Category Archives: Family and Consumer Sciences Education

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.

CareerTech Champions

Gabriel Lewis – Francis Tuttle Technology Center

Chef Gabe battles for MasterChef – again

In Season Eight, he made it to the top seven on the hit TV series “MasterChef.” That was in 2017. Gabriel Lewis of Oklahoma City was straight out of high school and working at a fast-food restaurant. Flash forward to 2022’s Season 12, and the Putnam City North alum is back on television in “MasterChef: Back to Win.”

Oklahoma CareerTech Champion from Francis Tuttle Technology Center

The Season 12 competitors are all experienced chefs making their second appearance on the show. After Episode Six, Lewis was among 17 chefs still in the running for the $250,000 prize.

For Lewis, much has changed since his television debut five years ago. He’s now a graduate of the prestigious Johnson and Wales University in Denver, he’s working on a cookbook, and he is booking private catering jobs all over the country. Together with his sister, a professional photographer, Lewis has created a dynamic collection of cooking videos as well as an impressive web and social media presence.

Before Lewis left the MasterChef kitchen in 2017, renowned New Orleans chef Aaron Sanchez even promised him a job after culinary school, but COVID shutdowns robbed him of that opportunity.

A passion for cooking runs in Lewis’ family. He grew up with three expert cooks – his mother, his aunt and his grandmother. He turned that love into a career plan, enrolling in a two-year program at Francis Tuttle Technology Center’s School of Culinary Arts while he was still in high school.

“Francis Tuttle gave me a snapshot of what the industry is really like,” Lewis said.

In addition to cooking skills, his experience at Francis Tuttle also gave him the confidence to audition for “MasterChef,” where he became a popular contestant. Fans were disappointed to see him eliminated, but world-renowned chef Gordon Ramsay saw potential in the CareerTech grad and offered to pay his tuition at Johnson and Wales.

“You’ve got the potential to be huge in this industry,” Ramsay said in 2017.

Regardless of how “MasterChef: Back to Win” turns out, Lewis is already pretty big. He recently filmed a national commercial, he’s running a business, and he plans to compete in the World Food Championship in Dallas in November.

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.

Six Inducted Into Oklahoma CareerTech Hall of Fame

The Oklahoma CareerTech Foundation inducted six people into the Oklahoma Career and Technology Education Hall of Fame on Thursday evening.

The Oklahoma CareerTech Foundation inducted six people into the Oklahoma Career and Technology Education Hall of Fame on Thursday evening. Pictured are, from left, front row, Carolyn Cotton, Bob Funk and Nancy L. Davis, daughter of Nancy Randolph Davis, who was inducted posthumously; and, back row, Phil Waul, Greg Winters and Kent Boggs.

This year’s inductees are Kent Boggs, Carolyn Cotton, Nancy Randolph Davis, Bob Funk, Phil Waul and Greg Winters.

“Oklahoma is well known for having the best CareerTech System in the nation, and the six people we are honoring tonight played starring roles in the state’s journey to becoming the best in career and technical education,” said Lee Denney, Oklahoma CareerTech interim state director.

Boggs retired from the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education in 2018 as the state FFA secretary. Before joining ODCTE in 1985, he taught agricultural education in Elgin and Marlow.

Cotton retired from ODCTE as a family and consumer sciences education program specialist. She taught FCS for more than 30 years before joining the state department.

Nancy Randolph Davis, who will be inducted posthumously, was the first Black student to enroll at Oklahoma A&M, which is now Oklahoma State University. She taught family and consumer sciences at Dunjee High School and Star Spencer High School.

Funk is the co-founder, president and vice chairman of the board of Express Employment Professionals and a longtime advocate of career and technology education. In 2018, he received the inaugural Oklahoma CareerTech Advocate of Excellence Award.

Waul worked for 42 years at Central Technology Center. He joined the tech center as a drafting instructor in 1973 and retired as superintendent in 2015.

Winters retired as Canadian Valley Technology Center superintendent in 2018 after 44 years in the CareerTech System. He also served as superintendent at Eastern Oklahoma County Technology Center and Kiamichi Technology Centers.

“This prestigious honor is the highest award given by the CareerTech System. These individuals are true heroes. Their contributions to career and technology education in Oklahoma are extraordinary,” said Dwight Hughes, superintendent/CEO at Autry Technology Center and president of the Oklahoma CareerTech Foundation.

The 2021-22 class of inductees will increase the Hall of Fame membership to 86. The Hall of Fame, which is sponsored by the Oklahoma Foundation for Career and Technology Education, was founded in 1990.

Previous inductees include governors, college deans and professors, business and industry leaders, educators and CareerTech System faculty, staff and agency members.

For more information about the Oklahoma CareerTech Foundation, visit https://www.okcareertech.org/about/foundation.

CareerTech, Express Partner on Work-Based Learning

Oklahoma CareerTech is partnering with Express Employment Professionals and the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development to create more work-based learning opportunities for students.

Long established within the CareerTech System, the program offers students chances to learn technical skills and life skills in classes and then it teaches students how to apply them in the workplace through mentoring, job shadowing, internships, and apprenticeship opportunities.

“We’re extremely proud of our partnership with CareerTech,” said Bob Funk Sr., president and chief executive officer of Express Employment Professionals – Oklahoma. “Work-based learning is a great fit for Express and for Oklahoma because it prepares our next generation of employees for the workplace, where there are more jobs than there are workers right now. We could not be more excited about our involvement in this program.”

