Denney: CareerTech is evolving as labor demands change

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Lee Deney

Vocational and technical education has come a long way in the past two decades. But despite the many improvements and benefits of CareerTech programs, public awareness is still limited and outdated perceptions remain.

As the demand for skilled employees soars in a modern global economy, Oklahoma CareerTech’s mission to prepare students of all ages to succeed in the careers of their choice has never been more relevant. But to fully meet the needs of Oklahoma employers and students, more parents and students need to know all that CareerTech has to offer.

You can start by visiting the Oklahoma CareerTech website at www.okcareertech.org to explore your career interests. Here you’ll find videos, podcasts, blogs, feature articles, newsletters, and online materials on a wide range of occupations and the degree programs for those occupations.

CareerTech is not the vocational education of 20 years ago. CareerTech programs and student organizations are designed to simultaneously provide students with the skills demanded in the job market while preparing them for post-secondary degrees in technical fields such as engineering, aviation, cybersecurity, computer science , construction and mechanics. In addition to specific career-focused courses, students are offered opportunities that include internships, apprenticeships, and school programs aimed at fostering work readiness.

Career and technical education has seen a resurgence in interest over the past decade as many states have successfully secured increased state funding for CareerTech programs.

In Oklahoma, enrollment in CareerTech programs is up across the board, and memberships in CareerTech student organizations such as FFA and HOSA grew 20% in fiscal year 2022 to 95,390 members. The increase in CTSO enrollment and membership reflects a growing awareness of the value of CareerTech training and the need for programs that emphasize career readiness.

In Oklahoma, enrollment in CareerTech courses at PK-12 schools totaled 127,875 in fiscal year 2022, up from 121,735 in fiscal year 2021. That number equates to 31% of students in fifth through 12th year. In grades nine through 12, 42% of students — 83,580 — were enrolled in CareerTech courses in fiscal year 2022.

In addition to teaching individuals through technology centers, skills centers, PK-12 schools, and adult education and family literacy programs, Oklahoma CareerTech also offers customized training and other services to state enterprises to help them increase their profitability.

In fiscal year 2022, CareerTech served 6,671 companies through entrepreneurial development, firefighter training, custom industry, safety training, adult and career development, the Oklahoma Supply Industry Training and Technical Assistance Center. The TIP program has helped businesses set up in Oklahoma and provided training for 2,941 new jobs, and OkPTAC has helped state-owned companies secure 1,775 federal, state, local, and tribal government contracts. worth more than $392 million.

Oklahoma is consistently recognized by other states for having one of the best CareerTech systems in the nation. We have earned a reputation for being inclusive, for breaking down the silos that traditionally separate academic subjects from the skills and knowledge provided by vocational and technology education, and for pursuing innovative ideas that break with tradition and the accepted paradigm. By thinking outside the box, Oklahoma CareerTech was able to reach more students with personalized training developed in collaboration with Oklahoma companies.

CareerTech invests in emerging technologies and new ways of learning to provide an education relevant to our times. These efforts require an approach that emphasizes broad academic learning coupled with a strong CareerTech training system.

If you want to learn more about Oklahoma CareerTech, visit our website at okcareertech.org.

Lee Denney is the acting state director of Oklahoma’s Department of Career and Technology Education. Denney served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2004 to 2016. During her last two years in office, she served as speaker pro tempore.

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