Author Archives: OkCareerTechDelivers

CareerTech Launches Second Round of Rural STEM Program Recruitment Grants

Oklahoma CareerTech is again accepting proposals from schools and technology centers serving rural populations for grant money to recruit students into STEM programs.

Oklahoma is one of five states that received a Strategies for Attracting Students to High Quality Career Technical Education grant of $20,000 from Advance CTE. Oklahoma CareerTech awarded grants of $1,000 each to 10 schools in October and is now opening the grants to 10 more schools.

Schools and technology centers that receive the grants will run a sponsored Facebook ad focused on recruiting students into science, technology, engineering and math programs such as aerospace and construction.

Results from five of the first-round schools show the ad has reached a combined 86,360 people. The other five schools have until March to report results, said Kylie Moulton, communications and marketing coordinator at the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

The grant’s objectives are to support innovative recruitment strategies; increase awareness of and interest in high quality CTE programs; and identify and develop strategies to close access and equity gaps for families historically marginalized from participation in CTE programs. It will allow rural schools access to funds and marketing materials they may not otherwise have, Moulton said.

Making students aware of the programs is an important step in helping them discover career opportunities, said Tonja Norwood, Oklahoma CareerTech STEM program manager. Most elementary and middle school students who are starting to make career decisions know only about careers family members or friends work in, she explained.

“It is critical that students are exposed to STEM hands-on curriculum that teaches a concept and immediately allows students to apply that concept,” she said.

Grant applicants must serve rural populations — defined as fewer than 50,000 residents. They also must offer STEM courses and have an official school or technology center Facebook page. Schools and technology centers who received grants in the first round are not eligible for grants in this round.

Grant application documents and instructions can be found at https://oklahoma.gov/careertech/educators/funding-and-grants.html. The deadline for submissions is Jan. 24.

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.

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

Aerospace Manufacturing Business Credits OkPTAC

Tim Frisby and Brandon Garcia talk in a video on Oklahoma CareerTech’s YouTube channel about how OkPTAC helped their aerospace manufacturing business to the skies with more opportunities in federal contracting.

OkPTAC is a procurement technical assistance center that helps Oklahoma businesses interested in selling products and services to federal, state, local and tribal governments. Oklahoma CareerTech administers the program, which assists clients through participating technology centers.

CareerTech Champions

Riley Sutton – Meridian Technology Center

Pre-engineering grad’s career is on fire!

THEN: As early as high school, he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an engineer. Riley Sutton enrolled in Meridian Technology Center’s pre-engineering program and built his first robot when he was a high school junior. He said pre-engineering and the FIRST Robotics competition taught him how to work as part of an engineering team.

“Everyone had an opportunity to provide input on the design,” Sutton said. “And we worked together to finalize the design and then assemble the robot.”

Sutton said the program offered more in-depth, hands-on engineering instruction than he would have received in a traditional high school setting. He said the program provided him

  • The ability to take difficult classes, such as chemistry, physics and calculus, that prepared him for his college engineering courses.
  • A chance to learn about the many career paths in engineering.
  • An understanding of the importance of obtaining professional certifications.

“Since graduating college, I have received the certified fire protection specialist certification from the National Fire Protection Association and have been designated as a professional member of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers,” he said. “I am also working on achieving the certified safety professional and on becoming a licensed professional engineer.”

Sutton said Meridian Tech’s pre-engineering program has made him a better engineer and a better professional, which has led to job opportunities and advancements.

NOW: A fire protection engineer and deputy fire marshal at a decommissioned nuclear production complex operated by the U.S. government. Sutton maintains the infrastructure for the site and is responsible for ensuring compliance with fire protection program requirements and minimizing the risk of fire.

“I review lots of engineering designs as part of a larger design team that must work together effectively in order to achieve the desired result,” Sutton said. “The pre-engineering program is the foundation upon which my engineering career was built.”

Without the pre-engineering program, I would not have been nearly as prepared for my engineering degree program at Oklahoma State University.”

