CareerTech Champions

Joseph Gordon – Moore Norman Technology Center

A love of computers runs in Joseph Gordon’s family. His father works in information technology, and Gordon took his first programming class in middle school. He was intrigued by how computers worked, but he wasn’t really enthralled with programming. A few years later, he toured Moore Norman Technology Center and was intrigued by the network and cloud administration course.

The 16-year-old high school junior enrolled at Moore Norman Tech and was already A+ certified early in his first semester. When school let out for the summer, he accepted an unpaid internship with Norman Public Schools to repair MacBooks. He continued the internship after school started, working for NPS early in the morning, driving to Moore Norman Technology Center for class, working his after-school job at Schlotzsky’s and then going home to study.

But that’s not all. While interning at NPS, he completed his CompTia Net+ certification. He learned a lot as an unpaid intern, but he told his instructor, Todd Hendrickson, “I’d like to make some money.”

Hendrickson agreed it was time for Gordon to start getting compensated for his talents. He helped Gordon get a job with the Addison Group, running cable and providing an Ethernet network for T-Mobile during his senior year of high school. Gordon started at $15 an hour, but after he updated his resume to include his latest certification, his salary was bumped to $17 an hour.

In March 2022, two months before Gordon’s high school graduation, Dell approached him about a VxRail network support team they were putting together. VxRail is an appliance that provides networking, computing and management capabilities. Hendrickson helped Gordon prepare for an interview, and the high school senior was offered one of the 14 open positions. Gordon will work from home and earn a starting salary of $69,000 a year, plus benefits.

“The young man is ecstatic, and his future is set,” Hendrickson said, “and he hasn’t even graduated high school yet!”

As a technical support engineer, Gordon will troubleshoot customer issues with Dell’s VxRail, but he will also use his skills for personal projects, including cabling his house.

“I’m setting up a personal website to document my journey,” he said, “so that anyone who goes through the same journey has a potential guide.”

Consider Joining a CTSO

By Lee Denney

Taylor Frech didn’t feel like her local high school was enough of a challenge, so she decided to try something new. She said she didn’t even know what DECA was when she signed up to join, but she soon discovered it was exactly what she needed. 

DECA is a CareerTech student organization dedicated to preparing students in high school and college for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. Frech said DECA provided her the challenge she had been missing.

“I began to fall in love with coming to school each day,” she said, “and I found ways to challenge myself through the marketing program and DECA.”

Through DECA, Frech learned about the day-to-day operations of multiple businesses, became a better communicator, learned how to work as part of a team and made lifelong friendships with her DECA classmates.

Frech earned a bachelor’s degree in restaurant, hotel and institutional management. She now serves as revenue manager for Hilton’s corporate office and vice president of Hilton Helping Hands, Hilton’s service organization.

Frech said she uses the skills she learned from CareerTech every day in her professional and personal lives.

“CareerTech had enabled me with years of experience that others my age did not have,” she said. “It prepared me to take on each challenge and opportunity head-on.”

DECA is one of seven Oklahoma CTSOs that offer shared benefits for students, including leadership, public speaking, problem solving and organizational skills. In addition, students have opportunities to hold leadership positions at local, state and national levels and attend conferences to network with other students and industry leaders.

Joining a CTSO allows students to explore and pursue their interests, just as it did for Frech.

In fiscal 2022, more than 92,000 Oklahoma students learned important leadership skills as members of the state’s seven co-curricular student organizations: Business Professionals of America; DECA; Family, Career and Community Leaders of America; FFA; HOSA; SkillsUSA; and Technology Student Association.

The co-curricular organizations are designed to develop skills through curriculum, activities and competitions. They improve occupational competencies, enhance leadership skills, enrich classroom learning, promote career awareness, provide experimental learning, foster a sense of community and improve decision making.

Students who participate in CTSOs demonstrate higher levels of academic engagement and motivation, civic engagement, career self-efficacy and employability skills than other students. According to the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, participating in leadership and professional development activities in a CTSO raises students’ educational aspirations.

Career and technical education provides learners of all ages with career-ready skills that promote Oklahoma’s economic growth. It’s important to recognize the power of a skills-based education, which gives students the tools they need to succeed in the workplace, in education and in life.

Oklahoma is regularly recognized for having one of the best CareerTech systems in the nation, serving more than 444,000 students in fiscal 2022 through a network of 391 school districts, 29 technology centers, 15 skills centers and 32 Adult Education and Family Literacy providers.

CareerTech student organizations aren’t just important, they are essential to meeting Oklahoma’s workforce demands for today and tomorrow.

For more information about these student organizations and their missions, visit www.okcareertech.org.  

