Category Archives: Oklahoma CareerTech

Oklahoma CareerTech Students Gather at State Capitol

Sixty-four Oklahoma CareerTech students met at the state Capitol Feb. 21 to speak to legislators about how career and technology education helps teens prepare for careers and college.

State officers from Oklahoma CareerTech’s seven co-curricular student organizations attended the CareerTech Student Organization Day at the Capitol, visiting with legislators from their districts. Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. John Talley, R-Stillwater, recognized the students in their respective chambers.

“This day is a phenomenal way to connect our legislators with the future leaders of our state,” said Paxton Cavin, state BPA and DECA adviser at Oklahoma CareerTech. “By meeting state officers from each of the CTSOs our legislators are able to witness the positive impact CareerTech has on students from all around the state, in various fields of study, in K-12 schools and technology centers. CTSOs are changing lives on a daily basis, and Oklahoma is powered by one of the best CTSO support systems, Oklahoma CareerTech.”

For some students, like Maricela De Leon-Barrios, this was their first time to visit the Capitol.

De Leon-Barrios, a Metro Technology Centers pre-nursing student and state HOSA officer, said she was nervous and excited about the visit. She hoped to get the message out to legislators about how CTSOs teach students leadership skills and help them plan their futures, she said.

The high school junior plans to be a nurse practitioner and said her time in HOSA taught her nursing skills and helped her overcome her fear of learning new things.

The students also heard from Oklahoma CareerTech State Director Brent Haken and Oklahoma Association for Career and Technical Education Executive Director Skye McNiel before meeting with their legislators.

“It’s very important to share the importance of CareerTech,” McNiel told the students. “We are worth investing in because it’s an investment into these kids.”

CTSOs give students opportunities for personal growth and scholastic achievement, as well as the chance to develop skills in public speaking, planning and organizing. Members work on various community projects, competitive events and leadership activities and meet other students who share similar interests.

In FY22, more than 95,000 Oklahoma students were members of one of the seven co-curricular CTSOs: Business Professionals of America; DECA; Family, Career and Community Leaders of America; FFA; HOSA; SkillsUSA; and Technology Student Association.

Women in Aviation

More women are joining the aviation and aerospace industry. They are astronauts, pilots, maintenance technicians, engineers, air traffic controllers and business owners. In this video on Oklahoma’s aerospace industry, we interviewed several women who are working in the industry or pursuing a career in aerospace. Here are their stories.

About Oklahoma CareerTech

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education provides leadership and resources and assures standards of excellence for a comprehensive statewide system of career and technology education. The system offers programs and services in 29 technology center districts operating on 60 campuses, 391 PK-12 school districts, 15 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities and 32 adult education and family literacy providers.

The agency is governed by the State Board of Career and Technology Education and works closely with the State Department of Education and the State Regents for Higher Education to provide a seamless educational system for all Oklahomans.

OkPTAC Becomes OkAPEX, But Mission Remains the Same

The Oklahoma Procurement Technical Assistance Center has a new name, but its mission is the same: to help Oklahoma businesses secure contracts and other sales worth billions of dollars with government entities.

OkPTAC is now Oklahoma APEX Accelerator, a name that the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education chose in coordination with a recent change in the federal grant program under the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Oklahoma Accelerator is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the Department of Defense, which changed the program name in November. The new name will help build a consistent awareness across federal agencies and local businesses, said Carter Merkle, OkAPEX program manager.

“The federal program management recently moved from one DoD agency to the highest levels of the Pentagon, giving the program new visibility. This also helps all of us connect more directly with the decision-makers in government to better assist our business clients,” he said. “Our core mission and our set of services remain the same.”

The Oklahoma CareerTech System’s technology centers have offered the program for more than 35 years, first as the Oklahoma Bid Assistance Network and then OkPTAC. The program regularly works with about 1,100 businesses each year, Merkle said.

The Oklahoma Accelerator funds 11 programs with 13 procurement counselors in technology centers across Oklahoma. The 13 counselors assist businesses through one-on-one counseling, training programs and business networking events.

The counselors help businesses find ways to be more competitive and new opportunities to pursue, help them be aware of regulatory requirements and help them avoid missteps that can cost them business. The program also helps government agencies connect with supply chains and helps larger prime contractors find smaller partners to complete complex projects and meet government-required small business subcontracting goals, Merkle said.

