Cody McCuistion – Meridian Technology Center and BPA
Guthrie High School student said MTC technology program was “too cool to pass up.”
THEN: A lover of technology, long before high school. When Cody McCuistion heard he could spend half of each day at Meridian Technology Center learning more about what he already enjoyed in his spare time, it was an easy decision for the Guthrie High School student. But then, McCuistion discovered he was also going to earn 68 hours of college credit — while he was still in high school!
He enrolled in Meridian Tech’s network engineering program and joined Business Professionals of America, the CareerTech student organization affiliated with business, marketing and information technology education. McCuistion said he loved BPA and enjoyed competing at the state and national level.
He said the two-year program at Meridian Tech fast-tracked him to receive industry certifications, knowledge and experience. McCuistion
Received CompTIA A+ certification, Microsoft Server certifications and Cisco network training.
Graduated with a high school diploma and essentially a two-year associate degree in the same year, while only paying $5 per credit hour.
Gained confidence in his abilities through BPA.
“The program led to a jump-start in my career path,” he said.
Although technology has advanced since McCuistion was in school, he said he uses a variation of those network engineering skills every day.
NOW: A solution architect for Hitachi Vantara. McCuistion sets up and delivers proofs of concept and product demonstrations for Hitachi Vantara’s Unified Compute Platform suite of enterprise products.
He has designed and built various server deployments and worked in mission-critical scenarios to restore failed services or resolve performance, reliability or security issues. McCuistion also has experience in highly secure environments tied to the Department of Defense, identifying security vulnerabilities in deployments and engineering ways to close those holes.
McCuistion said CareerTech’s concurrent enrollment options offer students the opportunity to learn skills that apply immediately to their future success. He urged today’s young people to avoid accruing debt for education expenses whenever possible.
“Seek out training in skills that can generate an income stream now and use that income to pay for further education, if that’s wanted or needed down the road,” he said.
“CareerTech offers much-needed skills for today’s workforce. Don’t pass up the opportunity to take advantage of it!”
Oklahoma’s Career and Technology Education System is focused on developing a world-class workforce. This comprehensive system delivers educational experiences through 394 PK-12 school districts, 29 technology center districts, 16 Skills Centers sites and 32 adult basic education providers and to more than 6,900 businesses.
“Oklahoma CareerTech partners with business and educational institutions to enhance career awareness, increase educational attainment and meet the needs of our state,” said Marcie Mack, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education state director. “CareerTech is an integral part of Oklahoma’s economy.”
The Oklahoma 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.
Stitt has called Oklahoma CareerTech “a system that has been nimble and robust in helping us train the workforce.”
The CareerTech System delivers educational experiences through a network of 394 PK-12 school districts, 29 technology center districts, 16 skills center sites in correctional facilities and 32 adult basic education providers. In fiscal year 2019, CareerTech’s enrollments totaled more than 550,000, and CareerTech System graduates added more than $3.5 billion to Oklahoma’s economy.
The 29 technology center districts have 58 campuses that offer career training to high school and adult students, along with training and assistance for Oklahoma’s businesses and industries.
High school students can attend the technology centers in their districts for free, learning skills that will help them land good jobs after school and also position them to continue their education after graduation. Certifications earned through CareerTech courses give students entrance into higher-paying careers, which can also help them pursue higher education without incurring excessive debt.
Adult students at technology centers can learn new skills and earn certificates and credentials to get jobs, change careers or advance in their current careers. In FY18, CareerTech students earned 19,566 industry-endorsed certificates, showing that they have the skills Oklahoma’s industries need.
In Oklahoma’s comprehensive school districts, 35 percent of sixth through 12th grade students — and almost half of ninth through 12th grade students — enrolled in CareerTech courses: agricultural education; business and information technology education; family and consumer sciences education; health careers education; marketing education; science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and trade and industrial education.
