Monthly Archives: December 2021

Welcome to CareerTech

For more than 100 years, Oklahoma CareerTech has been connecting students and businesses with training opportunities that help Oklahomans find rewarding careers and support Oklahoma industries. Our goal is to develop a world-class workforce for Oklahoma employers and prepare Oklahomans to succeed in the workplace, in education and in life.

  • 29 tech centers operating on 59 campuses 
  • 394 PK-12 school districts 
  • 13 Skills Centers campuses 
  • 31 Adult Basic Education providers at 116 sites
  • 426,00 total CareerTech enrollments in FY21
  • 5,670 companies served by CareerTech in FY21

CareerTech Awarded Grant for New Skills Center at Correctional Facility in Vinita

Oklahoma CareerTech will open a new skills center in Vinita in 2022.

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, in partnership with the Department of Corrections, received a Second Chance Grant for $874,000 to open the skills center at the Northeast Oklahoma Community Corrections Center.

“The CareerTech Skills Centers School System offers individuals in Oklahoma correctional centers the opportunity to learn the skills they’ll need to make a successful transition to the workplace upon their release,” said CareerTech State Director Marcie Mack. “We are excited to extend the system to another location, giving even more people the opportunity to transition to a successful life.”

CareerTech’s skills centers specialize in delivering career and technology education to inmates under the supervision of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and juveniles under the supervision of the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs. The center at NOCCC will be the 14th skills center location.

“Technical training while incarcerated serves to ensure the individual is employable as they return to society, which contributes to reducing recidivism,” said Clint Castleberry, administrator of programs for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. “The agency is excited for the opportunity to grow its long-standing partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education through this new grant.”

The grant is part of the Second Chance Act, administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the U.S. Department of Justice. Oklahoma CareerTech applied for the grant to help fund a requested program at NOCCC.

The skills center will feature training in truck driving; welding; and transportation, distribution and logistics. Students will also be able to receive certified production technician training, which will teach them how to repair equipment used in warehouses; OSHA certification training; and life skills training, which will help them learn interview and resume skills.

In addition to learning the skills, students will have the opportunity to earn certifications that will help them obtain employment. The Skills Centers School System also provides all of its students an employment transition service to help them find, obtain and keep jobs.

CareerTech applied for the grant in July and received notice of its award in December. The skills center should open by summer of 2022, but the truck driver training program could open sooner, said Justin Lockwood, ODCTE deputy state director. Northeast Technology Center will provide space and instructors for truck driver training, and ODCTE will be hiring instructors for the other programs, he said.

CareerTech Champions

Chantel Owens – Eddie Warrior Skills Center

Inmate had employment lined up before release.

Then: A homeless mother who lost custody of her daughter and spiraled out of control. Before getting involved in drugs, Leta “Chantel” Owens had completed several health care training programs, including medication assistant, phlebotomy, EKG and X-ray technician. But after losing her daughter, Owens said, she stopped caring about anything. She gave in to her drug addiction and was eventually incarcerated for drug-related crimes.

A clerk at Eddie Warrior Skills Center recruited Owens for a different kind of CareerTech training. Owens said she began to change her way of thinking. She became a clerk and then enrolled in the transportation, distribution and logistics program, where she

  • Learned to communicate more effectively.
  • Developed computer skills.
  • Received job search assistance.
  • Received certifications in manufacturing, tools, safety and logistics.

“They worked with nonprofit organizations to find clothing for me,” Owens said. “They set me up with a mentor, told me about job openings and taught me interviewing skills. It boosted my confidence and pushed me forward.”

Owens said she also learned how to teach. After she completed the Skills Centers program, she became an instructor, teaching other inmates skills such as how to use a computer and operate a forklift.

Her instructor, Steve Evans, said she is the only student he has worked with who moved from clerk to student to instructor, setting the bar for herself and others,.

“If there ever was a way to model change and set the stage for success, Chantel mastered it,” Evans said. “It’s been my honor to teach and work side by side with Chantel, supporting her now and in the future as she does great things.”

Now: Owens is an assembly worker at Pregis IntelliPack in Tulsa. She was offered the job prior to being released from prison.

“I was able to share what I learned to help better the lives of other people.”

Chantel Owens, assembly worker

OkPATC Helps Owners Take Business to the Next Level

The owners of Stout Construction talk about how they took their native-, woman- and family-owned business to the next level with OkPTAC in a video on Oklahoma CareerTech’s YouTube channel.

They also tell how a team of OkPTAC coordinators helped them cut through the red tape of federal contracting.

CareerTech Champions

Dr. Joana Pantoja – Metro Technology Centers and HOSA

First-generation American adds “Doctor” to her name.

Then: A soft-spoken, first-generation American whose parents didn’t speak English. Joana Pantoja’s father was a roofer, her mother was a housekeeper, and they both worked hard to try to save enough money to send their children to college.

In middle school she wanted to be a lawyer, but by high school, Pantoja realized she preferred science over social studies. When a Metro Technology Centers recruiter visited ASTEC Charter High School, Pantoja decided to enroll in Metro Tech’s Biomedical Sciences Academy, a three-year Project Lead the Way program. After attending a classroom lecture about the eye, including a dissection, she discovered a passion for vision sciences. She also joined HOSA, the CareerTech organization for students pursuing health careers, and excelled at state and national contests three years in a row.

After high school, she graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in biology and biomedical sciences. 

Pantoja credits Metro Tech and HOSA for:

  • Teaching her how to use lab equipment she would need to use in college.
  • Helping her improve her networking and communication skills, including how to write research manuscripts and lab reports.
  • Introducing her to notetaking and study methods that aligned with her learning style.
  • Writing letters of recommendation and offering resume guidance that led to several scholarships, including the first ever James D. Branscum Scholarship.

“I felt connected to my teachers at Metro Tech,” she said. “I felt like I could talk to them, ask them anything, and they were there to give me advice and support me in anything I wanted to do.”

Traveling to the national HOSA conference was her first airplane trip. Through HOSA activities she traveled to Disneyland, Disney World and Nashville, Tennessee. There were even more travel opportunities as an undergrad at UCO, where she presented her research at national conferences.

Now: This spring, a confident, well-spoken first-generation college graduate graduated from optometry school at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. Dr. Pantoja joined the eyecare team at Advanced Family Eyecare Vision Source in Oklahoma City. She specializes in dry eye management, myopia control and vision therapy.

“I never liked blood, growing up, and I had the false view that anything related to healthcare would not be a good choice.”

Joana Pantoja