OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill pending in the Oklahoma Senate would require a state agency to develop a report that educators could use to create targeted curriculum which would train students for “highly marketable professions” in this state.
Senate Bill 82 by Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant, would direct the Commerce Department to collect data and publish on its website each year a document entitled the “Future of Oklahoma Industry and Labor (FOIL) Report”.
The report would “analyze and describe current and predictable trends of the jobs, industries and labor workforce” in Oklahoma. It would include an interactive map displaying the various regions of the state “to show trends in specific job markets, growth industries and labor workforce shortages...”
The report would be published by the first of July every year, starting in 2022.
Several state agencies and educational institutions would collaborate with the Commerce Department “to assist in the collection and analysis of data and the formulation of each annual FOIL report...” Also, each would be required to “maintain a link connection to the FOIL report and interactive map on their separate websites,” SB 82 decrees.
Those entities would include the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, the state Labor Department, the Department of Career and Technology Education, the State Regents for Higher Education, the Center for Economic Management Research at the University of Oklahoma, and the Center for Economic and Business Development at Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
The FOIL report would be employed by the state Department of Education and by Career Tech, and could be used by public and private secondary schools and institutions of higher education in Oklahoma, “to identify and prepare specific course content and curriculum which trains students for future occupations, job markets, identified growth industries, labor workforce trends, gaps in skill level and highly marketable professions in this state.”
Bullard said he’s been striving to get students who don’t want to enroll in college “interested in vocational schools and training” in order to get them “fully certified in some marketable skill.”
The data needed in the proposed FOIL report is available “but it’s scattered,” said Bullard, a former teacher. SB 82 would “consolidate the information and make it usable” throughout Oklahoma.
“We need to be able to forecast how many plumbers, for example, that are or soon will be needed in a particular community, county or region.
That data would enable public schools, Career Tech centers, and state colleges and universities to customize their curriculums “so their students will be equipped with skills for jobs that await them when they get out of school.”
SB 82 is intended to provide “all the tools needed for our school teachers and administrators to make informed decisions about courses that will benefit their students and make them productive members of society.”
Oklahoma loses many of its graduates to other states, Bullard said.
The FOIL Report would be vested in the Commerce Department because state statute designates it as the “central, primary ... agency ... to manage or coordinate all public sector economic development activity.”
Oklahoma “needs an agency to work at the community and firm level to create new and higher quality jobs ... through the expansion, creation, restructuring and recruitment of export-oriented Oklahoma firms which produce value-added goods, services and processes; encourage statewide economic diversification and stability;” and “maintain a two-way flow of information between the central state economic development agency and firms, farms and communities,” the statute declares.