Changing Directions: Best Resources for New Career are NearbyNov 01, 2022
For the past two years, the headlines have been blaring the theme of "The Great Resignation." Millions of workers resign from their jobs for various reasons. You don't need to pay attention to the news because it's easy to see the impact locally. From fast food restaurants and retail stores to hospitals and schools, "We're Hiring!!!" signs are posted as many positions remain unfilled. A Pew Research poll showed that it's possible that as much as 30 percent of the American workforce will change jobs before the end of 2022.
Initially, the blame for this seismic shift was laid at the feet of the COVID pandemic. Fears over illness were most mentioned as workers left jobs, but as the resignations piled up, it seemed other issues helped fuel the departures.
More recent studies have shown that while the global health crisis sparked this seismic shift, the signs of a significant change were already in the air for at least ten years. PwC, a consulting firm, conducted a widely-cited survey of 42,000 workers in 44 countries in March 2022. They found the catalyst for change to be a combination of factors that have been mixing for at least a decade: working in high-risk roles, low pay, little support, burning out, lack of childcare, and the inability to find meaning or fulfillment in jobs.
Most labor and economic experts predict The Great Resignation will continue for some time. That can be a chilling thought for some. But for those in the Moore and South OKC area who own businesses or are seeking new jobs, two great resources provide great opportunities. Moore Norman Technology Center (MNTC) and Oklahoma County Community College (OCCC) have programs designed to help individuals acquire new skills and certifications and assist businesses in connecting with this new workforce resource.
MNTC Superintendent and CEO Brian Ruttman says many people are taking advantage of MNTC's broad educational offerings.
"We're seeing a lot of folks come through our doors which, maybe, were in the restaurant or service industries," said Ruttman, "And the shutdown gave them a chance to reflect and reassess on what they're passionate doing as a career."
Ruttman said those new students range in age from 18-to-54 years old. MNTC career advisors work with them on interest and aptitude assessments to help them target a career that hits the sweet spot of their passion and interests.
"It's amazing when you see these students of all different ages, some of them tackling a second or third career," said Ruttman. "Maybe they desire to be a welder or work in health care. And when they get into the class and instructional process, they thrive."
Ruttman says MNTC is running at capacity in many programs. He's particularly excited about the opportunities presented in the aerospace industry.
"Beginning in August of 2023, we'll be starting an aerospace program," said Ruttman. "We will be a Part 147 training center for folks who want to get their Air Maintenance Technician license. They can come here, do the training, and get their certification."
The presence of Tinker Air Logistics Center, AAR Aircraft Services, Skywest, and others will be looking for workers ready to meet the demands of an ever-growing aerospace industry in Oklahoma.
"Right now, aerospace is the number two industry in our state, generating bout $44 billion annually," said Ruttman. "We want to be part of the solution in that realm and all the others looking for workers."
The coming aerospace program and existing medical programs are just two of many opportunities for those hoping to follow new career paths. MNTC also offers training and certifications in welding, carpentry, HVAC, electrical trades, machining, cosmetology, BPOC (Basic Police Officer Certification), and CDL (commercial driving licenses for truckers). And for younger students, that training is available at a remarkably low cost.
"There is no cost to a high school student who comes to MNTC," said Ruttman. "Their tuition is 100% free. Additionally, we have a tuition waiver for anyone that lives in our district up until they're 21 years old."
The area's other excellent training resource is Oklahoma City Community College. John Claybon is the Dean of Business and Information Technology at OCCC. Like MNTC, Claybon says being able to provide affordable training is essential to those looking to change career paths.
"I think one of the things highlighted because of the pandemic was wage stagnation," said Claybon. "Many people struggled to generate revenue for their household and earn a living. So, many of them have decided to go back to school and upskill their talents, so they can pursue that next-level career in another industry, especially one that's more resilient to things like pandemics."
Claybon says OCCC has established a program that helps individuals upskill their talents in a remarkably short period. They call their program "micro-credentials."
