Not every hard-working Cherokee Nation citizen who graduates from high school wants to go to college, but they still deserve access to a quality job and a rewarding career. That is why Cherokee Nation is doubling our funding for Career Tech training from $1 million to $2 million.

This investment, called the Career Readiness Act, will prepare Cherokees for jobs in trades such as construction, health care record keeping, information technology, and electrical line work. The openings in these fields are some of Oklahoma’s fastest growing and highest paying jobs. These are skilled trades and can only be learned through vocational training or career technology programs.

I recently signed this legislation, which also had the unanimous support of the Council of the Cherokee Nation.

Just like college, many Cherokees cannot afford the tuition for vocational classes without assistance. We invest heavily in sending Cherokees to college on scholarships – and rightly so – but we should never forget our Cherokees who prefer a non-college career path and skilled trades training after high school. They must be equally prepared to be a valued part of the local economy and their community. Failing to put more resources into this would mean leaving too many of our people behind.

To make sure this investment is as effective as possible, Cherokee Nation Career Services has analyzed the industries where jobs are in demand. The Career Services department serves about 700 students annually in customized training programs, whether in IT, health care, the building trades or other in-demand fields. The department helps Cherokee families across the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction.

To fulfill this mission, Career Services has expanded our partnerships with some of Oklahoma’s exceptional Career Tech Centers and vocational schools, like Northeast Tech Center, Indian Capital Technology Center and Tulsa Tech.

The Career Readiness Act is another innovative collaboration we have created that will drive job growth in northeast Oklahoma.

On more key aspect of the Career Readiness Act is its importance to Cherokee Nation’s $30 million Housing Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act of 2019, which targets the tribe’s backlog of housing repairs. Three-quarters of that money, or $22.5 million, will go specifically toward renovating homes. The remaining $7.5 million is earmarked for remodeling and installing energy efficient measures in non-residential structures, such as adding solar panels to tribal community centers.

We will need many trained tradespeople to complete this work for the next several years.

Every Cherokee deserves the opportunity to develop a hirable skillset so they can get a job where the demand exists. That’s why the Cherokee Nation tribal government is providing more opportunities for the many hard-working, intelligent Cherokees who desire to learn a new trade or expand on the skills they already have. Filling quality jobs will help our citizens and provide a much-needed expansion of the workforce for Oklahoma’s burgeoning economic sectors.

We expect the Career Readiness Act to train hundreds of Cherokees for the future. It will help shape the economy and build prosperity for Cherokee families for years to come.

Chuck Hoskin Jr. is the Principle Chief of the Cherokee Nation.