More than 82,000 students also learned leadership skills as members of co-curricular CareerTech student organizations: FFA; Family, Careers and Community Leaders of America; SkillsUSA; Technology Student Association; Business Professionals of America; HOSA; and DECA.
In addition, 3,356 CareerTech students in comprehensive schools and technology centers were honored for their work be achieving membership in the National Technical Honor Society.
In 2019, CareerTech also expanded OK Career Guide, its statewide career development education system, to include Galaxy, which introduces career awareness to pre-K through fifth grade students.
Oklahoma CareerTech helps provide qualified employees for the state’s businesses and industries by preparing state residents for successful careers, but it also provides direct services business and industry.
CareerTech’s Business and Industry Services Division helped more than 8,000 companies increase their profitability in FY19 with increased sales, higher productivity, reduced costs and expanded operations and helped companies move to and start in Oklahoma and provided training for 2,527 new jobs. Also, the Oklahoma Bid Assistance Network helped state companies secure more than $550 million in contracts.
CareerTech also has a presence in state correctional facilities through a partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Instructors in the Skills Centers School System teach inmates and juvenile offenders work and life skills that help keep them in the workforce and out of the corrections system after their release. In FY19, more than 2,000 people were enrolled in skills centers, and positive placement — employment, continuing education or military — was 89.21 percent.
The CareerTech System also helps those who dropped out of high school earn diplomas and gain skills to enter the workforce through the dropout recovery program. In FY19, 367 people earned a high school diploma through the program.
ODCTE also oversees Oklahoma’s adult basic education program, which includes 32 providers offering high school equivalency programs and tests along with English literacy and civics courses at 111 sites. In FY19, 12,647 students enrolled in CareerTech’s adult basic education programs.
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 58 campuses, 394 comprehensive school districts, 16 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.
High Plains Technology Center, Oklahoma Panhandle State University and Guymon Public Schools received a federal $1.5 million grant for a joint welding technology training center in Guymon.
The three educational entities recently broke ground on the center in the Guymon Industrial Park. Students in the center will be able to earn welding certificates from High Plains while also taking academic classes at Panhandle State toward associate or bachelor’s degrees.
Red River Technology Center is work with the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery proponent of Fort Sill in Lawton on a new, enhanced electronics technology certification training initiative.
The initiative, referred to as the credentialing program, is designed for tactical and maintenance warrant officers associated with the Patriot missile defense system.
Selected warrant officers attend a rigorous 60-hour, two-week electronics technology certification training program to learn the technical knowledge required to pass the DC and AC electronics circuit analysis and troubleshooting exams as outlined by the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians and the Electronics System Association.
“Our soldiers have an incredible opportunity, especially with the technical aspect of their jobs, to get industry/nationwide credentialing,” said Jennifer Smith, lead development and education analyst for the Air Defense Artillery Commandant. “We are very excited about the partnership with the Red River Technology Center, and we are going to continue to grow it.”
The robust curriculum and the purposely limited time allowed to complete the assigned duties and tasks associated with the successful certification process, provide a unique experience for the officers.
All of the attending warrant officers successfully fulfilling the requirements of the credentialing program receive their independent industry certification documents and special recognition during their tactical training graduation ceremony at Fort Sill.
ODCTE’s state appropriations request for fiscal year 2020 for the first regular session of the 57th Oklahoma Legislature targets narrowing Oklahoma’s skills gap through the proposed increase of $21 million that would allow CareerTech to achieve the following:
Fund more than 130 unfunded programs and provide for 90 new programs to be added to K-12 CareerTech offerings.
Add 12 new programs in state correctional facilities that would serve 500 to 600 more inmates.
Increase Training for Industry Programs by 10 percent to more than 3,200 enrollments.
Increase customized training by 10 percent to almost 300,000 enrollments.
Increase certifications/credentials annually by 5 percent, adding almost 2,400 more during three years.
