You know you’re in for an unusual day when the director says, “How do you feel about singing “Oklahoma” in the lobby of the greatest Technical School in America, accompanied by a gifted and talented bassoon player?”

The only sensible answer to a question like that is, “Why not?” And so, I did. Spoiler alert – the bassoonist was awesome, and I kept up as best I could. The results I’m told, will be broadcast across Oklahoma someday soon.

After the recital, I got a tour of Central Tech, and learned that it is in fact, one of the best trade schools in the country, if not thee best. Students come here from seventeen different public schools to get a hands-on experience in dozens of trade jobs. Students who are determined to enhance their high-school education with a skill that will make them instantly employable. Students like Jamison, a gifted welder who will give Rosie the Riveter a run for her money.

Central Tech exists because the industries in Oklahoma that rely on a skilled workforce – oil and gas in particular – didn’t wait for the government to put shop class back in high schools. They simply built a world class destination where the trades are amplified and staffed it with a wide variety of accomplished instructors.

Instructors like Phil, who worked on pipelines for years and decided to help train the next generation in a real-world classroom, for a long list of jobs that can pay upwards of $50 an hour. His students are awesome, eager, and very enthusiastic. They can’t wait to roll their sleeves up and get to work.

And John, who in spite of his salmon sweater, is a bad-ass truck driver with decades of experience on America’s highways. Today, he teaches kids how to drive a big-rig in less than six weeks. Kids who quickly go on to make $70,000 a year, thanks to a national shortage of roughly 50,000 truck drivers.

The success stories at Central Tech are too numerous to mention in a Facebook post, but look for a new television campaign this summer, made possible by OERB, that elevates the skilled trades, and helps me prove once again that opportunity in this country is alive and well – especially in the energy industry, where a long list of critical jobs are waiting to be filled.

In other news, the bison in Oklahoma are as delicious as I remember them to be, especially at Mahogany, where the meat pretty much fell off the bone…

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