Tulsa Tech Partnership with OK2Grow Aims to Help Close Student Skills Gap

Courtesy Tulsa Tech/Vanessa Aziere
SKILLS2GROW TEAM: Rana McVay (right) shown with colleagues Johnathon Ford and Joey Johnson leads the Skills2Grow initiative at Tulsa Tech. 

The headlines are everywhere, noting the growing skills gap in jobs like manufacturing, HVAC repair and Information Technology. It is a worldwide problem, however, the impact of the skills gap here in the U.S. can seem a bit frightening.
A survey by the employment website CareerBuilder found that 60 percent of U.S. employers have job openings that stay vacant for 12 weeks or longer. A recent Forbes article showed that the manufacturing sector may need to fill more the 2 million jobs over the next decade.
That is the sobering reality for the U.S. workforce over the next decade. It is all because the nation is losing a generation of skilled workers. Tulsa Tech is working to tackle that problem through a partnership with the non-profit group OK2Grow.
“We are working with five different high schools and we are training students,” Rana McVay, Tulsa Tech Business and Industry Services Coordinator said. “We are starting with an entry-level manufacturing program.”
The program called Skills2Grow teaches students safety skills that they need to land a manufacturing job, including CPR, OSHA 10 certification, along with quality control standards in different industries. But beyond the “hard skills,” the program is focusing on developing the entire student.
“Our industry partners said ‘soft skills’ were huge,” McVay noted. “Students need to know how to develop relationships across generations.”
Soft skills are a combination of skills such as leadership, communication, flexibility, teamwork and listening. These are often referred to as personal skills or abilities.
OK2Grow began nearly a decade ago with three business owners who saw a shortage of qualified applicants. Now, Tulsa Tech is helping students find their best path.
“To see Tulsa Tech partnering with OK2Grow and seeing how important options are for students, it takes education to a whole new level for me,” McVay said with a smile. “Seeing students get more opportunities excites me because every child is different.”
Students in the program spend their first semester learning the hands-on skills they need. Then in the second semester, they are partnered with businesses, through OK2Grow, to complete internships that could lead to quality job opportunities.
“These students are learning that there is door waiting for them that they can walk through, starting a whole new direction in their life,” McVay said. “The student who thought no one cared can now be part of economic development in Oklahoma.”
Current data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows job growth in manufacturing is similar to other industries, averaging about four percent increase each year. The average manufacturing salary nationwide is close to $35,000.
The Skills2Grow program is just getting started, this is the first class to go through the curriculum. But there are plans to expand into more high schools, and McVay is hopeful this group of students will see the success of their work.
“This is a springboard to helping close that skills gap,” McVay said. “I hope to see out of the 60 students in the program, two-thirds get into a career or learn something they had no idea about and use that to open doors to other opportunities.”
Tulsa Tech prides itself on helping people Make Their Own Path to a rewarding career, and this is truly a way to help students who do not see themselves going to college.
“What is awesome about the programs that Tulsa Tech offers is that they are giving students the opportunity to go to work,” McVay noted. “If they want to go to college, the sky is the limit. If college is not in their path, right now, let’s give them the skills to succeed.”
If you are looking for exciting classes for high school and adult students, quality corporate training, or a challenging new career, Tulsa Tech invites you to visit today. For more information, please call 918-828-5000 or visit tulsatech.edu.

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