Northeast Oklahoma Regional Alliance
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NORA and Cherokee Nation Impacting Workforce Development

Published: Monday, July 10, 2017

Tahlequah-The Northeast Oklahoma Regional Alliance (NORA) presented workforce development findings to the Cherokee Nation recently.  The yearlong investigation revolved around three sectors: healthcare, hospitality, and manufacturing. 

 “These sectors will see the largest projected job growth in the next five years,” said NORA Executive Director, Darla Heller. “We listened to employers through surveys and personal interviews to understand their challenges to create an environment of collaboration.”

 NORA worked under contract with the Cherokee Nation Career Services as part of a Nation Emergency Grant issued by the US Department of Labor. The contract involved developing a blue-print to advance a sector strategy workforce development plan with attention on the regions three major employment industries of healthcare, hospitality and manufacturing.

The investigation looked at healthcare, hospitality and manufacturing in the 14 counties that lay in the Cherokee Nation, either partially or completely.  Those counties include: Washington, Nowata, Craig, Ottawa, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Wagoner, Cherokee, Adair, Sequoyah, McIntosh, Muskogee and Okmulgee.

NORA conducted surveys, personal interviews, and roundtable table discussions throughout northeast Oklahoma engaging employers, workforce and economic development organizations, and training and education providers. Job seekers were also surveyed. Additionally, NORA inventories all training and degree programs that feed the sectors of healthcare, hospitality and manufacturing. More than 600 individuals participated by giving feedback to the investigation.


“Being able to inventory education and training programs, then put that together with surveys of educators, employers, and those seeking employment allow for a 360-degree view of the current and future workforce situation in northeast Oklahoma,” said Heller.


Common themes cross over all three sectors included:

  • Employers, in general, indicated they are not aware of training programs or the workforce system opportunities and services.  
  • Soft skill and job readiness training and coaching are needed to prepare individuals for work.
  • Delivery of training and programming is optimal when an industry group is prevalent. The manufacturing sector in northeast Oklahoma has built a strong collaborative structure. Opportunities for industry partnerships exist in the hospitality and healthcare sectors.
  • Supportive services such as transportation and childcare are a barrier to recruitment.
  • Gaps in training were identified yet employers are more concerned with employability skills attainment.
  • On-the-job training or other work-based training options are a priority for employers.
  • A greater need for industry awareness across all three sectors for job seekers.

 The plan calls for recommendations in four key areas: building skills employers seek; improving job quality; increasing workforce coordination; emphasis on career pathways and cross sector training. 

 “We will work with NORA and other partners in northeast Oklahoma to address the recommendations set forth in the plan,” said Cherokee Nation Career Services Director, Diane Kelley.   “This plan gives us the tools we need to better serve businesses that are creating jobs in the Cherokee Nation. We are dedicated to being a vital partner in the creation of a strong talent pipeline for healthcare, manufacturing and hospitality.”

 The mission of the Cherokee Nation Career Services Group is to develop and encourage individuals to achieve and maintain work habits and skills that promote employability and self-sufficiency through programs that encompass education, training, rehabilitation and supportive services

 The Northeast Oklahoma Regional Alliance, NORA, is a 501(C)3 corporation dedicated to the growth, prosperity, and vitality of Northeast Oklahoma and its communities, by promoting regionalism throughout the area, leveraging regional resources, recognizing common issues and identifying collaborative solutions, expanding regional networks, and communicating our regional story. 

 For more information about NORA contact Darla Heller at 918 772-8334.