Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Committee Looks at Oklahoma's Critical Work Force Needs

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Committee Looks at Oklahoma's Critical Work Force Needs

Article excerpt

Manufacturing was once considered a source of "good" jobs; now manufacturing employment is treated as the boogeyman parents use to scare their children into attending college, Gordon Anderson told lawmakers on Tuesday. That fairy tale is largely responsible for the difficulty he and his fellow manufacturers face in finding skilled labor, he said.

"Parents say, 'Son, if you don't go to college, you'll wind up working in some dark, dirty factory,'" said Anderson, special projects manager for manufacturing company Pelco Products Inc. in Edmond.

Factories today are neither dark nor dirty, but they do provide jobs for one in every six Americans, said Anderson, speaking to members of the House Economic Development and Financial Services Committee on Tuesday. The committee considered an interim study requested by state Rep. Skye McNiel, R-Tulsa, on identifying Oklahoma's critical work force needs.

As the current work force ages, not enough young people are taking the vocational education classes needed to replace retiring workers at factories, in construction, health care, and a variety of other professions that do not require a college education, said a number of the speakers who participated in Tuesday's meeting. But instead of encouraging high school students to pursue those jobs, all of Oklahoma's youth are being encouraged to obtain a college degree.

Cantera Concrete Co. in Tulsa employs more than 400 people, said Brent Dostal, the company's president. The company would employ more people if it could find qualified applicants.

"In the last two years, if there were another 200 workers available, it would not have been hard for us to expand enough to take them on - if they were there," said Dostal. "No Child Left Behind - that is leaving children behind, and those children drop out, about 4,500 people from the Tulsa metro area every year."

Qualified applicants for concrete work need basic math skills, said Dostal. Some knowledge of algebra and trigonometry are helpful when trying to figure out how much concrete is needed to fill a given area, but those with strong basic math skills can be taught what they need to know on the job, he said. …

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