Path Home Shows 2014 Show Archive December 2014 Show 1450 America’s Workforce Future

America’s Workforce Future

Educators and industry professionals believe early STEM exposure will allow our nation to progress.
America’s Workforce Future

America’s Workforce Future

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Gordon Cooper Technology Center



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Show Details

Show 1450: America’s Workforce Future
Air Date: December 14, 2014



Andy Barth: Well, the prosperity that STEM fields offer can only be realized if students begin working toward those fields, a goal educators hope to accomplish by introducing STEM at younger age levels. Joining me now is our Courtney Maye.

Courtney Maye: Andy, educators and state leaders recently gathered in Oklahoma City for the Governor’s Conference on STEM, which brought both educators and industry leaders together.

Courtney: Science, technology, engineering and math – employing nearly 8 million Americans and keeping Oklahoma’s unemployment rate at record lows.

Marty Lewis: And if they did not find that workforce here, then we wouldn’t see a 4.6 percent unemployment rate. We’d see much higher.

Courtney: Marty Lewis is with Gordon Cooper Technology Center and says CareerTech’s focus on STEM fields is driven by the economy.

Lewis: The driving force for us to be involved in STEM education centers completely and totally around economic development.

Courtney: Development rooted in STEM education.

Lewis: I think STEM plays an enormous role because all of the sectors of the economy that are booming at this particular point – oil and gas, etc., have relied upon us and higher ed to a certain extent to feed a workforce that has that STEM background, has that math and science background and so that they can fill their needs.

Courtney: And for Chancellor of Higher Education Glen Johnson, successful STEM employees begin as dedicated students.

Glen Johnson: We know that if students will be interested and if they can maintain and prepare for the work that there’s going to be great job opportunities available.

Courtney: By 2018, roughly 81,000 STEM jobs must be filled in Oklahoma. Yet the number of STEM graduates is well below, creating a skills gap between the number of jobs and the workers qualified to fill them -- an issue Johnson and others are working to overcome.

Johnson: We offer at a number of our colleges and universities these summer academies in science and math where we could get students as early as the seventh and eighth and ninth grade to turn on that light if you will or get the spark that ignites their interest in a career in science and math or technology.

Courtney: And nowhere can you find more future scientists and engineers than the Oklahoma School of Science and Math – a magnet school attracting students from across the state. Frank Wang is the president.

Frank Wang: A good percentage of our graduates who are working now are in STEM-related fields, so we’re glad to contribute to that pipeline that we so desperately need for our nation’s economy.

Courtney: And Johnson says well-prepared high school students become successful college students, then valuable workers.

Johnson: Those students that opt to prepare and to look at a career in STEM as early as their high school years, they’re going to be in a position to be more competitive.

Courtney: Now, many different industries are affected by the lack of skilled employees. One of the most important things for companies is to have a highly-skilled workforce, and Andy, as Gov. Fallin mentioned, businesses could hire a lot more people, but they don’t have the right skills.

Andy: Well, Courtney, it seems like something that could have long-term economic consequences.

Courtney: That’s right. It all really comes down to the law of supply and demand, and here in Oklahoma our highly skilled workforce still doesn’t seem to meet up with the demand we have in industry, and I think the solution to the problem is comprehensive training at younger ages.

Andy: All right. Well, thank you so much, Courtney.

Courtney: You’re welcome, Andy.