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OSU launches new Polytech project to improve STEM education, workforce development

Dr. Kayse Shrum introduces the workforce development panel after announcing the OSU Polytech project.
Anna Pope
Dr. Kayse Shrum introduces the workforce development panel after announcing the OSU Polytech project.

A dancing robotic dog and mini wind turbine were a couple of demonstrations at Oklahoma State University’s announcement of its new OSU Polytech project in Tulsa.

OSU Polytech is an initiative to improve STEM education access and workforce development in Tulsa. The project aligns programming and resources at OSUIT, OSU-OKC and OSU-Tulsa.

OSU President Dr. Kayse Shrum said the STEM curriculum, industry-aligned education programs, flexible learning opportunities and real-world experiences, are the four pillars of OSU Polytech.

“As Oklahoma’s largest university system, we must ensure Oklahoma is open for business when it comes to science and technology,” Shrum said.

Business leaders, representatives of foundations, Oklahoma officials, and staff from the Cherokee, Muscogee, Chickasaw and Osage Nations attended the event.

Oklahoma’s labor participation rate is about 62% and industries need skilled workers. Brandon Dinsmore, a workforce advancement specialist and a fiber optics training program coordinator at OSU, was displaying fiber internet equipment.

“We’re here today because we’re trying to put a spotlight on this industry,” Dinsmore said. “With the broadband rollout that we have expanding to the entire state, there’s going to be a huge workforce need and a huge need for a pipeline of skilled workers.”

During a workforce development panel at the event, officials said they need skilled and ready workers. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said barriers of accessibility in rural areas and poverty prevent some people from entering into the workforce.

“That is a significant amount of the workforce that's out of the workforce, and that is a drain on the state and it's certainly a drain on the Cherokee Nation at times," Hoskin said.

OSU and the Cherokee Nation have worked together on other initiatives like the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tahlequah. Hoskin said he is eager for the increased partnership through the OSU Polytech project and the Cherokee Nation supports the effort.

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Anna Pope is a reporter covering agriculture and rural issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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