Category Archives: Health Careers 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.

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.

Legislature Approves $8.8 Million for Oklahoma CareerTech to Meet Health Care Workforce Demands

The Oklahoma Legislature appropriated $8.8 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds today to expand Oklahoma CareerTech programs and address the state’s nursing workforce shortage.

Upon signature by Gov. Kevin Stitt, the bill will enable Oklahoma CareerTech to produce an additional 1,100 trained health care workers over the first five years of full implementation.

During the June special session, lawmakers allocated the following for the Health Care Workforce Development Revolving Fund:

  • $1,640,630 to establish a grant program with Indian Capital Technology Center to recruit and train health care workers in Oklahoma.
  • $2,032,767 to establish a grant program with Metro Technology Centers to recruit and train health care workers in Oklahoma.
  • $1,625,858 to establish a grant program with Tri County Technology Center to recruit and train health care workers in Oklahoma.
  • $3,504,368 to establish a grant program with the State Board of Career and Technology Education to recruit and train health care workers in Oklahoma.

Funding CareerTech is the most economical way to reduce the skills gap in health care and other important industries in Oklahoma, said Oklahoma CareerTech Interim State Director Dr. Lee Denney.

“Oklahoma CareerTech is well-positioned to respond quickly and efficiently to our state’s critical nursing shortage as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Denney said. “Our health care training programs prepare workers at all levels to meet the needs of hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, assisted living centers and other facilities facing significant staffing gaps. We applaud the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding and the Oklahoma legislature for their thorough and transparent process to fund these important programs to improve health outcomes in our state.”

ARPA projects approved during the regular session included $634,000 for CareerTech nursing programs.

“The $9.4 million the legislature is putting towards CareerTech nursing programs is literally going to save lives,” said State Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow. “Due to sky-high inflation, many are in search of higher paying work. Meanwhile, health care facilities across the state are in dire need of trained workforce. We are able to address both issues by deploying these taxpayer dollars quickly and efficiently. By partnering with CareerTech, we are making a transformative impact across Oklahoma for future students as well as future patients who will be in their care.”

Kiamichi Paramedic Students Hailed as Heroes

Oklahoma CareerTech is all about hands-on learning, and last week two paramedic instructors and their students took that learning approach to a whole new level at HOSA’s International Leadership Conference in Nashville. HOSA is the career and technical student organization aligned with health careers education.

CareerTech paramedic students from left to right, Dalton Mahoney, Katherine (Dee) McQuate, Ashley Newman, Katey Lawson and Ethan Flynt.

Lisa Dyer, Emergency Medical Services director at Kiamichi Technology Center in Poteau, teaches paramedics along with her colleague, Kelly Higdon. The two recently chaperoned a group of five adult, postsecondary students to the HOSA conference. The students – three from KTC, one from Northwest Technology Center and another from Central Technology Center – are certified emergency medical technicians studying to be paramedics, the highest level of emergency caregiver pre-hospital.

The conference was one of their last major events before graduation. For 16 months, Dyer and Higdon had taught the students about autonomous decision making, empathy, leadership, and of course academic theory and technical skills. KTC’s website says the EMS field offers “the thrill of saving lives in real-world emergency situations.” Little did the Oklahoma contingency know they would actually have that experience on their way to dinner on their first day in Nashville.

As the Oklahoma group prepared to leave their hotel, Dyer and the students heard a woman scream.

With coincidentally precise timing, a police officer showed up, responding to what he initially believed was an unrelated call. The students and officer were approached by two severely injured victims emerging from a nearby wooded area. The paramedic students, dressed in their blue HOSA uniform suits and white shirts, immediately ran toward the victims to provide lifesaving first aid.

The police officer on the scene offered the students a jump bag full of medical supplies and then worked to secure the scene. With the help of their instructors, the students immediately began rendering first aid.

While it was a gruesome scene as the victims had been brutally attacked, the students were not fazed by the patients’ conditions. Putting their training and learned skills to work, they bandaged, applied a tourniquet, and even tended to a severe neck wound.

“Because of the severity of the injury, one of the victims would have likely bled to death if we had not applied a tourniquet,” Dyer said. 

Although critically wounded, both victims were expected to survive, thanks to the quick, professional work of the students.

“They went right to work,” Dyer said. “They worked together like a well-oiled machine. I was so proud of them. We had practiced scenarios just like that,” she added.