"Micro-credentials are short-term educational components that are stackable," said Claybon. "That means an individual can come in within the span of 16 weeks, have some upgraded skills to help them reach that next level, help them apply for that advanced position with increased wages."
A lot of the micro-credential programs revolve around technology: information technology, computer science, and computer technology. This is especially helpful in the area of systems support.
"Let's say you wanted to go to work as a help desk advisor or consultant," said Claybon. "You could get a systems support micro-credential over 16 weeks and apply for a position earning an additional $5, $10, or $15 per hour for a job that's going to be around for the foreseeable future."
The courses and certifications all meet industry standards and college credit requirements. This gives students a much higher value from the classes they take at OCCC. The micro-credentials are part of OCCC's existing associate degree programs. The micro-credentials serve as a "temporary exit ramp" for students who are ready or need to enter the workforce. It typically takes a student 3-to-4 years to complete an associate degree.
"They can take these courses for college credit and certification, get a job and then come back," said Claybon, "They can apply these courses toward their degree and continue their academic pursuits."
Claybon says OCCC's automotive service advisor and service technician programs are popular. That industry is seeing a large number of retirements right now, which means there's a huge demand.
"We've had an automotive program at OCCC for 30 years," said Claybon, "General Motors and Honda sponsor us, and all our students are employed right now. We also get constant calls looking for more high-quality candidates ready to go to work."
OCCC offers 8-hour "micro-grids" for service advisor credentials, designed to train students that enable them to enter the industry with basic automotive knowledge and business communication so they can effectively go right to work for a dealership or service center.
Most of MNTC's programs are completed in under two years. That means someone could come in and train for 12-to-18 months and be ready to enter that new career. This efficient training is also attractive to business owners.
Joe Ely, MNTC's Director of Workforce and Economic Development, says the school also works closely with area businesses to meet the growing need for skilled workers.
"For many years, we've done what's called 'selling training,'" said Ely. "We would go to a business and ask, 'Hey, what training needs do you have?' The model has now spun around to the point where we're also helping find and send these businesses trained employees."
Ely says MNTC's short-term programs complement long-term training in many areas. With businesses in desperate need of workers, short-term training can get those people into the workforce quickly. At the same time, the long-term programs can help provide additional certification as time passes.
"That's where our department really shines," said Ely. "We're able to meet not only the immediate needs of business but also come alongside them with enhanced certifications down the line."
And now, MNTC works with the five other tech schools in Central Oklahoma to share curriculum, instructors, and equipment.
"That's Canadian Valley, Metro Tech, Mid-Del, and Francis Tuttle," said Ely. "The businesses don't need to get caught up worrying about whether the employees come from one school or another. They're concerned with getting highly-trained and skilled employees that allow them to do the business they need to do."
Whether a business owner is in desperate need of workers or individuals looking to upgrade their skills and enter a new career with better pay, both Moore Norman Technology Center and Oklahoma City Community College offer outstanding resources for those in the Moore and South Oklahoma City area.
"Our employers out there are clamoring for the workforce, and they're coming over to us and saying, you have anyone ready?" said Ruttman. "And we've got a classroom full of folks ready to go for that, that have an interest, that have the aptitude and jump in. And, you know, they're fired up and ready to go to work."
Ely said, "This is not about the glory of one particular school. It's about having a servant's heart and being good stewards of the taxpayer's money. It's a great thing to know that wives, husbands, and children are being trained, and businesses are being trained."
And in the end, especially in a post-pandemic environment where things sometimes feel chaotic, and change is always in the air, it's crucial for business owners and employees to feel like they're making progress.
"These new approaches to quick and efficient training programs are effective because it helps folks feel like they're not running a marathon," said Claybon. "Instead, they're running a series of legs of a marathon and progressing closer to the goal."
For more information on Moore Norman Technology Center's programs, visit mntc.edu.
For more information on Oklahoma City Community College's programs, visit: occc.edu.