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How Oklahoma Is Training Its Workforce to Leverage AI

The state, working with Google, has launched a course providing foundational AI skills training to residents. The offering, open to 10,000 people at a time, is designed to create an agile workforce.

Closeup of a person writing in a notebook overlayed with the word "AI" in orange. White background.
A new AI Essentials course launched through a partnership between the state of Oklahoma and Google will train residents to make better use of artificial intelligence (AI).

Experts expect AI to transform work processes, potentially mitigating the impact of workforce gaps — but for that to happen, government must address the AI skills gap.

In Oklahoma, officials are bridging the gap by offering a new, free AI Essentials course. Announced May 30, it will teach participants how to responsibly use AI. No degree or prior AI experience is required to participate.

The course launch ties into Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s broader strategy on positioning the state as a national leader in AI, according to Christa Helfrey, public information officer at the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services. To do so, the state’s residents need to learn about AI.

“So, this course offers them a foundational understanding of AI — how to use it responsibly and ethically,” she said.

The AI Essentials course offers participants hands-on experience using AI, which they can then apply in other contexts across different industries. It is intended to train a broad range of citizens, Helfrey said, “so that they can upskill and become a more competitive workforce as more employers seek workers with AI skills.”

The state’s goal is to serve a range of workforce needs, she said, from helping those who want to learn a new skill, negotiate a higher salary or become more competitive as a career candidate, to enabling someone who lost their job or left the workforce to re-enter the job market.

“The need for training opportunities like this is really underscored by the rapidly evolving job market,” Helfrey said, citing a World Economic Forum estimate that found 50 percent of employees will need reskilling by 2025 due to increasing tech adoption. “So, we really want to equip workers with the skills necessary for future success.”

Another goal for the course is to build on Google’s existing work in Oklahoma to improve digital skills training.

“As more companies move to Oklahoma, we’ll be ready to meet them with a skilled workforce,” Gov. Stitt said in the announcement.

The course is open to 10,000 Oklahomans at a time, a number Helfrey explained comes from the number of licenses available to take the course. Once anyone enrolled within that 10,000 completes the course, their spot opens again.

To determine the impact of the course, the state will be tracking several metrics, including completion of the course in real time and the ZIP codes of those taking the course. The state will also look at confidence about, and the opinions of, participants when using AI — both before and after taking the course.

Nearly 2,000 people signed up to take the course within the first week of it being offered, Helfrey said. Many who signed up come from urban areas, she said, noting the ZIP code data can help the state specifically target engagement efforts to rural communities, to support broader participation. The ZIP code data is also important, Helfrey said, because the state partners with libraries and other community-based organizations on spreading awareness of the course.

Offering the course, Helfrey said, is just one piece of the governor's work on AI, including the formation of the Task Force on AI and Emerging Technologies. For its part, Google recently launched a Generative AI for Educators course that the state will also use; plans are in place for it to be offered in several Oklahoma public school districts: Ada, Enid and Shawnee.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.