Category Archives: Agricultural Education

Oklahoma CareerTech Continues Growth

The Oklahoma CareerTech System continues to grow as it offers educational programs to Oklahomans of all ages.

The CareerTech System is celebrating CareerTech Education Month in February. Gov. Kevin Stitt recently issued a proclamation declaring this month as Career and Technical Education Appreciation Month in Oklahoma.

“We strive every day to provide students with skills demanded by the labor market in Oklahoma,” said CareerTech State Director Brent Haken. “Bringing innovation to Oklahoma education is core to Oklahoma CareerTech’s mission to help students explore their interests and businesses meet their workforce needs.”

In Oklahoma, enrollment in CareerTech programs is up across the board, and memberships in CareerTech student organizations such as FFA and HOSA rose 20% in FY 2022 to 95,390 members. The increase in enrollments and CTSO memberships, Haken said, reflect a growing realization of the value of a CareerTech education and the need for curricula that emphasize career readiness.

“CareerTech programs and student organizations are designed to simultaneously provide students skills demanded in the labor market while preparing them for postsecondary degrees,” Haken said. “In addition to specific career-oriented classes, students are offered opportunities that include internships, apprenticeships and in-school programs aimed at fostering work readiness.”

Oklahoma CareerTech achievements in the past year include being named a CyberPatriot Center of Excellence by the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot program in May. Participation in the Oklahoma CyberPatriot program has more than doubled under CareerTech’s leadership.

CareerTech began a partnership with Express Employment Professionals and the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development to create more work-based learning opportunities for students. Students in the program are employed by Express and serve as contract employees for worksite employers, reducing liability for employers and opening more opportunities for students.

CareerTech also launched Get Skilled Now, an online platform that allows students and employers to find each other for work-based learning opportunities.

Also in the past year, Oklahoma CareerTech received $8.8 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to expand programs to address the state’s nursing workforce shortage, $5 million to create a program to train broadband infrastructure installation workers and $6.2 million to expand its truck driver training program. CareerTech awarded $4.5 million to schools, technology centers and educators in lottery grants and scholarships.

CareerTech serves nearly half a million students through a network of 391 school districts, 29 technology centers, 15 skills centers and 32 adult education and family literacy providers. CareerTech also serves Oklahomans through its business and industry programs.

Enrollment in the 29 technology center districts was 298,675 in FY 2022. Enrollment in CareerTech courses in PK-12 schools totaled 127,875 in FY 2022, with 83,580 students in ninth through 12th grades enrolled in CareerTech classes.

In FY 2022, more than 95,000 students participated in CareerTech’s seven co-curricular CTSOs: Business Professionals of America, DECA, Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, FFA, HOSA, SkillsUSA and Technology Student Association.

More than 8,900 people enrolled in adult education and family literacy classes offered by 32 providers around Oklahoma; the courses help adults become literate, earn their high school equivalencies and obtain the skills necessary for employment.

The Skills Centers School System enrolled 1,045 adult and juvenile offenders in FY 2022, and more than 95% of those who completed training found jobs with an average hourly wage of $14.64.

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

In FY 2022, CareerTech served 6,671 companies through entrepreneurial development, firefighter training, customized industry, safety training, adult and career development, training for industry and OkAPEX Accelerators. The TIP program helped companies locate in Oklahoma and provided training for 2,941 new jobs, and OkAPEX helped state companies secure 1,775 federal, state, local and tribal government contracts valued at $392,442,455.

Oklahoma CareerTech to Issue Digital Badges

Oklahoma CareerTech students have a new way to let employers know about the credentials they’ve earned.

CareerTech is partnering with Credly to provide students with digital versions of their credentials in a process called badging.

“A badge is a digital representation of a certificate; it’s a more verifiable, secure method,” said Jennifer Palacio, CareerTech Testing Center assessment manager.

Oklahoma CareerTech students are already earning these credentials; the digital badging initiative will simply give them an easier way to share their achievements with potential employers, Palacio explained.

“It’s a way to prove the legitimate certificates a person has earned,” she said.