Lee Denney is the interim state director of the Oklahoma 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.

Nearly 4,000 educators gather for professional development and motivation

During uncertain times, educators need to accept and embrace change, according to Mark Mayfield, a speaker at the 55th annual CareerTech conference in Tulsa. Mayfield’s presentation offered teachers tools to boost their innovation skills and help them thrive during times of change.

Oklahoma CareerTech’s interim director, Lee Denney, said nearly 4,000 educators gathered at the Cox Business Convention Center for Oklahoma Summit, a partnership between the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education and the Oklahoma Association of Career and Technology Education. It provides professional development opportunities for CareerTech educators, administrators, school board members, support staff members and business partners.

Denney said the two-day event is always held the first week of August.

“Our CareerTech educators report back to their respective programs Aug. 1,” Denney said. “The conference is a great way to get teachers motivated to return to the classrooms.”

This was presenter Mary Jo Self’s 43rd CareerTech conference. The Oklahoma State University associate professor is a former CareerTech instructor.

“The conference sets the tone for the upcoming school year,” Self said. “It offers attendees the chance to network and be informed of the latest techniques and trends and prepare for the upcoming year.”

Financial adviser Richard Collins with Horizon Financial Services celebrated his 10th year as an OkACTE sponsor for the annual event. Collins talked to the educators about planning for retirement. He said making the decision to retire starts with being informed about all your options.

“Making the decision to retire can be intimidating,” Collins said. “Education is key.”

Oklahoma Summit also celebrates the outstanding work of Oklahoma CareerTech professionals, according to Skye McNiel, executive director of OkACTE.

Once again, Express Employment Professionals donated more than $27,000 in cash prizes to the top winners of OkACTE’s annual awards. Bob Funk Jr., senior vice president of strategic planning and corporate development, was on stage to present those awards.

“Oklahoma CareerTech not only makes a difference in the lives of its students by helping them land quality jobs,” Funk said, “but it also moves the state’s economic needle by fulfilling critical workforce needs for Oklahoma businesses.”

Biomedical sciences instructor Karen Upton from Metro Technology Centers was surprised and pleased to be named OkACTE Teacher of the Year, an honor that came with a check for $10,000 from Express Employment Professionals.

“Teachers work very hard,” Upton said. “Long hours, lots of stress, and it’s nice to see someone thinks what you do is important.”

David Martin, assistant superintendent of instruction at Metro Technology Centers, received one of CareerTech’s two most prestigious awards at the conference. Martin received the Arch Alexander Award. The Francis Tuttle Award of Excellence was presented to Lorri Carlile, director of outreach and partnerships for OkACTE.

Karen Upton, OkACTE Teacher of the Year

OkACTE award winners also included the following:

Teacher of the Year – Karen Upton, Metro Technology Centers – $10,000 from Express Employment Professionals

Postsecondary Professional of the Year – Kim Goode, Southern Technology Center – $7,500 from Express Employment Professionals

New Teacher of the Year – Shelly Stephens, Tri County Technology Center – $5,000 from Express Employment Professionals

Support Staff Member of the Year – Kendra Allen, Canadian Valley Technology Center – $5,000 from Express Employment Professionals

Arch Alexander Award – David Martin, Metro Technology Centers

Francis Tuttle Award of Excellence – Lorri Carlile, OkACTE

A complete list of all of the award winners can be found on our website at: https://oklahoma.gov/careertech/oklahoma-summit.html

About Oklahoma CareerTech

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education provides leadership and resources and assures standards of excellence for a comprehensive statewide system of career and technology education. The system offers programs and services in 29 technology center districts operating on 59 campuses, 391 PK-12 school districts, 15 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities and 32 adult basic education service providers.

The agency is governed by the State Board of Career and Technology Education and works closely with the State Department of Education and the State Regents for Higher Education to provide a seamless educational system for all Oklahomans.

CareerTech Champions

Gabriel Lewis – Francis Tuttle Technology Center

Chef Gabe battles for MasterChef – again

In Season Eight, he made it to the top seven on the hit TV series “MasterChef.” That was in 2017. Gabriel Lewis of Oklahoma City was straight out of high school and working at a fast-food restaurant. Flash forward to 2022’s Season 12, and the Putnam City North alum is back on television in “MasterChef: Back to Win.”

Oklahoma CareerTech Champion from Francis Tuttle Technology Center

The Season 12 competitors are all experienced chefs making their second appearance on the show. After Episode Six, Lewis was among 17 chefs still in the running for the $250,000 prize.

