Volume 26, No. 6: Doing Our Part to Empower the American Workforce

Oklahoma Education and Industry Partnership (OEIP)

Ben Robinson, Former U.S. Air Force Brigadier General and Boeing Executive

In 2007, we in Oklahoma decided that industry needed to be more involved in education if we expected a future workforce to be available to sustain and grow our industries, businesses, and economy. A simple but true statement is: “Tomorrow’s workforce is in today’s classroom.” This was certainly true of Oklahoma aerospace, which has the world’s largest military depot, the world’s largest airline maintenance base, and the world’s largest aerospace operation, and is a growing presence in the state. Oklahoma also has significant energy, transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, information technology, and health care economic sectors. Over seventy percent of the employees in these sectors required a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) foundation. All agree a workforce needs to be well educated, trained, and motivated. STEM and Career Pathways would provide the knowledge, skills, and motivation that were needed, and STEM teachers across Oklahoma looked to be the best place to start. Boeing took the lead for aerospace in developing an outreach program.

In 2008, Boeing started an initiative within the Oklahoma Aerospace Alliance (OAA) in which 100 STEM teachers from across Oklahoma were invited to attend the annual OAA Aerospace Summit. This program was referred to as the Aerospace Industry and Education Partnership (AEIP). In the two-day event, teachers were exposed to maintenance, engineering, technologies, research and development, business operations, unmanned aero systems, information technology, and supply chain. Teachers were able to talk to employers, be engaged with hands-on workshops, hear aerospace leader presentations, and take industry tours. From 2008 to 2014, this program registered over 700 teachers. Many of these teachers continued their relationship with industry members, inviting them to speak in their classrooms, provide student tours, and serve as mentors. This program was a tremendous success, but it needed to expand to other industries.

In 2015, AEIP was renamed as Oklahoma Education and Industry Partnership and grew to a three-day event. All industries were included in OEIP. The vision for OEIP was:

“Create the Oklahoma workforce of tomorrow by partnering with educators, industry members and private and public agencies.”

The objectives of OEIP were:

  • Provide relevance and rigor to STEM workforce development.

  • Expose STEM educators to high-value careers in Oklahoma.

  • Connect teachers to industry members willing to come to classrooms as speakers and to host student tours in their industries.

  • Help educators motivate students to develop and maintain career pathways.

  • Provide professional development for Oklahoma STEM educators.

The format for OEIP remained much the same as AEIP but included teacher tours to all major industry sectors. In addition to workshops, speakers, and tours, teachers were able to apply for one of 30 Pitsco classroom scientific equipment grants ranging from $750 to $1000. Testimonials below from AEIP and OEIP teachers certainly say this is a great professional development program.

  • “OEIP provided the relevance and not just the rigor. It is the pathways and not just the diploma.”

  • “My favorite part of OEIP is seeing how the curriculum I teach in the classroom is applied in the real world."

  • “When I bring authentic examples to my students in classroom, it brings the lessons to life!

  • Connecting students to careers not only gives them relevance for the material, but also broadens their imaginations for the future.”

  • “From the guest speakers, to the hosting tours and the workshops, I am ready to get back into my classroom today!”

After nine years of having a one-time event each year, it was decided to expand the program again and provide events in three locations across Oklahoma in 2017. The emphasis on STEM and Career Pathways will remain the foundation for all three future events.

For more information, contact the author at sentryonellc@aol.com.