Employ Oklahoma: Pandemic Largely Changed Employee Value System

Monday, July 19th 2021, 1:52 pm

By: News 9


Help Wanted, Now hiring, Apply within. Everywhere you look, it's a sign of the times.

“It really is a market for people seeking jobs to find one, and it’s tough for employers to find someone,” says Don Morris, Executive Director of Oklahoma Works, a state agency aimed at helping employees get the jobs they want and making sure companies have the employees they need. He says currently there are 60.5% of Oklahomans working. That's 33rd in the nation. 

“We need that number to get to the Top 10. In order to get that, we need to average every day about another 30,000 people in the workforce that currently are not,” says Morris.

The pandemic has certainly made that a challenge.

“Most people think the issue is the federal government funding coming my way, and I can make more money staying at home then coming to work. And in some scenarios, especially people working minimum wage jobs, that can be the case. In a state like Oklahoma, that’s not the entire problem,” explains Morris.

Morris says the break from working during the pandemic offered many workers a chance to reevaluate how they spend most of their day.

“We are starting to hear those testimonials of people saying, 'the job I had before was a dead-end, and I needed to quit anyway,'” he said.

Morris says Oklahoma Works will help workers make the transition into something more fulfilling by offering everything from training to childcare.

“If there is a barrier that someone has to working in the job they want, I challenge them to come to our workforce center and give us a chance to help remove those barriers. That’s what we do,” he said.

The jobs most in demand now: truck drivers, sales reps, construction workers, and anything in the healthcare industry. Morris says the pandemic put a huge burden on healthcare workers who are now burned out and getting out of the industry.

“It’s had a great stress on the healthcare system that was already really short staffed. Registered nurse is still the most open job in the state,” Morris said.

Customer service jobs are also big. Employees can often work from home, and employers love friendly Oklahomans.

“Employers are looking for not just a quote warm body to answer the position. They are looking for people with human skills,” he said.

That's on top of all those entry level service workers. But Morris says he sees this as an opportunity.

“We wanted people to be able to come off better than they did before the pandemic," he said.

When Gov. Stitt first came into office, he set a goal of creating 55,000 new jobs in Oklahoma that pays $50,000 or more.

“We aim higher than a lot of people realize. When we talk about putting people to work, we want people to work in a sustainable situation where they can support a family and have an opportunity to grow in their career and stay in Oklahoma.”

For more information on Oklahoma works go to: https://oklahomaworks.gov/


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