The Norman Transcript

Opinion

November 6, 2012

Shortage of workers becoming a problem

NORMAN — Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb likes to tell his audience that he wants OU and OSU to beat all of the universities in Texas on the football field, and he wouldn’t mind taking jobs away from them, too.

Mr. Lamb, who sees part of his job as a champion for small businesses, has often said the No. 1 problem for state businesses is the need for workers’ compensation reform. That problem must have been pushed down the line a few notches now. Mr. Lamb told an Oklahoma City newspaper that he hears the need for more trained workers at every one of his small business and manufacturing summits.

Plant owners interviewed by the newspaper had the same view.

“Work force was the No. 1 issue, and it’s everyone’s No. 1 issue,” a Shawnee machine shop owner told the reporter.

Being able to hire manufacturing workers hasn’t been a problem in the last few years. Plant shutdowns in many of the state’s larger cities have left a glut of skilled workers.

But many of those workers couldn’t wait for manufacturing to return. They went on to train and work in other areas. Industries downsized and utilized technology to shrink their work force.

The state’s technology centers are doing their part. Moore-Norman just opened a $17 million Information Technology Center Building. They are training high school students and adults in computer programming, database services, digital video production, graphic design, networking and computer repair, web design and development.

Many of those careers didn’t even exist a decade ago. With the comeback of manufacturing in the state, it might now be necessary to untrain some of those computer types and lure them back to the plant with higher salaries.

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