“Oklahoma has a skills gap, and CareerTech has a solution,” said Marcie Mack, ODCTE state director. “Investing in CareerTech will produce more skilled workers for existing, unfilled Oklahoma jobs. It will invigorate program offerings in our K-12 schools and technology centers. It powers training programs for Oklahoma businesses, and it gives our incarcerated students a second chance at life.”
As a part of the appropriations request, $11.8 million would go toward paying the state’s obligation to fund the required health benefit allowance. If the state funds the current requirement, Mack said, it will immediately free up that amount to be redirected to CareerTech classrooms.
The appropriations request seeks a 14.8 percent increase over the FY19 budget of $120.4 million. While funds did increase in FY19 from FY18 levels, in the last 10 years Oklahoma CareerTech education has seen an overall reduction in general appropriations by 28 percent.
Industry leaders from across sectors that provide significant impact to Oklahoma’s economy emphasized the need to increase investments in career-ready education as a primary component of moving Oklahoma forward.
“The strongest pipeline to meet the demand in the agriculture industry is through CareerTech agricultural education and the FFA,” said Brent Kisling, Enid Regional Development Alliance executive director. “This investment in agricultural education, as well as other K-12 CareerTech programs would provide direct funding to classroom resources.
“I truly have never seen a more valuable program than Oklahoma FFA when it comes to instilling leadership and work ethic in our youth. CareerTech student organizations across the board add the workplace elements that help to make students successful. These programs are vital to training future generations.”
CareerTech’s skills gap solutions also help attract new businesses to the state and help existing businesses expand. In 2018 the CareerTech System served more than 6,900 companies, helping their employees gain new skills and adding new jobs to the Oklahoma economy.
“Solving the skills gap is at the forefront of an economic transformation pushing our state forward. CareerTech and their capabilities in upskilling workers, customizing training for industry and growing a pipeline of skilled workers is essential to keeping Oklahoma on the map for expanding and attracting companies to the state,” said David Stewart, chief administrative officer for MidAmerica Industrial Park and member of the State Board of Career and Technology Education.
Michael Culwell, campus director in Poteau at Kiamichi Technology Centers and president of the Oklahoma Association for Career and Technology Education, said, “Programs like welding technology, which give our students a high-quality wage for construction and manufacturing jobs that are in high demand in our area, should be expanded. The value of these programs and other CareerTech industry training programs are a priority to keeping Oklahoma’s future bright.”
Other items in the 2020 agenda include enriching work-based learning experiences, expanding professional development for CareerTech professionals and deploying new technology for career awareness. For an itemized list of all FY20 funding requests view the business plan and annual report for FY18 details.
ABOUT OKLAHOMA’S CAREERTECH SYSTEM
Oklahoma’s Career and Technology Education System is focused on developing a world-class workforce. This comprehensive system delivers educational experiences through 393 K-12 school districts, 29 technology center districts, 16 Skills Centers sites and 31 adult basic education providers and to more than 6,900 businesses. CareerTech’s mission is clear: to improve Oklahoma’s economy by providing individuals with the training and skills necessary to be successful in the workplace and by providing companies with the required workforce to compete globally. We are faced with a skills gap, and CareerTech has a solution.
Oklahoma has 1,670,046 jobs by industry, and the number is projected to grow 7.8 percent to 1,946,040 by 2025. This aggressive growth projection reinforces the need for all Oklahomans to have the skills and knowledge necessary to be productively engaged in the workplace. The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education provides programs and services that support Oklahoma’s job growth for each of the key business ecosystems identified by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
The specific needs of the current workforce and the workforce projected to exist in 2025 indicate a majority of workers will need certificates, credentials or associate degrees to maintain the growth of Oklahoma’s economy. Business and industry require and will continue to require a qualified workforce.
What is a credential?
An education- and work-related credential, which could include a license or certificate, can be defined as a verification of an individual’s qualification or competence issued by a third party with the relevant authority to issue such credentials (U.S. Department of Labor, 2010).
