamber President & CEO Chad Warmington and SB 621 authors Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, and Sen. Brian Hill, R-Mustang, honored the occasion with remarks about the bill's significance. SB 621 creates the Oklahoma Workforce Commission.
“It is a super exciting day for me and all of us up here and really for the business community,” Stitt said prior to signing the legislation into law. “As we’re recruiting companies, we hear over and over and over again that it’s all about workforce; [they ask if] they can get the workers that they need.”
The Oklahoma Workforce Commission will direct the state’s workforce development strategy and administer and oversee funding allocated by the legislature for workforce development initiatives. The commission can contract with outside parties to achieve its goals. It will also coordinate workforce entities, harmonizing those silos into a more fluid and efficient system.
“This is a big day for the business community and for the state of Oklahoma. For years, workforce has been the number one problem for state companies. We worked for over two years to research and develop a workforce transformation plan,” Warmington said. “The Workforce Commission will make it easier for existing companies to grow and it will create the skilled workforce we need to attract new businesses to our state. We thank all our members and lawmakers that have worked so hard to make this day a reality."
Pugh referenced State Chamber research, which found that Oklahoma business leaders are most concerned about workforce.
“More than 53 percent of all businesses across the United States have said they do not believe that there is an adequate workforce to meet the needs of a 21st century economy in a tight labor market where there is need for skills that are stackable and have to reinvent themselves less than every decade,” Pugh said.
Stitt issued an executive order in January, creating a Workforce Transformation Task Force. Stitt appointed Warmington and Oklahoma Commerce Secretary Chad Mariska task force co-chairs. The task force determined Oklahoma needs a “single owner” of workforce development that will serve as a statewide coordinating body for agencies and stakeholders involved in workforce and talent development.
The commission will be composed of nine members, each a representative from Oklahoma's private business sector, with the governor appointing three members, the House speaker appointing three members and the Senate pro tem appointing three members. Stitt will appoint the commission's chair. Officials from relevant state agencies will work with the commission in an advisory role.
The commission will grow the workforce of the future by helping schools provide students specialized education and training that will prepare them for jobs of tomorrow. Stitt cited the Oklahoma Aviation Academy, which is part of Norman Public Schools, as a sterling example of how education cultivates future workforce.
“Now, when you’re a junior in high school, if you want a career in aviation, [if] you want to become an AP mechanic, you can actually start going to this [aerospace] school,” Stitt said. “By the time you graduate, you’re an AP mechanic.”
SB 621's impact will be felt for generations to come, according to Hill.
“These are those crucial steps that we’re taking towards not just being top 10, but literally leading in the nation,” Hill said. “That excites me and excites me for your kids and my kids, because it’s not just about us. It’s about a small company over in Mustang that’s looking to hire new people. It’s about people up in the panhandle that want to live there and thrive there but know that their company can’t grow if they don’t have a strong workforce.”