FISTA deep dive: Education improvements to qualify students for open positions

Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 11:06 PM CST
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - According to CEO of FISTA Dr Krista Ratliff, education is a barrier for hiring, even though the contractors signed with FISTA have preference on local hires.

So as more jobs open in FISTA, according to officials from both Cameron University and Great Plains Technology Center, it’s important for them to make sure they provide their students with the educational requirements to qualify for those positions.

They said it’s important to keep their curriculum open to change, so they can meet the needs of these companies as they move in.

“As the companies are coming into the FISTA to do their work, that Cameron is postured to deliver products that’s going to meet their needs,” said Albert Johnson Jr, the Vice President for University Advancement for Cameron. “So if there’s an infrastructure change that we need to make to expose our students to that process we want to go through that.”

Both Johnson and Clarence Fortney, the Superintendent for Great Plains Technology Center, have seats on FISTA’s board of trustees.

Fortney said having that position allows them to sit down with the contractors to know exactly how students need to prepare.

“When we originally thought of FISTA and the opportunities it could bring to the Lawton Fort Sill community, we realized the different entities that would potentially move into the FISTA whether it be defense contractors. And we’ll look at what their training needs are, what their workforce needs and opportunities are, so that we can then be about training individuals locally so we can fill those positions,” Fortney said.

Both agreed it’s important Lawton’s education system is interlinked with the company, so they can create a workforce pipeline.

They said the jobs are typically based in engineering, and Johnson added when the idea of FISTA was floating around, they took it upon themselves to implement a two year engineering program to give students those STEM qualifications.

“That synergy creates a person who has already committed to this community and now through their education they can now get a great job and help make this community better. It’s a perfect scenario,” said Johnson.