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OSU to Build STEM Workforce With Polytech Initiative

The Oklahoma State University Polytech initiative will increase STEM programming across the OSU system, starting with the expansion of OSUIT in Tulsa, and solicit guidance on academic programming from industry leaders.

A brick pillar with the initials "OSU" stands outside Oklahoma State University.
Oklahoma State University (OSU) launched a new initiative this month to expand students’ access to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and workforce development opportunities.

According to a news release, the new OSU Polytech initiative was co-developed with local tech industry leaders to align STEM-related academic programs with industry needs and grow STEM programming across the OSU system, with an added focus on AI technology amid recent advancements in machine learning. The announcement said the initiative will offer more flexible online and hybrid courses across OSU’s Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Okmulgee campuses, as well as more real-world learning and internship opportunities for students.

The news release said university officials made the announcement last week at an event on the OSU-Tulsa campus about future STEM education and workforce development initiatives at OSU. The event was sponsored by the petroleum pipeline company Explorer Pipeline and featured STEM demonstrations from faculty on VR training modules, fiber splicing, a robotic arm and examples of how engineers work in the energy sector.

“OSU is the state’s undisputed leader in advanced technology education. ... As the state’s largest university system, OSU is uniquely positioned to ensure that Oklahoma is open for business in the fast-moving areas of science and technology,” OSU President Kayse Shrum said in a public statement. “Working collaboratively with industry and communities across the state, we aim to cultivate ideal graduates capable of meeting the state’s emerging workforce needs and addressing society’s most pressing challenges. This systemwide effort is an opportunity for us to better position our academic campuses to deliver on that promise and expand STEM education access and excellence statewide.”

According to the announcement, the initiative’s initial focus will be on expanding the Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology’s (OSUIT) footprint in the Tulsa area, with plans to expand to Oklahoma City and other parts of the state.

OSU Senior Vice President for Executive Affairs Kyle Wray said in the news release that the initiative is part of the university system’s strategic plan to feed industrial growth across the state with more skilled technology workers.

“We need a tremendous amount of human talent to power our state’s economy, yet we face a shortage of highly skilled workers to help our businesses grow and compete in a technologically driven global economy. We’ve seen headlines about Oklahoma losing opportunities to bring high-tech companies and large-scale manufacturers to the state because of a shortage of high-tech workers,” Wray said in a public statement. “As a land-grant institution, OSU has an obligation to help lead the state’s response to these workforce challenges.”

The news release added that OSU Polytech will launch an industry leadership advisory council to inform, based on market intelligence, what certificate and degree programs should be developed and prioritized. That council will be made up of committees representing aerospace and aviation, advanced manufacturing, energy and power, health care and life sciences, information technology and telecommunications, supply chain and operations.

“As regents, we support programs that benefit our students and help our state,” Dr. Paula Marshall, CEO of The Bama Companies, said in a public statement. “OSU Polytech builds on the successes of OSUIT’s industry-driven approach. It enables partnering between businesses, industries, public and private organizations, and multiple governments for a single purpose — workforce development. With strong partnerships, we can provide companies with a capable workforce from day one. As regents, we believe OSU Polytech will benefit our students, citizens, industries and the state.”