Category Archives: Health Careers Education

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

CareerTech Champions

Delaney Medcalf – Southern Technology Center

CareerTech background made college “easy” for this biology student.

THEN: Auditing a biotechnology class at Southern Technology Center as a high school sophomore. When the instructor invited Delaney Medcalf to participate in the lab portion of class that day, she knew instantly she was in the right place.

“I had never had that kind of hands-on science experience,” the Lone Grove High School graduate said.

Medcalf enrolled in the two-year biotech program at Southern Tech, where she learned

  • How to properly use lab equipment and perform sterile technique.
  • How to culture microbes.
  • How to think critically and to express or explain those thoughts.

She also gained numerous life skills. Medcalf said the program gave her self-confidence and improved her communication skills, as well as teaching her patience, teamwork and the importance of building connections with professors.

“Most importantly,” she said, “the biotech program reinforced my love and passion for science.”

Medcalf passed the Biotechnician Assistant Certification Exam and completed the biotech CAPSTONE program at the Noble Research Institute, her contributions for which were published in a New Zealand paper. Because of her new skills and achievements, she was chosen as a 2019 Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation Fleming Scholar in her senior year, which included a paid internship after high school.

In college, Medcalf said, she breezed through her courses because of the foundation she got from Southern Tech.

“The biotech program gave me such high standards that honestly, college labs have been a big disappointment,” she said.

NOW: A student at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha, Oklahoma, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology with a triple minor in liberal arts, psychology and chemistry. After graduation, Medcalf plans to get her master’s degree, go to medical school and get her Ph.D. She would like to be a dietitian or emergency medicine doctor.

“Choosing CareerTech was the best choice I could have made, and it definitely changed the trajectory of my college experience.”

Delaney Medcalf, college student

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 HOSA members, advisers recognized

Three Oklahoma HOSA advisers were recognized as Outstanding Local Advisers at the virtual HOSA International Leadership Conference.

Receiving the honor were Bobbie Sue Joslin, Wes Watkins Technology Center; Paula Estrada, Central Technology Center; and Lulla Wilson, Emerson Middle School in Oklahoma City.

Also at the conference, Julia Lewis, Indian Capital Technology Center, received a HOSA Hero Award for performing CPR and helping save a man’s life. David Kelly, former Oklahoma HOSA state president and HOSA national president, received a Distinguished Alumni Service Award.

In the Anatomage competition at the conference, Super Baguettes from Tulsa Technology Center’s biomedical sciences high school extension program at Union High School placed third, and Team Rads for Life from Metro Technology Centers’ radiologic technology program placed fourth. This was Oklahoma HOSA’s first time to compete in the Anatomage event at the International Leadership Conference.

In competitions, Oklahoma HOSA members received three first places, four second places, five third places, four fourth places, six fifth places, five sixth places, three seventh places, two eighth places, one ninth place and three 10th places and had one person in the top 10 for the secondary health care issues exam.

Oklahoma HOSA was recognized for being the state with the highest combined volunteer hours for the HOSA service project, Be The Match. Oklahoma HOSA also won the Barbara James Service Award with 4,518.65 hours of community service.

CareerTech Champions

Julie Smiley Foster – FFA, HOSA and STEM

CareerTech instructor transitioned from blue coat to white coat.

THEN: The first female to become a national FFA officer. Julie Smiley Foster was a high school student in Mount Vernon, Washington, when she enrolled in agricultural education and joined her local FFA chapter. FFA is the CareerTech student organization aligned with agricultural education.

It was there she learned numerous life skills from her instructor and chapter adviser. That was back in the 1970s, but Smiley Foster still recalls how he coached her and helped her win the state’s public speaking contest.

“To be able to speak to people I know and don’t know, whether planned or unplanned, has been a gift,” she said.

It was a gift that kept giving after high school. A few weeks after graduation, Smiley Foster was elected FFA state president, the first female to serve in that capacity. It wasn’t her only first, however. She continued to shatter glass ceilings in college when she was elected Western Region vice president for the national organization – the first female to hold a national office.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism (with a double major in agriculture science and journalism) from Texas A&M University and a master’s in counseling from Midwestern State University.

In addition to helping run the family farm for more than two decades, Smiley Foster taught junior high and high school science. She said she uses many of the skills she gained from FFA both in and out of the classroom. In addition to public speaking, she learned

  • How to plan, organize and follow through to produce successful events.
  • The importance of saying thank you and the value of writing thank-you notes.
  • How to speak to adults in business and how to remember names.

NOW: A National Board Certified instructor at Francis Tuttle Technology Center’s Biosciences and Medicine Academy. She teaches biomedical innovation and honors anatomy and physiology. Smiley Foster is an adviser for HOSA Future Health Professions, the CareerTech student organization that aligns with health careers education.

“CareerTech education is hands-on, problem-solving, skills-based and how-to-get-a-job training,” she said. “My purpose is to prepare students for the marathon of acquiring a career as a health professional.”

She said the professionalism she learned in the ag classroom is also a big part of her biosciences classroom. Smiley Foster said she hopes she’s a bit like her FFA adviser, Mr. Howell, who required the best of his students.

Link to National FFA podcast celebrating Julie Smiley Foster as first national officer

CareerTech Champions

Julia Lewis – Indian Capital Technology Center

Tahlequah calls CareerTech student a hometown hero.

THEN: A high school junior, weighing her career options, Julia Lewis enrolled in the health careers certification program at Indian Capitol Technology Center in Tahlequah to learn about the various jobs in health care.

“I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” she said.

The Tahlequah High School student said she knew she liked helping people, but she wasn’t sure which career path to take. At Indian Capital, she

  • Learned how to stay calm in intense situations. (See links to stories below)
  • Developed time management and organizational skills.
  • Learned how to work independently.
  • Received certifications in phlebotomy, nursing assistant, CPR, AED and first aid.

The 17-year-old’s career path was reaffirmed this spring when she was called upon to save a man’s life. Riding downtown with her friends, Lewis saw a group of people surrounding a man who was in distress.

“I didn’t think twice about getting out to help him,” Lewis said, adding that she got out of the car while it was still moving. The man wasn’t breathing, and Lewis immediately called 911 and then performed CPR until the paramedics arrived.

Lewis is being hailed as a hero and received an award from the Tahlequah Police Department. She also received the HOSA Hero Award during the group’s International Leadership Conference. HOSA is the CareerTech student organization for future health professionals.

NOW: The CareerTech program helped Lewis narrow her career plans within the health care field.  She is now a certified nursing assistant and phlebotomist., and plans to become a dentist or dental hygienist.

Her instructor, Andrea McElmurry, described Lewis as bold, brave, and mature beyond her years. She added that Lewis strives to do her best in every situation.

“She has a bright future ahead of her, and I know she will accomplish her goals,” McElmurry said.


Related content:

Lewis commended on Fox 23 News 

Facebook video of Police Chief Nate King honoring Lewis

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