In the last several months education has been at the forefront in Oklahoma. From the Governor’s agenda with the Launch Oklahoma initiative to budget shortfalls affecting schools and teacher pay. MidAmerica Industrial Park and the Pryor Chamber hosted NORA’s Northeast Oklahoma Education Summit in Pryor on April 5, 2017. Highlighting the summit was speaker State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and Dr. Marcie Mack, State Director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.
Among the topics discussed by speakers was the need for individual career academic plans for students. In Oklahoma the workforce will need 77% of employees to be skills ready through college degrees or career training. As of today, only 54% of employees are skills ready.
According to speaker Scott Fry, NORA board member and director of workforce development at MidAmerica Industrial Park, workforce will be the difference maker in bringing new companies and jobs to northeast Oklahoma. 70% of the workforce at MAIP live within Mayes county where MAIP is located. He went on to talk about the benefits of creating STEM projects and courses around products kids already love. This gets them interested and keeps them engaged.
Dr. Ron Cambiano spoke about higher education. Dr. Cambiano is a NORA board member and Professor at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. Dr. Cambiano pointed out that for every $1 invested in higher education in Oklahoma there is a $3.56 return in the local economy. Currently there are 231,000 students enrolled in Oklahoma higher education institutions. That enrollment number has been steady for a decade beginning in 2005. He also stated of all the Oklahoma higher education graduates 84% stay and work in the state.
Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. spoke about Talking Leaves Job Corps in Tahlequah. The Cherokee Nation has operated Talking Leaves since the 1970’s. There are 197 students enrolled at their facility. They have had 34 students obtain a GED and 65 graduate with a high school diploma. He went on to say that 99% of the students are from the Tahlequah area. 110 students have been placed in jobs while 20 have gone on to college. Secretary Hoskin Jr. made compelling arguments for how Talking Leaves Job Corps helps young people without any path to success find a path and navigate it to success.
Dr. Coody from Hilldale schools spoke about an internship program she created for her students. 51 students worked internships. She explained many of the benefits for students including teaching them the soft-skills that are lacking as they enter the workforce. The lack of soft-skills is something NORA has heard from companies participating in recent workforce research. She went on to explain her program. Dr. Coody said students can pick more than one internship.
Don Raleigh, Superintendent of Pryor Schools, spoke about beginning career activities with children in kindergarten. In Pryor, students are required to identify several possible career paths by the 7th grade. He went on to say they can change the career paths they have chosen later. His philosophy has been that exposure to careers paths early can keep students from wasting time going down a path they don’t like later.
Several common themes running through the summit speakers were community involvement with schools and students, specifically corporate partners, and involving students in looking at career paths early in life.
Liberty Shere and Sara Stephens, of NORA’s Northeast Oklahoma Leadership Academy, presented the leadership academies project of getting every school district in NORA’s 14 counties to create Men in the Making clubs. Foyil has been the first school system that will introduce the Men in the Making Club with the assistance of corporate partner Mid-America Pipeline Company.
Recap: 2017 Northeast Oklahoma Education Summit
Published: Friday, April 7, 2017