Oklahoma hurries to educate students for 2020 job boom

One of the goals for 2014 identified by the Oklahoma State System for Higher Education is helping students better prepare for the global economy. This is vital for the state, as data projects that by 2020, a host of jobs will become available and students will require at least some postsecondary education to acquire a job. Additionally, according to data, it is projected that healthcare professional and technical occupations will grow, which is welcoming news for the state. The goal is also backed by President Obama, who said that 150 universities, businesses and nonprofits are committed to reducing inequality of access to higher education.

As Kathryn McNutt of NewsOK reports, on Wednesday, during a meeting of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, Chancellor Glen Johnson said that helping students better prepare for the global economy goes hand in hand with goals to enhance access to quality public higher education and to increase the number of college graduates.

According to Tony Hutchison, the system's vice chancellor for strategic planning, analysis, workforce and economic development, college access and success are vital because 62% of jobs in Oklahoma by 2020 will require at least some postsecondary education, from a one-year certificate to a master's degree and beyond. Data from a Georgetown University report on workforce needs project 668,000 jobs openings in Oklahoma this decade as Hutchison put it. Due to workers retiring, these are both new jobs and openings.

According to the data, with 12,000 openings for applicants who have a bachelor's degree or higher, and 10,000 openings for those with an associate's degree or lower, occupations in the STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – will grow by 19%.

The report shows that jobs in health care, professional and technical occupations will grow by 22%: 32,000 for those with an associate degree or above; 7,000 for those with some college but no degree; and 2,000 with a high school diploma.

150 universities, businesses and nonprofits have made concrete commitments to reduce inequality in access to higher education and to help students go to college and succeed, as President Barack Obama alluded to in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, regents were told by Hollye Hunt, the system's associate vice chancellor for governmental relations, that Obama challenged higher education officials earlier this month to expand access so any student who has the ability can go to college. Hunt was among about 140 education officials from across the country who met with Obama on January 16th at a College Opportunity Summit, where she shared information about the Oklahoma's Promise program and the summer academies. Students as early as eighth grade are encouraged by the program to prepare for college and explore career choices.

Because of Oklahoma's participation in Complete College America, a national nonprofit that works with states to significantly increase the number of Americans with quality career certificates or college degrees, it was invited to take part in the summit, as Chancellor Johnson put it.

Johnson said that Complete College America officials say Oklahoma has the best plan of the 34 participating states.

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