Workforce Strength Brings Jobs to Region
Growing the Tulsa Region By Mike Neal
President and CEO, Tulsa Regional Chamber
Workforce issues don’t always get the attention they deserve, but there’s a simple truth in economic development that holds true no matter where you are: Workers bring jobs.
Cities with the best educated, skilled workers attract the best jobs because employers want to know that their community can provide the skilled labor necessary not only to sustain them, but to grow them.
Earlier this year, the Tulsa Regional Chamber with help from numerous funding partners – the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Indian Nation Council of Governments, the Community Service Council and Public Service Company of Oklahoma – launched an initiative centered on that fact.
We set out, with the help of national consultants and stakeholders at all levels of our community, to take a comprehensive inventory of our region’s workforce strength and weaknesses as we begin the process of drafting unified, regional workforce development strategy.
To meet this goal, we held meetings in Tulsa and surrounding suburbs. We spoke to residents, employers, economic development organizations, education and training institutions, employers, elected officials, neighborhood representatives and anyone else with a stake in the continued success of our workforce.
We did this because it is imperative that we have a comprehensive, unified strategy for dealing with these workforce challenges – because workforce development is key to the continued success of northeast Oklahoma and is a component of all our economic development efforts, led by the Tulsa’s Future regional economic development plan.
On July 14, we announced the results of this initiative.
Our Workforce Analysis Project consultants from (The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning) and Avalanche Consulting generated an extensive list of researched observations about our workforce’s strengths and weaknesses, along with 11 high-level recommendations for improving it.
You can find the full report at tulsachamber.com/workforceinitiative, but the recommendations included:
• Focusing efforts on highly-concentrated industries and associated occupations.
• Creating sector-driven one-stop workforce centers.
• Increasing effectiveness of industry and education communication.
• Developing a clearinghouse of regional education workforce-focused efforts and initiatives
• Implementing a career awareness marketing campaign.
• Collaborating on regional funding requests, engagement of the philanthropic community
• Creating industry and education regional roundtable.
• Forming localized services to address specific barriers in each underserved region (north, east and west Tulsa).
• Increasing higher education access to non-traditional students and working learners.
• Investing in supportive services and outreach efforts to residents to increase labor participation rates.
Partners at all levels of business, government and education are now analyzing these findings with the goal of building a strategy to align education and workforce investment with economic development activities throughout our region – particularly in underserved areas of north, west and east Tulsa.
The recommendations and the associated observations have left us a lot to consider, but we certainly believe we have a solid foundation for a workforce development strategy.
In the meantime, we are continuously working to ensure that our community remains successful in a time of changing demographics and increased competition from other metropolitan areas.
Although we have a strong talent pipeline already established in our region, we can no longer stand by as many of our existing employers struggle to find qualified workers for the jobs they already have – nor is it acceptable that we continue seeing gaps in our residents’ education and training levels across geographic lines.
Workforce challenges are not unique to Tulsa, but our ability to rise above them will define our success in the coming decades.
The Workforce Analysis Project is the first step.