Needless to say, the police officer was grateful for the help, as Nashville EMS was responding to a four-alarm fire at the time of the incident. The victims were transported to the hospital and are expected to survive, and the suspect has been arrested.

It wasn’t the students’ first opportunity to respond to an emergency, as they all work on ambulances as EMTs while attending paramedic classes. The Nashville situation, however, was more severe than most of them had experienced.

Dyer said she had never been prouder of students in her life.

“They did their job efficiently and effectively; they worked together as a team,” Dyer said.

Another lesson learned in the classroom, Dyer said: Teamwork makes the team work.

Legislature Approves $8.8 Million for Oklahoma CareerTech to Meet Health Care Workforce Demands

The Oklahoma Legislature appropriated $8.8 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds today to expand Oklahoma CareerTech programs and address the state’s nursing workforce shortage.

Upon signature by Gov. Kevin Stitt, the bill will enable Oklahoma CareerTech to produce an additional 1,100 trained health care workers over the first five years of full implementation.

During the June special session, lawmakers allocated the following for the Health Care Workforce Development Revolving Fund:

  • $1,640,630 to establish a grant program with Indian Capital Technology Center to recruit and train health care workers in Oklahoma.
  • $2,032,767 to establish a grant program with Metro Technology Centers to recruit and train health care workers in Oklahoma.
  • $1,625,858 to establish a grant program with Tri County Technology Center to recruit and train health care workers in Oklahoma.
  • $3,504,368 to establish a grant program with the State Board of Career and Technology Education to recruit and train health care workers in Oklahoma.

Funding CareerTech is the most economical way to reduce the skills gap in health care and other important industries in Oklahoma, said Oklahoma CareerTech Interim State Director Dr. Lee Denney.

“Oklahoma CareerTech is well-positioned to respond quickly and efficiently to our state’s critical nursing shortage as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Denney said. “Our health care training programs prepare workers at all levels to meet the needs of hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, assisted living centers and other facilities facing significant staffing gaps. We applaud the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding and the Oklahoma legislature for their thorough and transparent process to fund these important programs to improve health outcomes in our state.”

ARPA projects approved during the regular session included $634,000 for CareerTech nursing programs.

“The $9.4 million the legislature is putting towards CareerTech nursing programs is literally going to save lives,” said State Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow. “Due to sky-high inflation, many are in search of higher paying work. Meanwhile, health care facilities across the state are in dire need of trained workforce. We are able to address both issues by deploying these taxpayer dollars quickly and efficiently. By partnering with CareerTech, we are making a transformative impact across Oklahoma for future students as well as future patients who will be in their care.”

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

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

CareerTech Champions

Emily Trail – Meridian Technology Center

CareerTech grad takes her new career path to heart.

Then: A disappointed applicant who had been denied acceptance into a college nursing program. Emily Trail was determined to become a nurse, however, and the Texas native said she’d heard great things about Meridian Technology Center. Trail enrolled in Meridian Tech’s licensed practical nurse program and immediately discovered her passion. In the LPN program, she

  • Learned critical thinking skills for nursing and critical thinking skills for her daily life.
  • Learned basic nursing techniques such as how to insert an IV, draw blood and properly remove staples and sutures.
  • Learned study habits and time management skills that helped her pass her Health Education Systems Inc. entrance exam for the registered nurse program.
  • Gained social skills that help her respond to patient concerns.
  • Received her phlebotomist certification and LPN license.

“Before I enrolled in the LPN program, I was a procrastinator – not only on my schoolwork, but also in my everyday tasks,” she said. “The LPN program forced me to get things done early, which has significantly lowered my stress level.”

Trail said she uses the skills she learned at Meridian Tech every day in her job.

She also said the program provided her with a network of good friends.

“My favorite experiences from Meridian were the memories I made with my friends,” she said. “No matter what time of day it was, I could always count on them to help me if I needed them. We were attached at the hip during this program and literally did everything together, including daily study sessions.”

Now: A nursing student at Northern Oklahoma College and a nurse in the cardiology clinic at Stillwater Medical Center.

“I think CareerTech education is a great thing, especially for high school students who want to get a head start on their future careers,” she said.

“CareerTech prepares students not only for the field they are studying for, but it also prepares them for future educational options by teaching good study habits and critical thinking abilities for life and in the workplace.”

Emily Trail – Cardiology Nurse
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