The State of Skilled Trades in Oklahoma: 2019- 2020 Update

oklahoma state seal and skilled worker

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Are you an Oklahoman or considering moving there? Wondering about the state’s work prospects?

Well, they’re pretty good, especially in skilled trades like welding, pipefitting and electrical work.

Just look at local news headlines like this one: “20,000 Worker Shortage Predicted By 2028 in Oklahoma.”

What’s behind these concerning trends? Even more importantly, how could you stand to benefit from them professionally?

Why Is There a Skilled Trades Shortage in Oklahoma?

  • A revitalized
  • A robust
  • The business and investment of some of the country’s largest energy companies and corporate
  • No workers with the right skills to fill vital

The lack of workers is a huge problem, one that has legislators and business leaders worried that the employers, jobs and investments they’ve worked so hard to secure for the state could leave.

Reasons for the Shortage of Skilled Workers in Oklahoma

Skills Gap

“We simply aren’t producing enough workers who have those skills to do those jobs.” Said Bob Funk, a 50-year staffing industry veteran, in an article published by The Oklahoman.

STEM Skills Shortage

According to the Oklahoman article, over each of the next ten years, Oklahoma is expected to produce 6,700 job openings requiring science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.1

During this same time, more than half of the current workforce with these skills is predicted to leave the state or retire.1

Just 5,300 students graduated from local postsecondary institutions with STEM training in 2011.1

Skilled Trades Workers Lack Math Skills

“Machinists need to know trigonometry, advanced math — they’re running automated computerized equipment and they do the programming for the machines. Even welders are calculating angles and degrees to do cuts and welds.” — Chuck Mills, president of Mills Machine.1

One major problem Mills is encountering when hiring for his manufacturing plant is finding workers with strong math skills.1

The culprit? Oklahoma’s education system, according to Mills and his fellow members of the business community. The state consistently fails at ensuring the majority of its students are proficient in math.1

Retiring Oklahomans

According to a report by the Office of Workforce Development, Oklahomans aged 55 to 64 will be eligible to retire in ten years. They make up 12.4% of the population.2

If the state’s economy keeps growing, which it’s predicted to do, this could mean labor shortages up to 20,000 workers.2

Future Shortages of Skilled Workers in Oklahoma

female learning how to weld

“If we don’t close that skills gap, all of our children will have a hard time finding jobs. A lot of companies will look outside of the state.” — Mary Fallin, former governor of Oklahoma.1

Oklahoma’s engineering, health care, manufacturing and information technology sectors could suffer in the coming years because the state simply isn’t producing enough workers with professional certifications, such as those earned in a welding program at a trade school, and college degrees.1

Most Jobs to Require Postsecondary Training in Oklahoma

This could be a huge issue because 70% of jobs in Oklahoma will require training or education beyond high school in the next ten years.2

Transportation, healthcare, construction and finance are the sectors consistently experiencing worker shortages, said David Crow, a spokesperson for the Office of Workforce Development.3

“We want to see people have the skills, knowledge and ability to take those positions.” — David Crow.2

Have You Considered a Career in the Skilled Trades?

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What Skilled Trades Jobs Are in Demand in Oklahoma?

Which positions are crucial to the stability and growth of Oklahoma’s economy in the coming years?

Skilled trades jobs are among them, falling within the Oklahoma Works organization’s “Driver” and “Complementary Ecosystems.”

  • Driver Ecosystems: These industries drive wealth generation in 4
  • Complementary Ecosystems: Fields that provide the services and infrastructure to support driver systems and, in turn, the expansion of 4

Critical Occupations in 2019-2020

Within the Driver and Complementary Ecosystems, Oklahoma Works considers certain fields to “represent the most pressing needs…necessary for the state’s continued growth and economic prosperity.”

The following data is from Oklahoma Works and what they consider to be the state’s top critical occupations from 2018-2020.

Oklahoma’s Skilled Trades Demand

Skilled Trade Number of Jobs in 2018 Number of Jobs in 2028 Increase in Jobs through 2028 Annual Openings Credential for Entry to the Field
Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians5 1,510 1,549 22 136 Associate’s Degree
Electrical Power-line Installers and Repairers5 2,175 2,498 312 218 Certificate
Industrial Machinery Mechanics5 4,691 5,528 959 526 Certificate
Electricians5 6,658 7,631 995 887 Certificate
Plumbers, Pipefitters and Steamfitters5 6,439 7,299 818 795 Certificate
Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers5 3,421 3,964 531 406 Postsecondary nondegree award
Welders, Cutters, Solderers and Brazers5 9,334 9,583 329 1,045 Certificate
Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic5 3,197 3,083 309 322 Certificate

Train for Skilled Trades Jobs in Oklahoma

Oklahoma labor organizations, business leaders, lawmakers and workforce statistics all point to one reality in the state: skilled workers are needed. The skilled trades is one sector where demand is particularly strong.

Interested in training for a welding career in Oklahoma? Then why not train at the nation’s largest welding school?*

Conveniently located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tulsa Welding School has been training students for entry into the skilled trades since 1949. Call (855) 237-7711 to learn more about preparing for a trades career at TWS.

Additional Sources

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