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No Worker Left Behind

Thursday, August 24, 2023

By Brent Haken

No Worker Left Behind

A new eye-opening report on trends that will shape the future of workforce development in Oklahoma and the nation illustrates how CareerTech can and should play a starring role in a growing skills-based economy.

The report, “No Worker Left Behind: How Empowering People With Skills Can Ignite the Economy and Create Economic Mobility,” examines the talent-to-workforce pipeline and key trends that will challenge employers in their search for highly skilled workers. The report, published by America Succeeds, a Denver-based nonprofit, also identifies opportunities in education and workforce development to overcome these challenges.

The NWLB movement is a call to action to connect overlooked workers with opportunities for rewarding careers and to overcome the nation’s shortage of highly skilled workers.

As more companies turn to skill-based hiring practices, career and technology education is expected to play a larger role in connecting employers with untapped talent. That’s the focus of this report and the mission of Oklahoma CareerTech, which has nearly half a million enrollments each year through a network of school districts, technology centers, skills centers and adult education and family literacy providers.

The U.S. labor market has 11.4 million open jobs, and 80% of human resource leaders can’t find candidates to fill these jobs, according to the 2023 report.

“There is unprecedented demand for up- and re-skilling, and a unique moment in time for workers to benefit by acquiring in-demand skills that lead to greater economic freedom,” the report stated.

By 2034, older adults will outnumber children for the first time in our nation’s history, according to labor analytics firm Lightcast. From 2011 to 2021, the number of people over 65 in the United States grew by 16.1 million. Those under 25 declined by 2 million during the same period. This means the struggle to replace retiring workers with qualified people will likely get worse.

Oklahoma companies are already having difficulties finding skilled workers for jobs that have long been vacant. Nationally, the talent shortage is expected to cost U.S. companies $8.5 trillion in unrealized revenue by 2030, the report found.

“As the workforce continues to shrink and the retiring age population rises,” the report stated, “companies will have to adapt their hiring practices to become more competitive to attract a smaller pool of workers who will have more power to pick and choose.”

While these trends are rightfully concerning for businesses in Oklahoma and the nation, they also represent a grand opportunity to create training methods and workforce development practices for these changing times.

Too many secondary students in under-resourced schools are not offered supports designed to prepare them for postsecondary education and the workforce, according to the report. In addition, postsecondary attainment levels for Black, Hispanic and low-income students remain well below white students because they face more barriers to success. If those barriers were removed with targeted supports and resources, the report found, tax revenue from higher wages would increase by $956 billion a year.

Also, many secondary students are not getting the help they need to evaluate their options and determine their best career paths, the report found. They are falling through the cracks amid a more complicated and outdated advising system that is overwhelming and confusing. Meanwhile, the rising cost of college tuition is forcing students to consider other postsecondary options.

Students and employers are in search of high-demand skills. That’s where Oklahoma CareerTech comes in.

Oklahoma CareerTech has built a reputation for pursuing innovative ideas that break from tradition and the accepted paradigm. By thinking outside the box, Oklahoma CareerTech has been able to reach more students with customized training developed in tandem with Oklahoma businesses.

Skill-based hiring is becoming more popular, but the problem is how employers can gauge the workforce readiness of potential employees. The good news is there are increasing opportunities for workers to acquire in-demand skills.

Oklahoma CareerTech is providing these opportunities to thousands of students each year. Our programs offer students of all ages a chance to explore their career interests and find rewarding careers. The skills obtained in these programs equip students with immediately employable skills and valuable knowledge to build on as they enter the workforce.

If you would like to learn more about Oklahoma CareerTech, visit our website at

Brent Haken is the state director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

Last Modified on Aug 24, 2023