OSU Institute of Technology’s Workforce & Economic Development hosted representatives from 13 Oklahoma tribes on campus in June for the Sovereign Nations Workforce Convening.
The convening discussed how OSUIT and the Oklahoma Sovereign Nationscould work collaboratively to build the talent pipeline to staff tribal businesses by upskilling and reskilling their citizens.
“We have developed an excellent relationship with the tribal partnerships currently in place, and this was an opportunity for them to share the process, experience and value they are experiencing with other nations so they can similarly take part,” said Charles Harrison, associate vice president of OSUIT Workforce & Economic Development.
The event, unwritten by Marathon Petroleum’s Tribal Affairs Division, featured several informative presentations and discussions from OSUIT, Marathon Petroleum and tribal representatives from the Muscogee Nation and Cherokee Nation, including the keynote speaker, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr.
“It really does matter whether we put resources into higher education and career tech education. It really matters to those big existential questions about if there’s going to be a Cherokee Nation in a few generations. If we don’t invest in our people today when it comes to getting a good job, that means that too many of them will leave their communities,’ said Chief Hoskin. “Working with OSUIT is one way to do that. I know OSUIT’s mission is to ready people for careers but working with tribes means you are doing something more enormous than that, as big as that is. It is about the role of the tribes in the next generation to keep our strong foothold and continue building strong for centuries to come.”
Ian Leybas, regional manager at Marathon Petroleum, shared with the group their experience as a partner with OSUIT.
“The university is a wonderful partner. OSUIT continues to put out the quality of students we look for within the industry, and we hope to build and strengthen that relationship,” said Leybas. “The employees we’ve hired out of OSUIT’s program came with the skillset and foundation to be successful and a jumpstart in the oil and gas industry as a whole. We have about 15 graduates in our Southeastern office alone, with more starting soon.”
The day was focused on meeting the workforce development needs of the sovereign nations and concluded with the completion ceremony of the Cherokee Nation’s High Voltage Program, which was created in partnership with OSUIT’s Workforce & Economic Development.
This program is just one example of the resources available through partnering with OSUIT and was developed for the Cherokee Nation to meet the demand for additional linemen following a period of growth in the industry.
These customizedprograms are designed to provide the training needed for the incumbent workforce and to upskill new and entry-level workers quickly. Training resources include talent acquisition strategies to build the technical talent pipeline and ensure that businesses fulfill their customer obligations, grow revenue and retain employees.
“We have a collective interest in the education of our people. It is not every man for himself, we are all in this together, and this is one way we show it,” said Chief Hoskin. “What OSUIT does here, partnering with tribal nations, goes to the core of what it means to be Native American,” he said. “This generation coming up needs to be a generation of optimism and hope and the ability to earn a living and the understanding that their people have always been here and we will always be here.”
Attendees were also able to participate in live demonstrations of the new Extended Reality (XR) technology available at OSUIT. Kevin Anderson, CEO of XALTER, shared information on future capabilities through XR and how industries are utilizing this technology to train and educate the future workforce.
“OSUIT brings all the power and talent of the OSU System to the table to ensure we are able to meet the training needs of our clients—from quick assessments to determine an applicant’s aptitude to entry-level credit and non-credit modules that would include micro-credentials, certificates and badges, all the way to executive-level professional development, said Dr. Ina Agnew, vice president of Student Services at OSUIT. “Soft skills or technical training—we can make it happen.”