Once a student earns a credential within an approved Oklahoma CareerTech program, the instructor enters the information into the CareerTech Information Management System. Once a month, CareerTech will gather all the information entered in the past month to issue digital badges through Credly.

Students who receive badges can create accounts so they can keep all their badges — even ones issued by others, such as Microsoft or Certiport — in one place. They’ll also be able to download badges and attach them to emails or documents, send them directly to employers or share them on social media platforms.

“If you share a badge, when someone clicks on it, your information comes up,” Palacio said. “It links to our website.”

Students will also be able to access Credly’s labor market insights and see job openings across the country for people who possess those credentials. They’ll be able to find out about salary ranges and types of jobs that require the credentials they’ve earned, Palacio said.

CareerTech will be able to track how many digital badges have been issued, claimed and shared, which will give the system information that will help ensure its programs are aligned with industry needs.

More information about the badging initiative can be found on the Oklahoma CareerTech website at https://oklahoma.gov/careertech/educators/certifications-and-badging/badging.html.

Lee Denney Appointed Interim Chief of Staff of Oklahoma CareerTech

The Oklahoma State Board of Career and Technology Education on Thursday approved the appointment of Lee Denney as the interim chief of staff of Oklahoma CareerTech.

Denney served as the Oklahoma CareerTech interim state director from February 2022 until January 2023, when Brent Haken took the reins as state director. She will serve as interim chief of staff until someone is hired to fill that position, which has been vacant since July.

“I want to thank Lee Denney for her strong, charismatic leadership during this time of transition at Oklahoma CareerTech,” Haken said. “Her efforts as interim director have strengthened CareerTech education in Oklahoma, and we are grateful that she will continue her work to support CareerTech as interim chief of staff.”

Denney, a resident of Cushing, served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2004 to 2016, representing District 33. She served on various committees, including appropriations and budget; higher education career technology; energy; economic development and tourism; arts and culture, as chairman; and banking, as vice chairman. She also served as chairman of the appropriations and budget subcommittee on common education.

After leaving the House, Denney served as department head of the veterinary technology program at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City in 2016-17 and then as Oklahoma state director for rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2017 to 2021.

“I am so grateful to the leaders and staff of Oklahoma CareerTech for their tremendous support in managing and maintaining the many CareerTech programs and services offered to Oklahoma students and businesses,” Denney said. “CareerTech is vital to workforce development in the state, and I look forward to working with all stakeholders in advancing its mission as interim chief of staff.”

Denney earned both a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Oklahoma State University.

In addition to her work as a veterinarian, Denney worked as a recruitment coordinator for the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine and taught anatomy and physiology at Central Technology Center in Drumright.

Denney serves on the boards of directors of the Oklahoma Academy for State Goals, the Oklahoma Public Resource Center, Friends for Folks, the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women and Payne County Youth Services.

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 60 campuses, 391 PK-12 school districts, 15 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities and 32 adult education and family literacy 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.

Ninth CareerTech State Director Begins Official Duties

Oklahoma CareerTech State Director Brent Haken began official duties today.

Haken was named to the position in November by the Oklahoma State Board of Career and Technology Education. He is the ninth director in ODCTE’s history.

“I am honored to begin serving the state of Oklahoma in meeting the educational, training and workforce development needs of our state,” Haken said. “Oklahoma has the nation’s premier system for career and technical education due to a foundation laid by passionate and dedicated Oklahomans. As an educator and a product of the Oklahoma CareerTech System, I understand the opportunity we have in unlocking the state’s potential for meeting the workforce needs of Oklahoma businesses and providing pathways to rewarding careers for Oklahoma students. Empowering people through education moves Oklahoma forward.”

Lee Denney, who has been serving as the CareerTech interim state director since February 2022, will remain at Oklahoma CareerTech as interim chief of staff.

“Brent Haken is a leader with vision and innovative ideas,” Denney said. “He will be able to lead Oklahoma CareerTech forward as we continue to provide skilled workers for Oklahoma industries.”

Haken comes to Oklahoma CareerTech from Morrison Public Schools, where he served as superintendent since 2019.

