CHICKASHA - Governor Mary Fallin dispatched one of her top aids to Canadian Valley Technology Center on Monday with the goal of finding and exploiting best practices as they relate to her Oklahoma Works initiative.
The emphasis was the centerpiece of Fallin's recent State of the State address in which she noted that Oklahoma does not have enough skilled workers to meet the workforce demands of companies statewide.
Seeking to develop a connection with industry and education, she sent Deputy Policy Director Jake Yunker to Chickasha to learn more about CV Tech's Mentor Match program.
Mentor Match launched last year at the school as a means of providing CV Tech students with valuable contacts and relationships with professionals across the district area.
Students partnered weekly or monthly with an area mentor in the field most closely related to the students' training emphasis at CV Tech.
For Automotive Service Technology student Bobby Barron, that meant spending time alongside technicians in the service shop at Byford Buick GMC of Chickasha.
Barron, 24, of Chickasha, is two semesters shy of finishing a bachelor's degree. He said he began thinking seriously about a job and decided it best to put his college pursuit on hold in hopes of training for a career that would pay the bills sooner.
Barron enrolled at CV Tech using the Next Step Scholarship, which provides free tuition to anyone under age 24 who resides within district boundaries.
During his training, he was asked by his instructor to participate in the mentoring program.
Barron said he was motivated during the Mentor Match program by making regular trips to the dealership.
"We couldn't get him to leave the shop," said Byford Service Manager Shawn Richardson.
The dealership hired Barron to work in the service shop.
"I want to finish my degree at some point, but I really enjoy my job here," Barron said.
Mentor Match is the brainchild of CV Tech Career Development Counselor Gay Pettit, who said Barron's story is one that has been repeated by many students. The program began with 26 students. Industry participation has been overwhelming, she said. This has resulted in the number growing to 53 students for year two of the project.
Yunker also visited current Mentor Match students Leanna White in Computer Aided Drafting and Design and with Welding student Holden Scott at CV Tech's Chickasha Campus.
Fallin noted in her recent address that Oklahoma has more than 80,000 available jobs statewide which remain unfilled due to the skills gap.
She also stated that partnering education with companies wanting to attract and retain high-quality, high-paying jobs is necessary for a successful future in the state.
Oklahoma Works brings the state's workforce resources together, connecting employers, employees, and job seekers to information and programs that help build Oklahoma's workforce.