OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development (OOWD) announced today that Oklahoma received a $1.06 million Apprenticeship State Expansion Grant. The three-year statewide grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Education and Training Administration will help increase the number of apprenticeship opportunities in the state, support diversity in apprentices and in the types of apprenticeship programs available, and fully integrate apprenticeship into the state’s workforce development, education and economic development strategies and programs.
“We are thrilled Oklahoma was awarded these funds,” said Sarah Ashmore, Interim Executive Director of the OOWD. “Registered Apprenticeships offer Oklahomans the opportunity to earn a high wage while learning the specialized skills they need to advance in a high-demand career. Employers also get the opportunity to build a workforce to meet their own unique talent needs. It’s a win-win.”
Registered Apprenticeships and work-based learning opportunities are of particular importance in Oklahoma, where by 2025, nearly three-fourths of newly created jobs will require specialized training and education beyond high school.
“Oklahoma must develop a strong talent pipeline, not only to attract new businesses to our state, but to ensure those already operating can continue to succeed and grow,” said Sean Kouplen, Secretary of Commerce and Workforce Development for Oklahoma. “That requires highly specialized and trained workers with industry credentials and college degrees in far greater numbers than Oklahoma is currently generating. This grant will allow us to increase the number of industries utilizing apprenticeship as a workforce development tool, increase the diversity in apprenticeable occupations, and expand the number of Oklahomans taking advantage of opportunities to earn a wage while learning in-demand skills.”
Apprenticeships offer employers and jobseekers more flexible pathways to building skills that are matched to jobs with shortages in available talent. According to the recent Oklahoma Talent Pipeline Report released by OOWD, sizable talent gaps exist in key occupations that are vital to growing the state’s economy. Data further indicate one in five workers are eligible to retire in the next decade, and in some occupations the proportion is as high as 45 percent.
“Oklahoma must identify innovative ways to quickly address these worker shortages and apprenticeship is one way to help us get there,” said Ashmore. “When people think of apprenticeships, they often think of skilled trades like electricians and plumbers. But there are over 1,300 occupations that you can obtain through apprenticeship – everything from nursing and auto body mechanics to I.T. helpdesk technicians and accounting.”