He began his educational career teaching agricultural education in Wellston and Stillwater before moving to Morrison, where he became elementary assistant principal and special education director in July 2015 and high school principal in July 2016. He also served as testing coordinator.

Haken received the 2022 Superintendents Chairman’s Award from the Oklahoma Youth Expo and was the Oklahoma Association of Superintendents District 4 Superintendent of the Year for 2022. He is a member of the Oklahoma State Professional Education Council and the Cooperative Council for Secondary Administrators.

He has been a member of the Oklahoma Career Technology Master Teacher Committee, the National Association of Agricultural Educators and the Association of Career Technical Educators and served on the board and as vice president of the Oklahoma Agricultural Education Teachers Association.

Haken earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Central Oklahoma and a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from Oklahoma State University.

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 60 campuses, 391 PK-12 school districts, 15 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities and 32 adult education and family literacy 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

Abigail Shannon – Meridian Technology Center and FFA

As soon as Abigail Shannon was old enough to join a CareerTech program, she followed in the footsteps of her brother and two of her sisters. They all took advantage of vocational training programs in their local technology centers. Not to be outdone by her siblings, Shannon got involved with CareerTech at Perkins-Tryon schools when she was just an eighth grader.

That’s when she joined the school’s FFA chapter, showing pigs, studying horticulture and even competing at state FFA contests. FFA is an Oklahoma CareerTech student organization aligned with agricultural education. By the time Shannon was in high school, however, she realized agriculture was not her passion.

In her junior year, she enrolled in Meridian Technology Center’s two-year health careers program. That year, she also joined a second CareerTech student organization, HOSA, the group aligned with health occupations education. She garnered several certifications, including certified phlebotomy technician, certified clinical medical assistant and medication administration technician.

In addition to introducing her to a wide variety of career options, Shannon said, her CareerTech instructors and advisers taught her leadership skills, how to express empathy and the value of teamwork.

Those skills no doubt helped her draw the attention of Langston University administrators, who invited her to study in the university’s Edwin P. McCabe Honors Program. The invitation came with a $100,000 scholarship to cover tuition, fees, room and board and a textbook stipend. Shannon’s mother received the same prestigious scholarship when she was in school to become a physical therapist.

The honors program challenges and prepares students for future success through community service and leadership opportunities, according to information from the university. Scholars are expected to complete a minimum of 60 hours of community service each year.

Shannon’s career plans were undecided when she enrolled at Langston, but she recently decided to major in elementary education. The skills she learned at Meridian Tech will definitely come in handy when she is working with both students and parents in the future, she said.

“CareerTech is an incredible experience,” Shannon said. “It will benefit you in more ways than you realize!”

Shannon’s father works at the CareerTech state office in Stillwater.

CareerTech Conversations Focuses on FFA

CareerTech Conversations recently sat down with Scott Nemecek, state program administrator for FFA and agricultural education, who shared Oklahoma students’ recent accolades from the national FFA convention.

He also discussed the impact of agriculture on Oklahoma’s economy and how ag educators are preparing students for success in industry and daily life.

See the video on Oklahoma CareerTech’s YouTube channel and learn more about agricultural education on the Oklahoma CareerTech website.

Oklahoma FFA Students Win at National Convention

Oklahoma FFA returned from the 95th National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis with one national officer, nine national championships and numerous other awards.

The National FFA Convention celebrates FFA members from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The convention includes individual award and degree recognition, chapter award recognition, official delegate business and national officer elections.

Karstyn Cantrell, Skiatook, became Oklahoma FFA’s 23rd national officer when she was elected the Central Region vice president.

National champion honors went to Caleb Horne, Morrison, Prepared Public Speaking Leadership Development Event; Tuttle FFA, Livestock Judging Career Development Event; Luke Gallagher, Altus, Beef Production – Entrepreneurship National Proficiency Award; Raigan McKee, Oologah, Agriscience Research – Animal Systems National Proficiency Award; Esther Van-Overbeke, Stillwater, National Agriscience Fair Division 1: Food Products and Processing Systems; Trinity Blosch and Aubie McEndoo, Stillwater, National Agriscience Fair Division 4: Food Products and Processing Systems; Kaylee McAlister, Stillwater, National Agriscience Fair Division 3: Power, Structural and Technical Systems; Lauren Crosthwait, Stillwater, National Agriscience Fair Division 1: Social Science; and Emily Meridith and Emma Nelson, National Agriscience Fair Division 6: Social Science.

