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Poll may shape state's workforce, business policies

Article Published in the June 13, 2023 issue of The Journal Record.

While a clear majority of Oklahoma business leaders polled recently expressed optimism that the state is headed in the right direction, many also expressed concerns about the quality of the state’s workforce and their ability to recruit and retain people with skills needed to fill jobs.

The poll, carried out by the State Chamber of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Business Roundtable, also captured some interesting insights about remote work trends, thoughts of business leaders about taxes and government regulation, and about environmental, social, and corporate governance, or ESG, issues. A feature takeaway of the poll, according to chamber and roundtable officials, was that 70% of the 418 business leaders who participated responded that they felt good about the direction of the state’s economy. Fully 90% said they consider Oklahoma a good place to start a business.

However, many expressed reservations about the state’s workforce and its track record and direction when it comes to workforce development. Workforce and education were identified by 44% as top concerns.

Half of respondents said they’ve had difficulty finding people with skills or credentials needed to fill jobs, while 29% said they’ve had the most difficulty finding entry-level workers; 20% indicated that they’ve simply had too few applicants to fill open jobs, while 19% reported that they’ve found it difficult to find people with work ethics needed to be successful in jobs.

Only 9% of the business leaders polled said they considered Oklahoma’s workforce to be very satisfactory, as compared to 44% who responded that the workforce is somewhat satisfactory, 37% who described it as somewhat unsatisfactory, and 9% who said it was very unsatisfactory.

Notably, 54% of the leaders said they felt that the social “safety net” has eliminated either the need or the desire of many people to work. A large majority of respondents said Oklahoma’s higher education system needs to do more to incentivize students to pursue careers in higher-demand occupations. Most also favored state policies that would expand child care and encourage development of affordable housing to strengthen the workforce.

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