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Point of View: Developing the future of aerospace education in Oklahoma

Jeanie Webb
Jeanie Webb

Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” The statement, while simple, is profound. We gain the most from our own lives by soaking up as much knowledge as possible.

We need to explore new pathways in the educational journey. Currently, there is some partnership — but not near enough — among the education community, government and business industry ensuring that students receive an education geared toward future employment. Representatives of these sectors discuss changing the paradigm, but often times these discussions occur in different rooms.

Education has drastically changed in the past 40 years. Students learn differently, catch on more quickly and require more stimulation in the classroom. It’s up to us, the education community, to adapt with the changing needs of students. Hands-on training, interactive lessons and nontraditional classroom settings help guarantee the success of the next generation.

Likewise, we need partnerships in the private sector to establish pipelines from the classroom to the job site. We are seeing more jobs that take hands-on training. Rather than pushing against on-the-job learning, we need to partner with businesses to split the learning experience between classroom and real world. This assists students’ success while in school and sets them up for success in the real world.

Recently, Rose State College and Tulsa Community College received the designation of Center of Workforce Excellence for Aerospace and Cybersecurity — a designation not taken lightly. Steps have already begun to change the education paradigm, with CareerTech and higher education working together to break down the silos. Together we are creating on-ramps and off-ramps for students at all levels of learning to be able to progress, get the experience they need and fill jobs. Change is never easy, but for the state of Oklahoma, change is imperative to develop the workforce pipeline needed to attract new businesses.

Additionally, Oklahoma aerospace companies are working hard to expand the state's second-largest industry as it grows at an exciting pace. New innovation in aerospace, such as Rose State’s newly formed Aerospace Software Institute, is starting in Oklahoma and its influence will be felt across the country as students take their training into the real world.

The jobs of today, and tomorrow, need to be filled by individuals who are ready and able to get to work immediately. An education with a direct connection to the workforce allows them to do just that. The new year is a wonderful time to start your journey or change your path through education.

Webb is president of Rose State College.