The Edmond Sun

Business

March 28, 2014

Governors promote workforce training initiative for economic success

OKLA. CITY — Gov. Mary Fallin said states like Oklahoma need to bolster its educational and workforce training efforts to meet the “new minimum” of economic success for America’s 21st century workforce.

She made those comments Friday during her National Governors Association initiative summit at the Devon Tower in Oklahoma City where she was joined by Gov. Jay Nixon, D-Missouri, and Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa.

Fallin brought together state teams to discuss her yearlong effort, America Works: Education and Training for Tomorrow’s Jobs. The initiative focuses on improving state education and workforce training systems and aligning those systems with the needs of individual state economies.

Fallin said the “new minimum” for economic success is either a two-year or four-year college degree or a relevant workforce certificate.

“The initiative is about making significant improvements to education systems and workforce training programs to better align them with the needs of our businesses and our labor markets,” Fallin said. “It is about ensuring a new generation of workers can secure good-paying jobs and make a living wage and have access to a middle-class lifestyle.”

Fallin said 77 percent of the jobs that will be created between now and 2020 in Oklahoma will require something more than a high school degree. She said in Oklahoma 54 percent of workers have more than a high school degree.

“Just 50 years ago nearly 80 percent of the jobs in the U.S. economy only required a high school diploma,” Fallin said. “And today that number has dropped to just 35 percent of jobs that are available to those who only have a high school degree. And two-thirds of that 35 percent will have jobs that pay $25,000 or less.”

Nixon said by the end of this decade two-thirds of all jobs will require a postsecondary credential.

“That is why I am proud to stand with my fellow governors as we work to ensure all students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and the career of their choice,” Nixon said. “In today’s highly competitive global economy, we believe that education is the best economic development tool there is.”

Branstad said it is important for states to foster a good relationship between education and workforce training.

“I think there is a critical need to align education and job training for the jobs that business and industry need,” he said. “It is one the most important things that we can do. We are excited to learn about what is being done in other states and this America Works agenda is really helping us as governors have the knowledge and data we need to be able lead our states in a positive direction and meet the needs of our workforce and our future workforce.”

Branstad said skilled workers will be needed on a new $1.9 million wind farm project in Fort Madison, Iowa, that Mid-America Energy plans to build.

“All the wind turbines for that project will be built at the plant in Fort Madison,” he said. “We are very excited about that and we want to make sure that people have the skills for those jobs that are being created by that.”

Eric Spiegel, president and CEO of Siemans Corporation, said his company will not hire anyone who doesn’t have a college degree and internship experience.

Spiegel said required internships need to be a staple for all colleges and university students.

Fallin, who previously hosted two other NGA initiative summits, said the dialogue among the governors on this issue will help spur plans of action to close the gap in providing the skilled workforce needed to meet the needs of the economy.

“This work is essential so we can ensure that there is a bright future for our children and to strengthen our states’ economies,” Fallin said. “We believe that governors are uniquely positioned to foster a national conversation among our businesses, education and the public sector on how we can work together to better improve America’s workforce and students and stay competitive with a global economy.”

Fallin is up for re-election this year. She is the only announced GOP candidate at this time. Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, is seeking the Democratic nomination and Richrd Prawdzienski, I-Edmond, has announced his intention to campaign for the governor’s seat.

 

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