Riley Sutton, fire protection engineer and deputy fire marshal

CareerTech Champions

Alyssa Ulrich – Francis Tuttle Technology Center, FCCLA and SkillsUSA

Pastry chef discovers a recipe for career success at Francis Tuttle.

THEN: An aspiring pastry chef before she was old enough to drive. When Alyssa Ulrich complained to her family that she was wasting time on homework she knew she would never use as a baker, her sister-in-law told her about Francis Tuttle Technology Center’s culinary arts program.

“As soon as I saw images of Francis Tuttle’s kitchens and heard stories of their famous Swedish baker,” she said, “I made an appointment the very next day to try to get enrolled in the coming school year.”

Ulrich participated in two CareerTech student organizations, winning state and national titles in cooking competitions sponsored by both FCCLA and SkillsUSA.

She had completed the culinary program by the time she graduated high school and followed up with a three-month internship. Despite her passion, Ulrich said, she realized after she enrolled how little she knew about cooking. In addition to receiving “a phenomenal and comprehensive” cooking education, Ulrich said, she also

  • Learned about the power of a first or single impression and to treat every introduction as if it were an interview.
  • Developed problem-solving skills that allow her to work smarter, rather than harder.
  • Gained an understanding of the importance of continuous learning.
  • Strengthened her teamwork and communication skills.
  • Received her ServSafe certification, which she said gives an applicant a higher chance of getting a job or starting at a higher pay rate.

“My teachers were tough and realistic,” she said, adding that she had a better understanding of what a kitchen would be like.

“I walked into a kitchen with realistic expectations of long, hard shifts and never settling for good instead of great,” she said. “Every job I have ever had or been offered, I can trace in some way back to my culinary school.”

Ulrich uses her cooking skills every day in her profession, but when she’s not at work she is usually baking at home or thinking of something new she can make.

NOW: A pastry chef for The Hall’s Pizza Kitchen for the past three and a half years, Ulrich will soon manage the pastry and lamination side of the new Harvey Bakery and Kitchen in Oklahoma City.

Five years after high school graduation, Ulrich said, most of her peers are either recent college grads or about to graduate.

“They are still figuring out what they want to do and are now deeply in debt. No, I didn’t go to a formal college post CareerTech, but I am further along in my career than most of my peers. I’m able to work in a career I love and not have student loan debt looming over me for the foreseeable future. I can’t imagine doing anything else for the rest of my life,” she said.

Ulrich said she would like to become a certified master baker.

“I love being challenged and pushed to be better and think differently.”

Alyssa Ulrich, pastry chef

CareerTech Champions

Evan Retherford – Central Technology Center and SkillsUSA

State champion welder graduates high school with honors – AND a job offer.

THEN: He didn’t like it when his Ripley High School friends teased him about not knowing how to do metal work. It wasn’t that Evan Retherford couldn’t weld, it was simply a lack of training.

Before he signed up for an introduction to welding class, Retherford thought he wanted to be a truck driver. But after he finished the class, which was part of his agricultural education curriculum, he realized he enjoyed welding enough to enroll in a two-year welding program at Central Technology Center.

At Central Tech, he learned to weld, but he also

  • Received numerous certifications, including OSHA 10, the Platinum level in the WorkKeys test, forklift certification, GMAW (gas metal arc welding), FCAW (flux-cored arc welding), SMAW (shielded metal arc welding), GTAW (gas tungsten arc welding), PAC (plasma arc welding), CAC (carbon arc cutting) and fire extinguisher.
  • Received the National Technical Honor Society award for having all A’s in his Central Tech classes as well as at least 97% attendance and an A/B grade point average at Ripley High.
  • Developed important leadership skills.
  • Improved his worth ethic.
  • Placed first in the state in the welding sculpture event.

Retherford was Class of 2021 valedictorian at Ripley, and he was offered a full-time welding job before he graduated in May.

“Other people go to college, spend a lot of money and may not receive a good paying job at the end of it,” he said. “I wanted to prove you can make a lot of money working a trade.” 

NOW: A welder at Ditch Witch in Perry, making $48,000 plus benefits, right out of high school. At that salary, it would appear that Retherford has proved his point.

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