For Lewis, much has changed since his television debut five years ago. He’s now a graduate of the prestigious Johnson and Wales University in Denver, he’s working on a cookbook, and he is booking private catering jobs all over the country. Together with his sister, a professional photographer, Lewis has created a dynamic collection of cooking videos as well as an impressive web and social media presence.

Before Lewis left the MasterChef kitchen in 2017, renowned New Orleans chef Aaron Sanchez even promised him a job after culinary school, but COVID shutdowns robbed him of that opportunity.

A passion for cooking runs in Lewis’ family. He grew up with three expert cooks – his mother, his aunt and his grandmother. He turned that love into a career plan, enrolling in a two-year program at Francis Tuttle Technology Center’s School of Culinary Arts while he was still in high school.

“Francis Tuttle gave me a snapshot of what the industry is really like,” Lewis said.

In addition to cooking skills, his experience at Francis Tuttle also gave him the confidence to audition for “MasterChef,” where he became a popular contestant. Fans were disappointed to see him eliminated, but world-renowned chef Gordon Ramsay saw potential in the CareerTech grad and offered to pay his tuition at Johnson and Wales.

“You’ve got the potential to be huge in this industry,” Ramsay said in 2017.

Regardless of how “MasterChef: Back to Win” turns out, Lewis is already pretty big. He recently filmed a national commercial, he’s running a business, and he plans to compete in the World Food Championship in Dallas in November.

Oklahoma SkillsUSA Students Win at National Conference

Oklahoma SkillsUSA students brought home plenty of honors from the 58th National Leadership and Skills conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

Students won 74 medals — 38 gold, 22 silver and 14 bronze — to place second in the nation for number of medals earned, said Emily Goff, state adviser with the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. Oklahoma had 177 competitors place in the top 10 during the conference’s competitions.

“The state of Oklahoma should be proud of the students and advisers who participated in the SkillsUSA National Conference. The students did a fantastic job demonstrating their skills and abilities learned in their chosen career and technology education fields,” Goff said. “Our amazing instructors and advisers provided professional guidance and support to the students setting the pathway to success.

“It’s clear with 74 Oklahoma medalists during SkillsUSA National Competition our students were motivated and prepared to compete at the national level.”

In addition, Gordon Cooper Technology Center was one of 24 schools in the country to be named a Models of Excellence school. The award recognizes schools for integrating personal, workplace and technical skills into SkillsUSA chapter activities. It is the highest honor a SkillsUSA chapter can earn.

Also at the conference, Autry Technology Center student Abby Vandiver was elected as a national postsecondary officer for the 2022-23 year.

More than 400 advisers, guests and competitors attended the conference from Oklahoma.

SkillsUSA is one of seven CareerTech student organizations affiliated with CareerTech programs. It is affiliated with trade and industrial education. The other six are Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (family and consumer sciences education), FFA (agricultural education), DECA (marketing education), HOSA (health careers education), Business Professionals of America (business and information technology education) and Technology Student Association (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

About Oklahoma CareerTech

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education provides leadership and resources and assures standards of excellence for a comprehensive statewide system of career and technology education. The system offers programs and services in 29 technology center districts operating on 59 campuses, 394 PK-12 school districts, 13 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities and 31 adult basic education service providers.

The agency is governed by the State Board of Career and Technology Education and works closely with the State Department of Education and the State Regents for Higher Education to provide a seamless educational system for all Oklahomans.

Legislature Approves $8.8 Million for Oklahoma CareerTech to Meet Health Care Workforce Demands

The Oklahoma Legislature appropriated $8.8 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds today to expand Oklahoma CareerTech programs and address the state’s nursing workforce shortage.

Upon signature by Gov. Kevin Stitt, the bill will enable Oklahoma CareerTech to produce an additional 1,100 trained health care workers over the first five years of full implementation.

During the June special session, lawmakers allocated the following for the Health Care Workforce Development Revolving Fund:

  • $1,640,630 to establish a grant program with Indian Capital Technology Center to recruit and train health care workers in Oklahoma.
  • $2,032,767 to establish a grant program with Metro Technology Centers to recruit and train health care workers in Oklahoma.
  • $1,625,858 to establish a grant program with Tri County Technology Center to recruit and train health care workers in Oklahoma.
  • $3,504,368 to establish a grant program with the State Board of Career and Technology Education to recruit and train health care workers in Oklahoma.

Funding CareerTech is the most economical way to reduce the skills gap in health care and other important industries in Oklahoma, said Oklahoma CareerTech Interim State Director Dr. Lee Denney.

