Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Periscope: This Should Scare the Pants off Economic Developers

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Periscope: This Should Scare the Pants off Economic Developers

Article excerpt

Quality workforce. It's one of the chamber of commerce buzzwords when they start talking about corporate relocation.

Consider this statement, direct from the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber's website: "An educated workforce leads to better business recruitment and expansion and is key for Greater Oklahoma City's bright future."

Now consider this statement sent last week by the Lumina Foundation introducing the findings published in its annual report: "Oklahoma now ranks 42nd in America for college attainment. The report also shows that the current pace of progress is far too modest for Oklahoma to meet its future workforce needs and that educational achievement varies across the state's largest metropolitan markets."

The report revealed that as of 2011, only one-third of Oklahomans ages 25 to 64 held a college degree, and that's counting two-year, associate-level degrees. Only one-fourth have a bachelor's degree or higher, and just 7.45 percent have a postgraduate degree.

That's a problem, the independent Lumina Foundation says, because by 2020 65 percent of U.S. jobs will require some form of postsecondary education. The foundation's goal is to help America get a postsecondary degree into the hands of 60 percent of adults 25- 64 within 12 years. At Oklahoma's current rate, only 39 percent of Oklahomans in that age range will have one by 2025.

Those with college degrees earn more. Consequently, they spend more. That's good for the state's economy, and a state full of credentialed adults is attractive to companies that might consider a move to Oklahoma. That's also good for the state's economy. Sadly, the shortfalls are apparent. Among workforce-age adults in Oklahoma, 52 percent of Asians have a college degree, making them the highest attainment group. White adults follow at 35 percent, then blacks at 28 percent and Native Americans at 26 percent.

What should scare the hell out of Oklahoma's economic development crowd is that only 15 percent of Hispanics here have completed a postsecondary education. …

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