Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce Larry Parman has been curious about OSU Institute of Technology since he took over the leadership position last fall. After hearing so many positive accolades about the university’s mission, he made it a priority to see its education model first-hand when he visited the Okmulgee campus Wednesday.
“I wanted to find out what made this place different,” Parman said during a luncheon with OSUIT administrators, community leaders and area employers.
What makes OSUIT so different from other career and technical schools is the strong connection between the university’s programs and its industry partners, said vice president of Institutional Advancement Anita Gordy-Watkins.
“We have an interesting story to tell,” she said. “We have a unique relationship with employers and our community leaders.”
A big part of his job in the commerce department is workforce development, Parman said. Since 1992, Oklahoma has lost $922 million in adjusted gross income to other states.
“We know how to train people, how to prepare people, how to combine soft skills and hard skills,” he said. “There is a great job being done right here, we just need more people in the pipeline.”
Parman said Oklahoma has five major industries where it competes well with other states— aerospace; agriculture; distribution and transportation; energy; and information and financial services— but the need for a larger skilled workforce touches almost all industries.
“It’s across the board in the technical areas,” he said.
Okmulgee’s civic leaders and area business representatives spoke about the issues they face and goals they have in terms of growth and economic development. Many also expressed their gratitude to Secretary Parman for his interest in their community.
“I’ve been here 25 years, and I’m finally seeing things start to click, but there are still challenges ahead,” said Nevyle Cable, president of First Bank of Okmulgee.
Dr. Bob Klabenes, past OSUIT president, said the community’s key players, including the university, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the city and its businesses have to work together.
“It takes a village. We’ve got to pull all the different resources together,” Klabenes said. “A plan needs to come together, and we all need to be on the same page.”
As a whole, Oklahoma has a lot going for it terms of potential growth and workforce development, Parman said, and OSUIT should be a major player in that future.
“This campus sits at the center of what Oklahoma can uniquely offer to the world, not just the state,” he said. “I want to help you market the message of what you have to offer here.”