Information about the Oklahoma APEX Accelerator, including locations and contact information, is available at

CareerTech Champions

Brighton Snow – Mid-America Technology Center and BPA

Brighton Snow has his own production company and manages social media networks for large businesses. His company creates marketing videos, promotional graphics and advertising imagery for his clients. Not bad for a small-town boy with one semester of college under his belt.

Snow grew up in Washington, a south-central Oklahoma town with just over 600 people. He toured Mid-America Technology Center as an eighth grader, but he would have to wait more than two years before he could enroll.

He was so excited he could barely wait. Snow had a passion for multimedia, and when he discovered he could attend the tech center while he was in high school, he seized the opportunity.

“I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without CareerTech,” he said.

The hands-on learning environment appealed to Snow, who said he loved being able to learn with industry-leading technology.

“In the multimedia industry, technology is always improving and changing,” he said. “Mid-America gave me the resources to learn film production, graphic design and social media marketing. I can confidently create marketing videos, promotional graphics and advertising imagery using the career skills I’ve learned.”

Snow joined Oklahoma Business Professionals of America, serving as state president in 2021. He competed in BPA events, using skills such as using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, operating a camera and editing video. He has won nearly a dozen awards, including the title of world champion in social media management two years in a row.

In addition to his technical skills, Snow said, he also gained confidence.

“My adviser, Paxton Cavin, had a huge impact on me,” he said. “She always motivates me to be the best.”

That confidence helped Snow become one of only three Oklahoma students selected as U.S. Presidential Scholars in 2022.

He said CareerTech taught him the value of hard work, honesty and dedication, attributes he no doubt implements as he simultaneously runs a business and continues his education. Snow is enrolled at Oklahoma State University and after college plans to start a marketing company designed to help local farmers explore new marketing platforms.

“Local farmers often don’t know how to take advantage of social media,” he said. 

CareerTech Students Share Work-Based Learning Experiences

Three teams of students from two technology centers shared their work-based learning experiences in videos and won an Oklahoma CareerTech contest.

Winning teams were from the Tulsa Technology Center-Riverside Campus television production program and the Francis Tuttle Technology Center-Rockwell Campus broadcast video program. Each program was awarded $500.

The students produced videos sharing the benefits they have received from participating in work-based learning.

“CareerTech work-based learning experiences are extensions of the education and skills development students receive in their CareerTech programs,” said H.L. Baird, Oklahoma CareerTech work-based learning liaison. “WBL is a guided transition from simulation in the program to real-world experience. Mentors at places of business provide direction and evaluation to help students learn skills beyond classroom practice.”

Francis Tuttle Tech students highlighted their experiences in a video titled “Behind the Scenes at Thunder Media Day.” Their production was used in the final Thunder media day product, Baird said.

The two groups of Tulsa Tech students produced “A Taste of the Real World” and “Real World Experiences.”

All three videos can be seen on the Oklahoma CareerTech YouTube channel at

Oklahoma CareerTech held its first WBL video contest in fall 2020 to encourage students to share their work-based learning experiences in their own words.

To learn more about work-based learning, visit or contact Baird at 405-743-6812 or

Oklahoma CareerTech Continues Growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oklahoma CareerTech to Issue Digital Badges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information about the badging initiative can be found on the Oklahoma CareerTech website at

Lee Denney Appointed Interim Chief of Staff of Oklahoma CareerTech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Oklahoma CareerTech

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education provides leadership and resources and assures standards of excellence for a comprehensive statewide system of career and technology education. The system offers programs and services in 29 technology center districts operating on 60 campuses, 391 PK-12 school districts, 15 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities and 32 adult education and family literacy providers.

The agency is governed by the State Board of Career and Technology Education and works closely with the State Department of Education and the State Regents for Higher Education to provide a seamless educational system for all Oklahomans.

Ninth CareerTech State Director Begins Official Duties

Oklahoma CareerTech State Director Brent Haken began official duties today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Oklahoma CareerTech

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education provides leadership and resources and assures standards of excellence for a comprehensive statewide system of career and technology education. The system offers programs and services in 29 technology center districts operating on 60 campuses, 391 PK-12 school districts, 15 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities and 32 adult education and family literacy providers.

The agency is governed by the State Board of Career and Technology Education and works closely with the State Department of Education and the State Regents for Higher Education to provide a seamless educational system for all Oklahomans.

CareerTech Champions

Abigail Shannon – Meridian Technology Center and FFA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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