Sand Springs Public Schools held a media tour and grand opening event Thursday morning at the new Tulsa Technology Center classrooms on the campus of Charles Page High School. The schools recently launched a “Foundations of Construction” program, and have also partnered in several other classes in recent years.
Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell, State Representative Jadine Nollan, and several City, District, and other local officials turned out to celebrate and speak at the event.
“Over the last five to six years we have worked studiously to construct programs and opportunities for our students to be successful and explore job opportunities,” said SSPS Superintendent Sherry Durkee. Durkee praised the district’s partnership with Representative Nollan in pushing for Individual Academic Plans for students across the State.
“We know that our job, our function, is to prepare kids for citizenship,” said Durkee. “We embrace that and today we are celebrating Construction. We have two other key Tulsa Tech programs built inside Charles Page High School. We also have Foundations of Manufacturing, and Interior Design.” The district also offers classes in Engineering, Computer Science, BioMed, and more.
“Through my time in the (construction) industry I’ve witnessed the growing stresses of these firms being unable to find qualified help,” said Tulsa Tech Board of Education member Danny Hancock. Hancock is a Construction Manager at Cowen Construction and a graduate of both Charles Page High School and Tulsa Tech. He has also served as President of the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors.
According to Hancock, 80% of construction firms report difficulties filing craft positions, and 50% report difficulties filling management positions. 72% of construction firms want to expand their labor force but can’t due to a stagnant regional labor pool.
“This program here will not have a shortage of industry members wanting to help the program be successful,” said Hancock. Several local construction businesses have committed to providing the program with guest speakers, job tours, materials, access to tools, and job opportunities.
“Instead of thinking outside of the box, let’s just remove the box,” says Superintendent Durkee. “(Let’s) create programs that give the kids what they need. That is how we try to frame our minds and our goal setting.”
The Sand Springs school district has spent recent years pushing for addition STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs throughout all age-levels. Students are working with engineering, robotics, virtual reality and other STEM subjects throughout the elementary and middle school levels, and a new STEM Center is currently being constructed on the grounds of CPHS.
“What we’re doing here, we have to make sure this happens all across our 77 counties,” said Lt. Gov. Pinnell. “I talk to multiple business owners every single day. They keep telling me ‘I’d hire ten people tomorrow but they don’t have the skills I need.’”
“This is not just an Oklahoma problem,” said Pinnell. “Every state is dealing with the skills gap. Thankfully you now have a national conversation about this. You (in Sand Springs) have leaders at a local level, superintendents, that realize that. On behalf of the State of Oklahoma, I just want to tell you ‘thank you.’”
“We’re going to go down to the State Capitol, take the message of what you’re doing right here in Sand Springs and make sure that we take this across our 77 counties,” said Pinnell.
“The most important thing for a community like Sand Springs, and people that want to move here is our education system,” said Mayor Jim Spoon. “That’s one of the first things they check. We are so proud of our Sand Springs school system and what they do for our city and our community. We can’t be any more proud and this is a good example.”