Engineer: Investing in Oklahoma's universities is vital to state's future

Engineer: Investing in Oklahoma's universities is vital to state's future

  • By: Heath DePriest

Published: March 10, 2017

Oklahoma faces difficult decisions about how to appropriately allocate funds to critical efforts. Unfortunately, severe budget cuts to our state universities have clearly indicated that priorities have shifted away from investing in the foundational abilities of the next generation.

As someone who is responsible for recruiting the next generation of engineers critical to the energy industry, I have a keen interest in how we fund the state universities and the vital science, technology, engineering and math education they provide. Our best investments are in the people who will shape how we build communities, harness energy and enable future generations to thrive.

If you've lived in this state for long, you know Oklahoma is at the heart of the U.S. energy infrastructure. We should remain committed to being the core of the future vision for our energy needs. To be successful, we need to be able to develop and retain our young professionals and enable them to shape tomorrow's energy solutions. During the past 25 years, I have witnessed a tremendous shift in the required skills and experiences young engineers need. Our universities have struggled to keep up with demand, retain talented professors and adjust to the evolving educational requirements for today's engineers.

While the energy industry is hard at work developing groundbreaking technologies, our challenges are changing and we need fresh ideas from a diverse and impassioned new generation of innovative leaders. How can we expect our aspiring students to embrace the challenge and want to be a part of the solution if we won't commit to the foundational investments they need to be successful?

We are continuing to bleed our talent to other states, other industries and other interests. Oklahoma has immensely talented young students who could benefit greatly from an enriched and well-funded engineering education at one of our state schools. In turn, we will all benefit in what they will give back to our great state.

The time is now to ask our leaders to buy into and invest in the vision of a state that remains the leading force for developing our nation's future.

DePriest is managing director of midstream terminals with Phillips 66. He is a native of Ponca City and a graduate of Oklahoma State University with a degree in chemical engineering.

Read the original opinion piece on NewsOK.

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