Monthly Archives: May 2023

Oklahoma CareerTech Expanding Inmate Training Opportunities

Thanks in part to a nearly $900,000 federal grant, more Oklahoma inmates are being offered a chance to learn skills that will help them rebuild their lives outside prison walls after their release. According to Oklahoma CareerTech Deputy Director Justin Lockwood, those skills will greatly reduce the chance an inmate will return to prison.

“The likelihood of an inmate being reincarcerated after release is much greater if we don’t prepare them for life on the outside,” said Lockwood. “It’s a model that works.”

The model Justin referred to is CareerTech’s Skills Centers programs, which offer inmate training at 17 sites around the state. Several of those sites have been added since CareerTech received the Department of Justice grant in December 2021, including Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center in Vinita. CareerTech recently added three instructors at that site to teach welding; transportation, distribution and logistics; and career readiness programs.

“We’re trying to change our model of instruction to include more community correction inmates,” Lockwood said.

Community correction inmates are allowed to leave the prison to go to work sites. They continue to receive instruction once a week, so they can build their skill set while they are employed. That employment is important because it allows them to pay off fines and other expenses incurred during incarceration.

CareerTech has also added a career readiness program at J.H. Lilley Correctional Center in Boley and two new programs at James Crabtree Correctional Center in Helena. Inmates in Helena may be eligible to apply for career readiness and automotive repair programs.

Since CareerTech began training inmates, more than 2,000 students have completed one or more Skills Centers program. Ninety-five percent of all program completers find jobs after release, with 85% of Skills Centers graduates finding jobs directly related to their training.

Although it’s not a new site, McAlester Skills Center in McAlester will soon offer a new career readiness program.

Lockwood said the Department of Corrections understands the value of training its inmates, and DOC continues to work with CareerTech to identify potential training sites.

Along with valuable job skills and life skills training, CareerTech also employs transition coordinators who help inmates find housing, clothing and other essential items they will need when they are released.

The DOJ grant not only allows CareerTech to add additional training programs and increase the number of inmates it serves, but it also addresses Oklahoma’s demand for skilled workers in areas such as welding, electricity and machining.

Oklahoma High School Student Creates Law Prior to Graduation

The vision of Oklahoma FFA is to provide the next generation of leaders who will change the world, and Arapaho-Butler High School FFA member Katie Edelen embodies that vision.

Photo: Jamie Allen (left) with her niece Katie Edelen

May 12, 2023, was a big day for Edelen. The high school senior walked across the stage to receive her diploma just hours after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed her Orange Alert bill into law.

While her friends were lounging by the pool or sleeping in last summer, Edelen was working on an original piece of legislation that would later become House Bill 1546.

The bill, drafted by Edelen as part of a Farm Bureau summer camp, would notify residents about escaped inmates in their area. It is a very personal issue for Edelen, whose aunt, Jamie Allen, was abducted by two escaped inmates in 2006.

Allen survived the abduction, but her niece recalls hearing the horror story many times growing up. If her aunt had known the inmates were at large that day, the traumatic event might have been avoided.

Edelen was excited when she heard the Orange Alert bill received the governor’s approval.

“Maybe this law can save a life,” she said.

The passage of the new law gave Edelen’s aunt even more reason to celebrate her niece’s high school accomplishments.

“Katie Sue has brought a ray of sunshine to a dark situation,” Allen said.

By the time HB1546 takes effect Nov. 1, Edelen will be a freshman at Northern Oklahoma College, where she plans to play basketball. 

CareerTech Conversations – John Day, T&I Program Manager

We sat down with John Day, state programs manager for Trade and Industrial Education, to discuss CareerTech’s impact in filling the skills gap in numerous licensed trades.

Oklahoma BPA Wins at National Leadership Conference

Oklahoma members of Business Professionals of America brought home more than 100 awards from the BPA National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, California.

Oklahoma took 430 people to the conference, which drew the largest NLC in history, said Paxton Cavin, Oklahoma BPA adviser at the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. She was elected to her second term as National BPA Board of Trustees chair.

“Oklahoma BPA seized every opportunity while in Anaheim for the 2023 National Leadership Conference. Not only did our Oklahoma BPA members perform well in their competitive events, but we also had a notable presence in the leadership opportunities and community service efforts that were offered,” Cavin said. “Our association was one of the few to be involved in every student division including middle level, secondary and postsecondary, which is a direct reflection of the Oklahoma CareerTech System.”

In competitions, Oklahoma had five first place secondary winners and 17 first place postsecondary winners. The state chapter also had four top 10 middle level finalists, 19 top 10 secondary finalists and 77 top 10 postsecondary finalists.

Oklahoma BPA came home with the traveling postsecondary cup.

The chapter also had 16 Ambassador Torch Award winners, eight BPA Cares qualifying chapters, 14 National Quality chapters and one bronze level Presidential Volunteer Service Award winner.

In addition, 37 advisers were recognizes for five or more years of service.

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

CareerTech Conversations – Mark Burch, BMITE Program Manager

We sat down with Mark Burch, state program manager for Business, Marketing and Information Technology Education (BMITE), which provides leadership and support to more than 430 programs across the state. His division manages Business Professionals of America (BPA) and DECA, which are co-curricular CareerTech student organizations aimed to enhance employability skills and maximize long-term success for students.