With the continued upturn in Oklahoma’s economy, Tulsa and northeast Oklahoma are poised for significant growth in the coming years. To ensure that the region is positioned to address its future workforce needs, the Tulsa Regional Chamber commissioned a 16-week, 11-county labor study by Site Selection Group (SSG) of Dallas.
Key components of the assessment reviewed commute times; underemployment; the workforce pipeline and future demand; education and industry gap analysis; and wage and benefits.
Having an educated, well-trained workforce has been a focus of Chamber efforts for many years. To better understand the region’s workforce, SSG surveyed nearly 1,000 employees from across northeast Oklahoma. They found that approximately 13.5 percent of the region’s workforce is underemployed, meaning they are more likely to be accessible for job opportunities from new and expanding businesses. Findings also indicated that underemployed individuals tend to be more prevalent among white-collar positions, younger individuals and individuals lacking a college degree.
From a company perspective, SSG surveyed and interviewed more than 100 firms, representing more than 36,000 regional workers. The results indicated that businesses in northeast Oklahoma are actively looking to grow, and recognize the need to fully engage workforce development and training opportunities. Regional employers are proud of their workforce, and repeatedly described their employees as skilled, hardworking and possessing a strong work ethic. The study also found that while businesses can find entry-level talent, they struggle to locate highly skilled workers.
Documenting real, verifiable commuting distances is crucial for showing available workforce to new and expanding companies. As part of the labor study, SSG conducted a thorough commute analysis for the overall region. SSG found that a large portion of the regional workforce enjoys a short 20- to 30-minute commute time. However, individuals in more rural communities will travel farther for jobs
The study also collected data for all seven of the industries targeted within the Tulsa’s Future regional economic development program: energy; aerospace and aviation; health care; transportation and logistics; advanced manufacturing; information technology; and professional services and regional headquarters. Strengths within the targeted industries include the ability to leverage underemployment to grow and diversify; concentrated, deep skill sets; and having strong growth potential. Weaknesses include depth of skills sets compared to large markets; tight markets, where training and workforce development is critical; and the need for growth in higher skill requirements.
SSG found that northeast Oklahoma has a strong production environment that benefits from short commute times and cost advantages. Companies want to grow in Tulsa and have confidence in the region’s workforce pipeline. However, labor markets are tight, and regional companies need to focus on workforce development in training to meet future labor needs.
“I am excited about the insights this study produced,” said Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber. “I am confident they will give our regional companies the information they need to be more effective in recruiting talent, and will greatly aid the region in attracting new business.”
The Tulsa Regional Chamber thanks Public Service Company of Oklahoma, OG&E and MidAmerica Industrial Park for their generous support of the labor study. The Chamber also thanks its Tulsa’s Future regional partners for their strong support of the study.
To view slides from the press event, click here.