Moser introduction

OU president Joe Harroz speaks April 7, 2021, at a news conference at Lloyd Noble Center.

University of Oklahoma leadership announced Friday the university will open a polytechnic institute in Tulsa in hopes of filling a gap in the state’s workforce.

The OU Polytechnic Institute will offer bachelor’s completion and graduate degree programs focused on advanced technology and innovation, according to a Friday news release. Degrees from the institute will equip graduates for STEM jobs in computer IT, cybersecurity, data science and digital manufacturing, OU President Joe Harroz said.

The plans will be presented to the Board of Regents at its June meeting, and will then go to the state regents for approval, Harroz said.

Harroz said he worked with Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and state Speaker of the House Charles McCall on the plans. He said he hopes the Oklahoma legislature will include a provision for the institute in its upcoming budget.

“It’s not traditional engineering, but it’s the application of that with curricula informed by businesses that have these very present needs,” he said.

Harroz told the board Oklahoma currently ranks “dead last” in the country for workforce in STEM education and training compared to percent of the state population that holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. Oklahoma also currently lacks 300 software engineers for open positions in the state, Harroz said. The demand for that position is expected to grow 16% between now and 2026, he said.

The lack of STEM-educated workers is usually the only holdout for large employers who provide these kinds of jobs when they consider locating in the state, he said.

OU picked Tulsa, Harroz said, because the city doesn’t have full access to a public college for its size.

“Tulsa is such an incredibly complicated higher education landscape that’s complicated by law, it’s complicated by policy, and it’s complicated by tax policy that exists there as well,” he said.

The polytechnic institute would educate college students in their last two years of a four-year degree. The students could attend Tulsa Community College and transfer into the institute, Harroz said.

Harroz said another reason university planners decided to put the institute in Tulsa is because of “growing demands not met in northeast Oklahoma.” He alluded to electric car startup Canoo’s newly-announced production plant in Pryor, just outside the city.

He also said he’s spoken to executives at Bank of Oklahoma — which is headquartered in Tulsa — who tell him they have cybersecurity jobs available.

“Tulsa’s workforce continues to get better and better educational opportunities because of investments like this one,” Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said in a Friday statement. “I want to thank OU President Harroz and the entire team at OU for realizing that Tulsa is a city on the rise in multiple different industries, and for funding the types of programs that educate our youth for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Max Bryan is the Transcript news editor and covers criminal justice. You may reach him at mbryan@normantrasnscript.com or on Twitter at @MBryanOK

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