Tulsa's NextGEN Talent

Chamber initiative grooms future workforce pool

Job shadowing truly can shed light on a potential career.

That was the main takeaway in June from Tulsa’s NextGEN Talent (TNT) celebration at Tulsa Tech’s Lemley Memorial campus.

A third-year program of the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s workforce team, TNT held an event that showcased the experiences of 33 externs at 17 companies, nonprofits and educational institutions.

“It’s been just an amazing partnership across our region,” said Rue Ramsey, vice president of workforce and talent strategies at the Chamber.”

TNT is a growth and talent retention initiative designed to increase economic mobility and development for diverse talent in the Tulsa region through externships. For three weeks, the program places Black juniors and seniors from regional public schools in Tulsa-area companies for career exploration and experiential learning.

“I want them to stay in Tulsa,” Ramsey said of the students. “I want them to know that there are great jobs, excellent employers and people who are rooting for them all over this region.

“What better way for them to know that than to connect them with employers to build their professional network, to build their professional language, to spend time with adults, to spend time in the world of work…?”

The 2023 TNT cohort had five days of professional development at the Chamber and spent eight days with their “Champion” hosts.
Externs who completed the program received $1,500. Each member of the executive leadership team, made up of six externs from 2022, received $1,000.

“We don’t know how much they are going to absorb spending two weeks with us, eight days with us,” said Leonelle Thompson, who specializes in recruitment and early-career development at Williams, a local energy company. “But it is so valuable for them to have the exposure. The key is exposure.
“…The biggest lesson was what you are learning here you can use anywhere.”
The student presentations were both heartfelt and humorous. Christian Crockett was sponsored by local television station KJRH.
“Something that I took away from this experience is you have to mix hard work with patience,” he said. “I learned how not to be shy and talk more when I’m around people.”

David Cole, hosted by OU-Tulsa, was fascinated by seeing “one mannequin that gave birth.”

Elliott Oakley, another KJRH extern, urged others to “keep asking questions because adults know more than us.”

Before students gave their presentations Friday, they heard from Tyrance Billingsley II, founder of Black Tech Street and co-founder of Tulsa Creative Engine.

He gave them a history lesson on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and the generational effect it has had on Black wealth in Greenwood.

Billingsley added that it is critical to get Blacks in the technology space and urged students to consider tech as a career.

For more information on Tulsa’s NextGEN Talent or how to host an intern, please contact Rue Ramsey, Vice President of workforce and talent strategies of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, at 918-560-0294.