A lot of states talk a good game when it comes to preparing students for a career in a STEM field. Few deliver like Oklahoma.
At the Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology (OSUIT), hundreds of graduates each year go on to command handsome salaries in a variety of technical occupations.
“We attract students from all over the US, and all we do is technical training,” says Roy Achemire, dean of the School of Energy at OSUIT.
Total enrollment is around 3,200 at OSUIT. Graduates of the two-year School of Energy typically make $52,000 to $65,000 in starting salary in their first year after graduation.
“All of these students are employed by the time they graduate,” Achemire says. “Virtually all 160 students who are graduating have jobs.”
This success rate happens because the faculty at OSUIT works closely with the leaders of the energy industry to develop the curriculum. “We make sure that the students have the skills needed in the industry,” Achemire says. “We constantly change the curriculum to make sure they have the right skills.”
The School of Energy offers three programs: Gas Compression; Power Plant Technologies; and Pipeline Integrity.
“We have students come from many surrounding states,” adds Achemire. “We know that we need to produce an increasing number of graduates to replace the many energy workers who are retiring. Some 50 to 70 percent of employees are eligible for retirement in the next 10 years in the energy sector here in Oklahoma. We are almost at full capacity at OSUIT.”
Located in Okmulgee about 30 miles south of Tulsa, OSUIT performs a vital role in the Oklahoma economy. “About 70 percent of our students are from Oklahoma,” the dean notes. “We are a small college. A lot of our students come from rural areas. We are all working men and women here, and we help these students find their way in the energy industry. Most of our associate applied science degrees are in the range of 75 to 90 credit hours. We do that in a two-year period.”
Achemire adds that “we will work with companies if they want to sponsor students. Tuition at OSUIT is fairly reasonable. It costs less than $29,000 for the whole two-year program for in-state residents for room, board, tuition, books and fees. It is not a huge investment for a career that will reward them richly for the rest of their lives.”
Oklahoma will not be surpassed by any other state when it comes to energy worker training, Achemire contends. “Oklahoma provides best-in-class training programs for workers. That is the consensus of the industry. We have a statewide mission to do this, and it does take a huge amount of industry support, but we excel at delivering this kind of mission-critical training.”
Bob Pope, instructor in the Power Plant Technologies program at OSUIT, says the system works because “industry tells us what to teach. We give these kids a leg up for post-college advancement. We operate our own lab, plus there are three or four power plants within a two-hour drive of our campus,” he notes. “We take the students out on the road and give them assignments. They get a real-world view.”
Pope adds that the students at OSUIT “actually work on the job they will do before they graduate. When they come back, they are changed people.”
Opportunities abound in Oklahoma as new alliances, technologies and programs bring big ideas, skilled workers and financial incentives to The Sooner State.