Q&A - November 11, 2016

Since its founding in 1946, the primary mission of Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology (OSUIT) in Okmulgee has been to train a workforce to meet the needs of the country’s infrastructure. Unlike any other institution of higher education in the state (and perhaps the country), OSUIT is a university of applied technology where hands-on learning is the standard.

Students are taught technical skills specific to the industries they have chosen, but OSUIT is much more than a vocational school. Our students earn real college degrees, not just certifications, and they leave here with technical and critical thinking skills that equip them to take on leadership and management roles in their careers.

Q: What makes OSUIT so different from other colleges?

One profound difference at OSUIT is that our instructors are not professional teachers, but professionals who teach. They are industry-proven practitioners with years of experience in the specific fields into which they are preparing students to enter.

But perhaps what makes OSUIT even more unique is that our programs of study work hand-in-hand with hundreds of companies and industry professionals, some even sponsoring entire degree programs. These corporate partners recognize the value of the educational and skills training we provide and are willing to invest in our students as their future workforce. Many support our programs through donations of equipment so students can learn on the most up-to-date technology available.

Internships are an essential requirement of our technical degree programs, ensuring students gain real-world experience in their field of study before they graduate. These internships typically lead to a hired position, so over 90 percent of our students have a job waiting for them immediately upon graduation—this is nearly unheard of in higher education.

OSUIT is addressing the critical workforce needs of several industries where many of their experienced employees are reaching retirement age in the midst of new corporate growth and expansion. We are essentially filling the skills gap one highly-trained graduate at a time. Government officials and corporate executives repeatedly tell us there is a genuine demand for the type of training OSUIT provides, and they would like to see more applied learning offerings throughout higher education that are customized to meet ever-changing industry requirements. It is my sincere hope also that more colleges and universities would join OSUIT in this model of advanced workforce development.

The era of randomly earning a bachelor’s degree, in any subject, and that being enough to land a job after graduation is over. Students must be more strategic in their planning in this challenging job market. They need to be armed with more than a piece of paper after graduation. Employers want and need employees who can hit the ground running from day one—someone who is already familiar with that industry’s standards, procedures, and equipment. This requires more than theoretical learning; it requires an applied education with relevant hands-on learning—a specialty OSUIT along with our corporate partners have perfected over many years.

I greatly appreciate all of the kind comments and thoughtful questions directed to this column. Please continue to forward them to me at osuit-president@okstate.edu.