Oklahoma FFA also brought home eight other gold emblem awards: four second place, one third place, one sixth place, one seventh place and one eighth place. Seven Oklahomans were in the national chorus, eight were in the band, 189 received the American FFA Degree and 36 Oklahoma chapters were named National Three Star Chapters.

“We are incredibly proud of our FFA members and all they have accomplished on the national level. All of the success nationally tells me a lot of teaching and learning is happening in our agricultural education classrooms all around the state. It’s a ground effort and a true testament to our excellent instructors, awesome students and committed stakeholders,” said Trevor Lucas, state FFA executive secretary.

Recipients of the Honorary American FFA Degree were Holly Carroll, Oklahoma City; Daryl Flanders, Okemah; Amanda Jones, Ketchum; Jeremy Schmidt, Edmond; and Kourtney Victery and Joe Victery, both of Chickasha.

Oklahoma FFA ranks sixth in total membership and had 14 national delegates.

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

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 60 campuses, 391 PK-12 school districts, 15 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities and 32 adult education and family literacy 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.

Oklahoma CareerTech Enrollment Increases

Oklahoma CareerTech’s enrollment in fiscal year 2022 rose to 446,940 students — from 426,125 in FY 2021 — and was up in each of the state agency’s delivery arms.

Positive placement in FY 2022 was 91%, which means that almost all CareerTech graduates found employment, entered the military or continued their education.

“In addition to enrollment increases across the board, membership in CareerTech student organizations rose significantly in fiscal 2022,” said CareerTech Interim State Director Lee Denney. “The uptick in enrollment reflects a growing realization of the value of a CareerTech education and the need for curriculums that emphasize career readiness.”

CareerTech serves the nearly half a million students through a network of 391 school districts, 29 technology centers, 15 skills centers and 32 adult education and family literacy providers. CareerTech also serves Oklahomans through its business and industry programs.

Enrollment in the 29 technology center districts was 298,675 in FY 2022, up from 295,193 in FY 2021.

Enrollment in CareerTech courses in PK-12 schools totaled 127,875 in FY 2022, up from 121,735 in FY 2021. That number equals 31% of students in fifth through 12th grades. In ninth through 12th grades, 42% of students — 83,580 — were enrolled in CareerTech classes in FY 2022.

Participation in CareerTech student organizations rose 20% during FY 2022, to 95,390 from 79,356 in FY 2021. CareerTech has seven co-curricular CTSOs: Business Professionals of America, 5,686 members in FY 2022; DECA, 1,520; Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, 14,752; FFA, 27,892; HOSA, 6,434; SkillsUSA, 14,214; and Technology Student Association, 24,892.

Enrollment in adult education and family literacy grew from 8,304 in FY 2021 to 8,925 in FY 2022. Oklahoma CareerTech assumed responsibility for adult education and family literacy in 2014. The 32 providers around Oklahoma help adults become literate, earn their high school equivalencies and obtain the skills necessary for employment.

Enrollment in the Skills Centers School System grew from 893 in FY 2021 to 1,045 in FY 2022, and more than 95% of those who completed training found jobs with an average hourly wage of $14.64.

CareerTech’s skills centers specialize in the delivery of career and technology education to inmates under the supervision of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and to juveniles under the supervision of the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs.

“Offenders who find employment are less likely to return to crime,” Denney said.

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

In FY 2022, CareerTech served 6,671 companies through entrepreneurial development, firefighter training, customized industry, safety training, adult and career development, training for industry and the Oklahoma Procurement Technical Assistance Center. The TIP program helped companies locate in Oklahoma and provided training for 2,941 new jobs, and OkPTAC helped state companies secure 1,775 federal, state, local and tribal government contracts valued at $392,442,455.

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.

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.

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