“Oklahoma CareerTech is well-positioned to respond quickly and efficiently to our state’s critical nursing shortage as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Denney said. “Our health care training programs prepare workers at all levels to meet the needs of hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, assisted living centers and other facilities facing significant staffing gaps. We applaud the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding and the Oklahoma legislature for their thorough and transparent process to fund these important programs to improve health outcomes in our state.”

ARPA projects approved during the regular session included $634,000 for CareerTech nursing programs.

“The $9.4 million the legislature is putting towards CareerTech nursing programs is literally going to save lives,” said State Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow. “Due to sky-high inflation, many are in search of higher paying work. Meanwhile, health care facilities across the state are in dire need of trained workforce. We are able to address both issues by deploying these taxpayer dollars quickly and efficiently. By partnering with CareerTech, we are making a transformative impact across Oklahoma for future students as well as future patients who will be in their care.”

Kiamichi Paramedic Students Hailed as Heroes

Oklahoma CareerTech is all about hands-on learning, and last week two paramedic instructors and their students took that learning approach to a whole new level at HOSA’s International Leadership Conference in Nashville. HOSA is the career and technical student organization aligned with health careers education.

CareerTech paramedic students from left to right, Dalton Mahoney, Katherine (Dee) McQuate, Ashley Newman, Katey Lawson and Ethan Flynt.

Lisa Dyer, Emergency Medical Services director at Kiamichi Technology Center in Poteau, teaches paramedics along with her colleague, Kelly Higdon. The two recently chaperoned a group of five adult, postsecondary students to the HOSA conference. The students – three from KTC, one from Northwest Technology Center and another from Central Technology Center – are certified emergency medical technicians studying to be paramedics, the highest level of emergency caregiver pre-hospital.

The conference was one of their last major events before graduation. For 16 months, Dyer and Higdon had taught the students about autonomous decision making, empathy, leadership, and of course academic theory and technical skills. KTC’s website says the EMS field offers “the thrill of saving lives in real-world emergency situations.” Little did the Oklahoma contingency know they would actually have that experience on their way to dinner on their first day in Nashville.

As the Oklahoma group prepared to leave their hotel, Dyer and the students heard a woman scream.

With coincidentally precise timing, a police officer showed up, responding to what he initially believed was an unrelated call. The students and officer were approached by two severely injured victims emerging from a nearby wooded area. The paramedic students, dressed in their blue HOSA uniform suits and white shirts, immediately ran toward the victims to provide lifesaving first aid.

The police officer on the scene offered the students a jump bag full of medical supplies and then worked to secure the scene. With the help of their instructors, the students immediately began rendering first aid.

While it was a gruesome scene as the victims had been brutally attacked, the students were not fazed by the patients’ conditions. Putting their training and learned skills to work, they bandaged, applied a tourniquet, and even tended to a severe neck wound.

“Because of the severity of the injury, one of the victims would have likely bled to death if we had not applied a tourniquet,” Dyer said. 

Although critically wounded, both victims were expected to survive, thanks to the quick, professional work of the students.

“They went right to work,” Dyer said. “They worked together like a well-oiled machine. I was so proud of them. We had practiced scenarios just like that,” she added.

Needless to say, the police officer was grateful for the help, as Nashville EMS was responding to a four-alarm fire at the time of the incident. The victims were transported to the hospital and are expected to survive, and the suspect has been arrested.

It wasn’t the students’ first opportunity to respond to an emergency, as they all work on ambulances as EMTs while attending paramedic classes. The Nashville situation, however, was more severe than most of them had experienced.

Dyer said she had never been prouder of students in her life.

“They did their job efficiently and effectively; they worked together as a team,” Dyer said.

Another lesson learned in the classroom, Dyer said: Teamwork makes the team work.

ICBS Show to Include Cybersecurity Speaker

The ICBS Show will feature a keynote speech about cybersecurity when it returns to Norman in August.

The event, which offers assistance to businesses wanting to obtain contracts with federal, state and local governments, will be Aug. 15-18 at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center in Norman. It will open with a business networking event the first evening and end with a virtual matchmaking session on Aug. 18.

Stacy Bostjanick of the U.S. Department of Defense will present the keynote speech Aug. 16. She is a member of the senior executive service and serves as the chief of implementation and policy, deputy chief information officer for cybersecurity, Office of the Chief Information Officer and will speak about the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program.

Other speakers at the ICBS Show will include Lee Denney, Oklahoma CareerTech interim state director; Anna Urman of the U.S. Department of State; Mershelle Davis of Aventiv Technologies; and Will Lowe, speaker of the Muscogee (Creek) National Council. Participants will also hear from representatives of Koprince McCall Pottroff; Schooner and Moriarty; Oklahoma PTAC; the Tribal Government Institute; and Lockheed Martin.

