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Tackling the skills gap challenge

The “skills gap” is a well-known phenomenon whereby businesses in today’s labor market are having a difficult time hiring workers who possess the skills to meet businesses’ needs.

In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that the skills gap presents a real threat to the nation's long-term economic prosperity.

What is one way SHRM recommends companies can help address their needs and tackle the skills gap challenge? By forming partnerships with local educational institutions. SHRM reports that such partnerships “have the benefit of providing an employer with an applicant pool that is gaining the skills the employer needs.”

A perfect example of this strategy is the recently formed partnership between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Oklahoma City University (OCU). The two entities have embarked on a three-year agreement that at its heart will see students in OCU’s Meinders School of Business take part in vital experiential learning opportunities with business leaders from the Thunder.

Paycom Center

Graduate students will be able to enroll in the new Thunder Leadership MBA program. This on-campus experience allows graduate students at OCU to collaborate with senior leadership from the Thunder. Team leaders will interact with students and provide insight into strategic business initiatives, and students will also take part in a semester-long business project that culminates with a presentation to Thunder executives at Paycom Center.

This also marks the first time the Thunder have partnered with a university to create a new MBA program.

On the undergraduate side, select business students will be able to take part in special Thunder game-day practicums, where students can embed with the Thunder’s business team at the arena and study business operations.

Russell Evans, interim dean of the Meinders School of Business, said the partnership benefits both OCU students and the Thunder.

“The Thunder’s involvement allows OCU students to take part in meaningful learning experiences that will help prepare them for the job market and provide real-world business experience,” Evans said. “At the same time, local companies like the Thunder benefit from an influx of business-ready graduates who are able to contribute immediately in the workforce.”

He said the partnership reflects OCU’s commitment to forming deep and strategic community relationships, and also the university’s ability “to leverage those relationships on behalf of our students.”

Evans added that wherever a student decides to study business, he recommends they look for ways where they can interact with local businesses and business leaders to gain important skills and position themselves for future success.

Those interested in achieving those goals through OCU’s partnership with the Thunder can get more information at www.okcu.edu/thunder.

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