TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner are proposing the construction of a new “Career Readiness” campus in Tahlequah, part of an expansion of the historic Career Readiness Act signed in 2019.
“In 2019, we established a firm policy that career training should be every bit as valued as a college education and we have put over $30 million toward that effort,” Chief Hoskin said. “Three years later we are ready to take this idea to the next level and construct our own career-readiness campus.”
The 2019 Career Readiness Act doubled the tribe’s investment of its own revenue into career training programs. Among the programs created as a result of the act is the high voltage and fiber optic lineman program. The tribe also committed over $29 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to assist Cherokee citizens in attending career training programs through December 2024.
“Chief Hoskin, the Council and I are simply doing what the Cherokee people expect,” said Deputy Chief Warner. “Education and career training are at the top of those expectations. Earlier this year, Chief Hoskin and I announced that $20 million has been dedicated to infrastructure for new, modern facilities at Sequoyah Schools, which is just across the highway from where this career readiness campus will be. Now we’re proposing a career readiness campus because we know Cherokees want to earn a good living. Whether they ultimately choose college or a career training track, we are providing more and more support, year after year.”
The proposed career readiness campus would be located at the former Cherokee County fairgrounds southwest of Tahlequah on U.S. Highway 62. Cherokee Nation acquired the property – more than 20 acres – after Cherokee County officials announced plans to build a new fairgrounds in a new location.
Chief Hoskin said the $10 million investment represents Phase 1 of the campus and that a second phase likely exceeding an additional $10 million will be needed as the campus expands.
The legislation also extends the Career Readiness Act through the end of fiscal year 2025, at which time Chief Hoskin said tribal leadership should review the law and consider reauthorizing it.
In addition to continuing the funding boost established in the 2019 act and authorizing the career readiness campus, the legislation sets a goal of placing Career Service offices within 30 miles of every Cherokee citizen within the Cherokee Nation’s 7,000-square-mile reservation. Cherokee Nation opened its ninth Career Services satellite office earlier this month in Wagoner as part of this ongoing effort.
“I’ve worked with many Cherokees over the years who just need someone to believe in them and support them in their career goals,” said the legislation’s lead sponsor, Councilor Daryl Legg of Sallisaw. “This new campus means we will help even more Cherokees gain the skills to earn a good living.”
Cherokee Nation citizen Robert Loudermilk, of Talala in Rogers County, enrolled in Tulsa Tech’s Emergency Medical Technician program and progressed to the paramedic program with help from the tribe’s Career Readiness Act.
“Today I’m proud to say I’m a licensed paramedic in the state of Oklahoma. I was hired by the city of Skiatook as a paramedic firefighter in November 2021,” Loudermilk said. “Without the continued assistance and support from Cherokee Nation, I may not have been able to achieve my goals. Now, I will be able to provide a better life for my family and serve the Skiatook community for many years to come.”
For more information on Cherokee Nation programs and services, including how to participate in opportunities provided through the Career Readiness Act, visit www.cherokee.org and visit the Career Services section of the website.
Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner’s proposal will be reviewed by the Council during a Rules Committee meeting August 25 and if approved, will be voted on during a subsequent Council meeting.