By Steven Hendrickson
With all the unsettling national news about recession, layoffs and unemployment, it may seem strange to be talking about labor shortages, but that’s what we face in Oklahoma.
The state’s 2009 employment outlook is vastly better than the nation’s, and Oklahoma employers will continue to confront shortages in all kinds of jobs. Some of the most difficult challenges involve college-trained managers, engineers, executives and other knowledge workers.
That’s why the Oklahoma Department of Commerce has launched Project Boomerang, a wide-ranging campaign to round up former Oklahomans and bring them home.
Overall, Oklahoma’s high-wage knowledge-based sector has been projected to need more than 125,000 new and replacement workers over the next 10 years. The jobs are in healthcare, oil and gas, accounting and management, law, architecture and engineering, high-tech start-ups, and many other fields. They pay an average of $52,900 a year, more than 50 percent above the state’s average. And if that seems low to an outsider, we would point out that it equates to more than $100,000 in, for example, Los Angeles dollars.
Project Boomerang is making that economic case, along with lifestyle, identity, and family appeals to show “elsewhere Oklahomans” the fulfilling future that awaits them in 21st Century Oklahoma. Our targets are college graduates, age 25-60, with school or family connection to Oklahoma. That includes Millennial and Gen-X professionals and Baby Boomers with executive experience.
The new Project Boomerang website – www.okboomerang.com – features first-person testimonials, career information, housing data, social and recreational opportunities and links to employers looking for highly skilled professionals to hire right now. Expatriates can sign up for the Project Boomerang e-newsletter, and they can select from a growing list of employers they’d like to hear from directly.
We’re taking creative approaches to approaching the creative class, teaming with colleges and alumni associations; building bridges on social networking sites like Linkedin, Twitter, and Ning; and staging face-to-face events with far-flung Oklahoma alumni groups.
Our long-lost friends are responding. In the website’s first 10 weeks of operation, nearly 300 people – from 31 states and two foreign countries – signed up to get the newsletter and connect with employers. Most say they want to move back to Oklahoma within six months.
On the website, Belinda McCoy describes boomeranging from Dallas. “I realized Oklahoma had come a long way since I was in college,” she said. “The economy was much better, jobs were plentiful, and the entertainment was better.”
“It was nice to live somewhere else for a change,” said Adam Clinton, who boomeranged from Los Angeles, “but I have no regrets whatsoever about returning to Oklahoma. This is home.”
Yes, it is, even for a California transplant like me.
Found in the Oklahoma Department of Commerce eNewsletter, used by permission.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.