Originally published in Greater Tulsa Reporter | Oklahoma economists are forecasting a boom in manufacturing, and Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology is responding to the state’s increased workforce demand.
Beginning this fall semester, OSUIT is extending its manufacturing class schedule to include evening classes at its Okmulgee campus and expanding certificate programs in Pryor at the MidAmerica Industrial Park, offering students more flexibility while meeting the ever-growing need for a skilled workforce in the Tulsa region.
“We’re looking at those folks currently working but who want to better themselves,” says Ken Milliman, Manufacturing Technologies instructor.
According to a July 2014 report from Garner Economics, Tulsa is one of the top 20 metropolitan areas with the most manufacturing job growth from April 2010 to April 2014, placing it among larger manufacturing powerhouses such as Cleveland, Atlanta and Milwaukee.
Milliman said he gets calls every day from manufacturing companies that need qualified machinists and technicians. However, more students are needed to fill these positions.
“One company hired 40 machinists last year. That’s just one company. And they want to hire 40 more,” he says.
The term “manufacturing” is somewhat confusing to the general public, Milliman notes, citing a lack of awareness about these high-paying, highly technical jobs. Today’s manufacturing is all about problem-solving. Creative talent with technical aptitude is a valued skill set.
“A lot of people have never been in a machine shop,” says Mike Pierce, assistant division chair. “They think it’s a dirty, nasty place, and that’s no longer true.” The majority of these jobs are in modern facilities with advanced technology and automation tools, he adds.
Instructors and administrators are willing to try new things to get more students into the manufacturing program in order to meet the overwhelming need by area employers.
OSU Institute of Technology Advanced Training Center at MidAmerica Industrial Park (MAIP) is also expanding educational programming this fall to assist job-seekers in advanced manufacturing.
The Career Pathways in Advanced Manufacturing training program at MAIP will offer a six-week fast track training course that covers a variety of topics that can be applied at all industry levels and gives students the skills they need for a career in advanced manufacturing. Topics include safety, maintenance awareness, quality, and production processes.
“We’re not training people to push buttons. We are preparing machinists and technicians that will have career advancement potential almost immediately,” Pierce says. “You’re going to get one-on-one personal instruction in a nurturing and caring environment.”
The Tulsa and Broken Arrow area is the largest manufacturing hub in the state with more than 65,000 jobs in the industry, according to Pierce. Beginning wages are between $18-$24 per hour in most cases.
“We’re a short commute from Tulsa with opportunities to get an associate degree from a state university and a job when you graduate,” he says. “Time well spent for a position that’s just waiting to be filled.”
Offering classes in the evening is one way to attract potential career-changers who are already working or have family obligations during the day.
“We want students to have options and flexibility,” Pierce says. “And if it helps students, it will ultimately help employers.”