Work-based learning can introduce students to businesses and workplaces in Oklahoma, but it can also help businesses by creating a pipeline of future employees. Some companies, however, are reluctant to participate in work-based learning for liability reasons, said H.L. Baird, statewide work-based learning liaison at the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

The innovative partnership among CareerTech, Express and Workforce Development reduces businesses’ liability risks while providing students paid internships, Baird said.

“The students will be employed by Express and serve as contract employees for the worksite employer,” he said. “This approach also connects the vast employment resources of Express to the students and schools at no cost to participate.”

The partnership will be statewide, but it will be customized through local Express agencies and their industry connections so individualized plans will fit each student, employer and school.

The Express network of employers will provide benefits to both students and businesses. Students will be able to experience internships with multiple employers and even multiple industries, Baird said; if an internship is a poor fit, the student can be reassigned with another Express employer. For businesses, Express will handle all the human resources processes, including recruitment.

“Finding the right employees is what Express does,” Baird said. “We understand the pandemic has created a myriad of workforce challenges for business across the state. Finding skilled employees is a key limiting factor in our state’s recovery. This partnership provides employers access to new and emerging Oklahoma workers who have enrolled in classes and programs that prepare them for the world of work.”

The partnership will be available to all students 16 and older who are enrolled in CareerTech programs in the Oklahoma CareerTech System’s 29 technology centers districts and 394 PK-12 school districts across the state. Through the partnership, CareerTech and Express will help students gain job experience while also helping employers develop future employees.

Businesses, students and school leaders who want more information about the innovative approach to work-based learning can contact H.L. Baird at h.l.baird@careertech.ok.gov, visit the CareerTech work-based learning webpage at okcareer.tech/wbl or contact their local Express Employment Professionals office.

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.

Oklahoma CareerTech Celebrates CTE Month in February

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education continues to respond to the needs of individuals and business and industry in the state while focusing on helping Oklahomans succeed in life, education and the workplace.

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.

“Oklahoma CareerTech is an integral part of Oklahoma’s economy,” said Marcie Mack, ODCTE state director. “By providing individuals with the education, training and skills necessary to be successful in their careers, CareerTech is also providing companies with the quality workforces they need to compete globally.”

The CareerTech System delivers educational experiences through a network of 394 PK-12 school districts, 29 technology center districts, 13 skills center sites in correctional facilities and 31 adult education and family literacy providers.

CareerTech continued building partnerships with other state agencies, industries and nonprofit organizations to expand its programs.

ODCTE signed a memorandum of understanding with the Film Education Institute of Oklahoma to provide training and curriculum to meet film industry employment demands in the state. The system’s technology centers have developed film career training programs for students who want to work as film and television production professionals.

The CareerTech Testing Center and the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety partnered in 2021 to offer Class D written driver’s license and motorcycle license tests through CTTC’s network of test facilities. They are now expanding to offer written tests for commercial driver’s licenses.

CareerTech’s Skills Centers School System received a grant to open a new skills center at the Northeast Oklahoma Community Corrections Center in Vinita. It also saw the first class of female inmates graduate from a truck driver training class.

Skills centers operate in Oklahoma’s correctional and juvenile detention facilities to give incarcerated individuals the opportunity to learn the skills they’ll need to make successful transitions to the workplace.

CareerTech’s 29 technology centers operate on 59 campuses throughout the state. 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. Adult students learn new skills and earn certificates and credentials to get jobs, change careers or advance in their current careers.

Oklahoma’s PK-12 school districts offer CareerTech courses in 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.

Their students also can learn 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.

CareerTech’s Business and Industry Services Division helps Oklahoma companies increase their profitability with increased sales, higher productivity, reduced costs and expanded operations and helps companies move to and start up in Oklahoma. Oklahoma PTAC helps companies secure government contracts.

The CareerTech System helps those who dropped out of high school earn diplomas and gain skills to enter the workforce through the dropout recovery program and also oversees Oklahoma’s adult education and family literacy program, which offers high school equivalency programs and tests along with English literacy and civics courses.

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.

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 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 Essential to Meet Workforce Needs

A qualified workforce is critical to the state’s economic well-being and will be vital to its recovery following the pandemic. Oklahoma CareerTech, which has long been a major component of Oklahoma’s economic engine, will play a starring role in this recovery.

Through a network of 399 PK-12 school districts, 29 technology center districts, 13 skills center sites and 32 adult basic education providers, the strengths of Oklahoma’s CareerTech System include accessibility and flexibility.

Through partnerships with business and industry, Oklahoma CareerTech has responded quickly to the state’s immediate workforce needs by providing customized career training in a wide range of industries, including health care, agriculture, aerospace and energy.

Read more in CareerTech State Director Marcie Mack’s guest column in The Journal Record.

Oklahoma FCCLA wins awards at hybrid conference

Oklahoma FCCLA had an outstanding week during the Hybrid National Leadership Conference, said Brittani Phillips, FCCLA state adviser at Oklahoma CareerTech.

Oklahoma FCCLA had national champions in eight events; 29 students earned first place in team and individual competitions. Nine students (team and individual) placed second in six events, and six students (team and individual) placed third in five events.

Cherokee High School had teams that placed first, second and third in the Knowledge Matters Virtual Business Challenge. Caney High School received $1,000 for winning the Families First National Program and $500 for being the runner-up in the Student Body National Program.

Zeb Kelly, Morrison High School, was elected the 2021-22 national vice president of community service. Denise Morris, former FCCLA state adviser, was named a national honorary member.

The National Leadership Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, was limited to 1,000 participants, but 150 Oklahoma FCCLA members attended the Oklahoma event.

“We had a great time celebrating together and experiencing Oklahoma tourism opportunities by attending Riversport and the Oklahoma City Zoo as well as utilizing the Oklahoma City trolley system,” Phillips said.

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