The event will feature a day of informational briefings and an afternoon of one-on-one meetings between businesses and government agencies or prime contractors. The last day will be a virtual matchmaking day.

The ICBS Show is produced by Oklahoma’s two procurement technical assistance programs, Oklahoma PTAC and the Tribal Government Institute. Both PTACs are supported in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. OkPTAC is a program of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

PTACs help businesses find, compete on and perform work for federal, state and local government agencies. The annual ICBS Show is both an outreach for new clients and a training and networking opportunity for existing clients.

Sponsors are Lockheed Martin; Delaware Nation Industries and Delaware Nation Investments; Aventiv; A1 Staffing and Recruitment Agency; and Sustainment Technologies Inc. Sponsorship opportunities are still available, said Carter Merkle, OkPTAC manager. Those interested can call 405-743-5571 or email okptac@careertech.ok.gov.

Admission to the ICBS Show is $225 until July 28, when the cost will increase to $250. For more information or to register visit www.icbsshow.com.

About Oklahoma CareerTech

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education provides leadership and resources and assures standards of excellence for a comprehensive statewide system of career and technology education. The system offers programs and services in 29 technology center districts operating on 59 campuses, 394 PK-12 school districts, 14 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities and 31 adult basic education service providers.

The agency is governed by the State Board of Career and Technology Education and works closely with the State Department of Education and the State Regents for Higher Education to provide a seamless educational system for all Oklahomans.

Legislature Approves $8.8 Million for Oklahoma CareerTech to Meet Health Care Workforce Demands

The Oklahoma Legislature appropriated $8.8 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds today to expand Oklahoma CareerTech programs and address the state’s nursing workforce shortage.

Upon signature by Gov. Kevin Stitt, the bill will enable Oklahoma CareerTech to produce an additional 1,100 trained health care workers over the first five years of full implementation.

During the June special session, lawmakers allocated the following for the Health Care Workforce Development Revolving Fund:

  • $1,640,630 to establish a grant program with Indian Capital Technology Center to recruit and train health care workers in Oklahoma.
  • $2,032,767 to establish a grant program with Metro Technology Centers to recruit and train health care workers in Oklahoma.
  • $1,625,858 to establish a grant program with Tri County Technology Center to recruit and train health care workers in Oklahoma.
  • $3,504,368 to establish a grant program with the State Board of Career and Technology Education to recruit and train health care workers in Oklahoma.

Funding CareerTech is the most economical way to reduce the skills gap in health care and other important industries in Oklahoma, said Oklahoma CareerTech Interim State Director Dr. Lee Denney.

“Oklahoma CareerTech is well-positioned to respond quickly and efficiently to our state’s critical nursing shortage as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Denney said. “Our health care training programs prepare workers at all levels to meet the needs of hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, assisted living centers and other facilities facing significant staffing gaps. We applaud the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding and the Oklahoma legislature for their thorough and transparent process to fund these important programs to improve health outcomes in our state.”

ARPA projects approved during the regular session included $634,000 for CareerTech nursing programs.

“The $9.4 million the legislature is putting towards CareerTech nursing programs is literally going to save lives,” said State Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow. “Due to sky-high inflation, many are in search of higher paying work. Meanwhile, health care facilities across the state are in dire need of trained workforce. We are able to address both issues by deploying these taxpayer dollars quickly and efficiently. By partnering with CareerTech, we are making a transformative impact across Oklahoma for future students as well as future patients who will be in their care.”

Oklahoma CareerTech Students Win NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Awards

Three Oklahoma CareerTech students received the National Center for Women & Information Technology Award for Aspirations in Computing.

They were honored at an April 23 awards ceremony at the Tom Love OU Innovation Hub on the University of Oklahoma-Norman campus.

Madelyn McDonald, a cyber defense student at Moore Norman Technology Center, received the Aspirations in Computing Award.

Favour Aloziem, a Computer Science Academy student at Francis Tuttle Technology Center, and Sara Kennedy, a pre-engineering/robotics student at Southern Technology Center, received honorable mention recognition.

Award recipients were selected from more than 3,500 applicants from all 50 U.S. states; Washington, D.C.; Guam; Puerto Rico; the U.S. Virgin Islands; U.S. overseas military bases; and Canada. Selections were based on outstanding aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing as demonstrated by computing experience, computing-related activities, leadership experience, tenacity in the face of barriers to access and plans for postsecondary education.

“Encouraging all students’ interest in technology careers is critical: Our workforce needs their creativity and unique perspectives to produce technology that is as broad and innovative as the population it serves,” said NCWIT CEO and co-founder Lucy Sanders.

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