OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin announced Thursday a goal to increase post-secondary education and training attainment for Oklahomans. The goal, named Launch Oklahoma, is for 70 percent of Oklahoma’s residents, age 25-64, to complete a post-secondary degree, certificate or credential by the year 2025. About 40 percent of the state’s residents now have that level of education or training, according to the Lumina Foundation.

“Projections show that in 2025, 77 percent of the state’s new labor market will require greater than a high school diploma, highlighting the critical need for higher education,” said Fallin, who authorized Launch Oklahoma in Executive Order 2016-41. “The workplace is changing rapidly with the growth of technology, and it is vital that today’s students possess the skills to meet this reality. Launch Oklahoma will help ensure Oklahoma has enough workers with the right skills to enter and succeed in the workforce. In return, Oklahoma will succeed.”

Launch Oklahoma was developed as a result of recommendations by the Oklahoma Works Leadership Team, led by Secretary of Education and Workforce Development Natalie Shirley. The team includes representatives from higher education, CareerTech, the state Department of Education, the Commerce Department, the Office of Workforce Development, and the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative.

“The state is facing a critical gap between the skills of the current workforce and the skills that are needed to fill vital jobs,” Shirley said. “Launch Oklahoma will address this issue by encouraging youth to seek post-secondary education and training, and by helping Oklahomans who have left the education system to get back in and upskill. Through these efforts, Oklahomans will have the opportunity to get the higher wage jobs that are critical to our economy.”

The statewide goal to increase the overall post-secondary educational attainment of Oklahoma’s workforce from 40 percent to 70 percent means nearly 600,000 more workers will need a post-secondary degree, certificate or other high-quality credential in just eight years. The need for this goal is outlined in a 2016 research study of Oklahomans who have neither started nor completed post-secondary education. The study, commissioned by the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development and paid for with funds from the U.S. Department of Labor, will be released next month. Among other findings, the report revealed that students and parents/guardians need more evidence of the importance of a post-secondary certificate or degree.

“The state of Oklahoma must employ a globally competitive workforce to attract companies with high wages to increase the wealth and quality of life for all Oklahomans,” Fallin said. “To meet this challenge, I created Launch Oklahoma to build upon my existing Oklahoma Works initiative. By aiming for this ambitious post-secondary education attainment goal of 70 percent by 2025, we will put Oklahoma on the path to meet labor demands, recruit new and grow current businesses, and increase the opportunity for all Oklahomans to achieve the American Dream.”

To meet this goal, state agencies, educators, businesses and workforce partners will collaborate during the next several months to create a strategic plan to increase overall educational attainment. This plan will be due to the governor by Nov. 1, 2017.

“Oklahoma CareerTech programs – such as those in common education 6-12, in technology centers and the skills centers programs in correctional facilities – afford students the opportunity to earn certificates, industry-recognized credentials, career readiness certificates, and college credit toward an associate degree,” said Marcie Mack, director of the state Department of Career and Technology Education. “These opportunities are solutions to both the workforce gap and to meeting the established educational attainment goal. Oklahoma CareerTech empowers middle school, high school and adult students to add workforce value to their education, and our partnerships with business and industry are vital to ensuring workforce needs are met in our state.”

To learn more about the goal, current research and data, visit the Oklahoma Works website, http://oklahomaworks.gov/attainmentgoal.

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