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January 22, 2004 :: Oklahoma Colleges Ready to Respond to State of the Union Proposal

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A new job-training program announced by President George W. Bush in his State of the Union address Tuesday could have a far-reaching effect on Oklahoma’s two-year higher education institutions and their abilities to expand their workforce training capacity, higher education officials say.

“We look forward to hearing more details about the President’s proposal,” said Chancellor Paul Risser. “Our Oklahoma institutions are in a good position to apply for grant funds to provide much-needed job training.”

In Tuesday’s speech, President Bush provided an outline for a proposal for two-year colleges to receive funding to expand workforce training programs.

"I propose increasing our support for America's fine community colleges, so they can train workers for the industries that are creating the most new jobs,” Bush said. “By all these actions, we will help more and more Americans to join in the growing prosperity of our country. Job training is important, and so is job creation. We must continue to pursue an aggressive, pro-growth economic agenda."

Details of the proposal are expected to follow soon.

“This is a great way for the President to acknowledge the essential role that our community colleges play in helping employers and workers,” said Ike Glass, chairman of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. “These institutions provide a wide variety of high-quality, cost-effective and convenient programs to the people that need it the most.”

Oklahoma’s 12 community colleges and two technical branches play a leading role in providing skilled employees in a variety of critical career areas such as nursing and other health care professions, information technology and security.

Current examples of workforce training include Rose State College’s long-standing relationship with Tinker Air Force Base’s Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center; Northern Oklahoma College’s partnership with ConocoPhillips; and Tulsa Community College’s training program for St. John’s Hospital.

“Oklahoma has a good track record of applying for and winning federal higher education grants and a great reputation for getting outstanding results,” said Risser. “We are encouraged by this proposal and will follow this issue very closely.”