Chamber releases dislocated workforce analysis findings

25 Feb 2021

The Tulsa Regional Chamber released today the results of an analysis of the region’s dislocated workforce. This comprehensive study and roadmap for recovery will help business and civic leaders better understand the outlook for workers dislocated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which skill sets are available in the regional talent pipeline, what is needed to retrain and rehire these dislocated workers, and how best to position northeast Oklahoma’s workforce to compete in the future job market.

The analysis focuses on dislocated workers rather than the more familiar category of unemployment. The distinction emphasizes the barriers that prevent people from smoothly reentering the workforce. Dramatic industry upheaval, the changing nature of work, critical health risks and skill misalignment are all pressures capable of turning the unemployed into the dislocated.

Based on a survey of area employees, about one-third of responding companies laid off employees, and one-third furloughed workers, in response to the pandemic and ensuing economic crisis. The analysis also found that throughout the pandemic, the largest volumes of dislocated workers in Tulsa have been in the manufacturing, accommodation and food services, and retail trade sectors.

“It’s critical we find ways to support Tulsa’s unemployed and underemployed workers during this time,” says Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum. “This analysis was conducted at the recommendation of the Mayor’s Economic Recovery Advisory Committee, and its findings will allow civic leaders, businesses, training partners and educational institutions to effectively and efficiently transition people to high-demand jobs, putting Tulsa on a positive path toward economic recovery.”

The Chamber partnered with Mayor Bynum and the City of Tulsa in April to form the Mayor’s Economic Recovery Advisory Committee, which convened key stakeholders to address issues ranging from unemployment to supply chain opportunities brought about by COVID-19. Building on a recommendation of the committee, the Chamber leveraged Tulsa County CARES funding for the dislocated workforce analysis, which was conducted by labor market analytics firm Emsi in partnership with the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL).

The pandemic has exacerbated wealth gaps and created deeper disparities throughout the region, and Emsi and CAEL placed an intentional focus on collecting data from a variety of perspectives to ensure the region’s resilience strategies are as inclusive as possible. A total of 54 individuals participated in focus groups, which included company owners, CEOs, managers and human resources staff at firms ranging from privately owned companies with as few as a dozen employees to multinational corporations headquartered in the Tulsa area. Information from the focus groups was supplemented by surveys of industry partners, higher education institutions and other stakeholders, as well as a multi-lingual survey of dislocated workers delivered by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

Key recommendations from Emsi and CAEL’s analysis include retaining talent, upskilling the regional workforce and encouraging firms to hire locally; aligning training offerings with the jobs of the future; and fostering collaboration among businesses and educational institutions to shape the curriculum.

The Chamber will focus its immediate efforts on several recommendations from the analysis to best position northeast Oklahoma for post-pandemic recovery. This effort closely aligns with the Chamber’s recent designation as a Manufacturing Center for Workforce Excellence by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and will involve businesses, training partners and educational institutions.

“Our immediate priority is to support northeast Oklahoma’s recovery, and one way to do that is to make sure the tools and training we’re offering our workforce align with the skills area employers are looking for,” says Rue Ramsey, vice president of workforce and talent strategies at the Tulsa Regional Chamber. “This study will shape our future workforce development strategy by providing insights on the current talent pipeline and identifying any gaps in training or educational offerings.”

Learn more about the key findings of the analysis here.

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