To ensure an educated and skilled workforce, many industries and educational entities have successfully developed and implemented industry-recognized credentials to connect individuals to the skills they need to enter into and advance in jobs. Many credentials are stackable, meaning they can build on previous competencies and skills through an individual’s lifetime.
Awarded upon the successful completion of a brief course of study, usually one year or less but at times longer.
Upon completion of a course of study, a certificate does not require any further action to retain.
Awarded by a professional organization or other nongovernmental body.
Is not legally required to work in an occupation.
Requires demonstrating competency to do a specific job, often through an examination process.
Awarded by a governmental licensing agency.
Gives legal authority to work in an occupation.
Requires meeting predetermined criteria, such as having a degree or passing a state-administered exam.
An award or title conferred upon an individual for the completion of a program or courses of study over multiple years at postsecondary education institutions.
Through ODCTE leadership, agency operations, dissemination of best practices and multiple delivery arms, Oklahoma CareerTech strives to increase student educational attainment of industry credentials. (In FY16, Oklahoma students earned 15,152 industry credentials.)
The value of credentials
It is imperative that the educational process focus on successful outcomes that provide individuals with the skills and abilities to enter the workforce and/ or enter postsecondary education. For example, completion of industry-recognized certifications and credentials enables individuals to work in highwage, high-demand occupations. The certifications/ credentials that students receive are an essential component to decreasing the educational gap that blocks a more vibrant Oklahoma economy. Oklahoma’s future hinges on business and industry’s ability to successfully compete in a global economy. A highly skilled workforce is essential for success in today’s challenging business environment.
To further demonstrate the importance of credentials, the 2016 national data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed employed people were more likely to hold an active certification or license (25.0 percent) than unemployed people (12.5 percent) or those who were not in the labor force (6.0 percent). People who held certifications or licenses also had a lower unemployment rate than those who did not (2.5 percent versus 5.6 percent, respectively). Workers with certifications or licenses also earned 35.0 percent more than those who did not hold such credentials ($1,032 versus $765 respectively).
Oklahoma CareerTech is joining other career and technology education entities around the country this month to celebrate Career and Technical Education Month. Each year this national awareness campaign celebrates the value of career and technology education and the achievements and accomplishments of programs across the country.
Oklahoma CareerTech touches and improves the lives of state residents in many ways. Through more than 522,000 enrollments, the system provides education and training for individuals and companies in a myriad of specialized and customized opportunities.
One of the strengths of our CareerTech System is its accessibility. Students in grades six through 12 can receive CareerTech hands-on learning while exploring career paths. More than 139,000 students take advantage of this opportunity. Young people experience career options and get to see first-hand how their passions can fuel education and training for careers.
More than 20,000 high school and adult students attend one of Oklahoma’s 29 technology centers, and adult enrollments in career programs, industry-specific training and career and development training total more than 339,000. A study conducted by economist Mark Snead found that graduates of CareerTech programs in technology centers annually add more than $3.5 billion to Oklahoma’s economy. CareerTech students earned more than 15,000 certificates and/or industry-recognized credentials. Through CareerTech programs 94 percent of students were employed, entered the military or continued their education.
Another valuable component of Oklahoma’s CareerTech System is specialized occupational training offered to more than 1,800 adult and juvenile offenders at Skills Centers sites throughout the state. These individuals are completing programs that will allow them to earn living wages for themselves and their families when they are released.
Not only does Oklahoma CareerTech work to fill the workforce pipeline through its Business and Industry Services, in FY17 CareerTech worked directly with more than 7,800 companies, helping them increase profitability through training, entrepreneurial services, bid assistance and more.
Individuals who dropped out of high school can also receive help from Oklahoma CareerTech. In FY17, CareerTech served more than 1,000 students through Dropout Recovery and served more than 17,000 individuals through Adult Basic Education, which offers high school equivalency, English as a second language and literacy.
Through all of these delivery arms, Oklahoma CareerTech plays a vital role in advancing Oklahoma workforce and powering our economy.