In what officials hope will become a model for the nation,
Oklahoma's higher education, career-tech and common education
communities are working with Tinker Air Force Base to fill the work
force and skills gap that the base faces within five years when more
than 46 percent of its civilian employees become eligible for
"Who's going to come along behind them?" Major General Charles
Johnson II, Tinker commander, said of the base's aging work force.
Not only are many workers retiring, he said, but the base finds
itself in competition with the private sector for the best
"We're going to compete because we're going to get an educated
work force," Johnson said. "An educated work force we must have, or
Tinker will not survive."
The partnership will address both the work force training needs
of the 16,000-civilian-employee Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center
and the more than 8,000 other workers that include Air Force and
Signed Monday by Gov. Frank Keating, Chancellor Hans Brisch,
career-tech director Ann Benson and Johnson, the Tinker Education
Partnership Agreement provides the base with access to programs and
services available from state colleges and universities, career
technology centers and public schools.
The program will also utilize the Online College of Oklahoma and
OneNet in delivering services.
"Meeting work force development needs in any industry is vital
for a prosperous economy," said Brisch. "We are excited that through
this partnership, Oklahoma's higher education system has an
opportunity to showcase its rich abundance of education and training
resources to the military. It's imperative that this state possesses
a highly skilled and trained work force in the 21st century, not
just in the military, but throughout all aspects of our economy."
The program, which officials described as a means of protecting
the central Oklahoma economy as well as national security, has been
in the works for about nine months.
"Central Oklahoma has an incredible range of education resources
within commuting distance of Tinker Air Force Base," said Johnson.
"The positive response of these institutions and leadership in the
education community to this partnership has been very gratifying.
Together, we can provide outstanding training and employment
opportunities for Oklahoma's young people and ensure that Tinker
remains a vital contributor to the nation's security."
Regents Chair Joe Mayer agreed.
"Oklahoma's economy hinges a great deal on the stability of
Tinker Air Force Base and its thousands of civilian and non-
civilian employees," Mayer said. "It's extremely important that we
assist them in any way possible so that they can continue to be a
growing, dynamic and vital player in not only our economy but also
in our national security."
The agreement is aimed at providing Tinker employees with the
technical training and educational opportunities they must have in
today's global marketplace.
"It's anticipated that what we are about to do here will become a
kind of national model," said Brisch.
Apprentice programs may involve both classroom and on-the-job
training, at the end of which students will be placed in jobs
specific to their training, certification or degree. Supervisors may
attend courses in government, management, counseling and other
subjects designed to increase their professional and business
High-tech workers such as engineers and scientists will benefit
from special programs intended to enhance critical computer software
skills. Other ideas for attracting more high-tech workers include
internships providing part-time employment for individuals
interested in obtaining degrees in those fields and employing
students at the end of their junior year.
"We're pleased to be one of the key players in the Tinker
Education Partnership Agreement that will help solve this labor
shortage," said Benson. …