Category Archives: STEM

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 https://oklahoma.gov/careertech/educators/certifications-and-badging/badging.html.

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.

American Airlines Needs You in Oklahoma

Here in Oklahoma, the aerospace industry is one of the largest and fastest growing. When you look in the sky, you will likely see an airplane carrying hundreds of people. Some of those planes may belong to American Airlines. You could one day work on those American Airlines planes right here in Oklahoma!

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.

Oklahoma Celebrates Careers in Energy Week

Oklahoma Careers in Energy Week is October 17-21

The third annual Oklahoma Careers in Energy Week is scheduled for Oct. 17-21. Oklahoma Energy Workforce Consortium is celebrating the week by promoting the benefits of pursuing careers in the industry. Energy is the highest-paying industry in the state, with an average salary of more than $109,000 annually and employing more than 84,000 Oklahomans in 2021. Oklahoma ranks fourth in the U.S. for wind energy employment, third for installed wind power capacity, sixth for solar potential and third in natural gas production and is home to the world’s largest oil storage facility.

closing the talent gap in oklahomas energy industry

“Oklahoma’s all-of-the-above energy strategy makes us a national leader in oil, natural gas and wind production, which leads to a wide range of career opportunities for Oklahomans who are preparing to enter the job market,” said Gov. Kevin Stitt. “During Careers in Energy Week, we celebrate those who work behind the scenes in Oklahoma’s energy industry and recognize all they do to keep our lights on, our homes comfortable, our cars running and our economy growing.”

OEWC first united in 2019 to help address upcoming nationwide shortages predicted for the energy industry by 2025.

“There are so many opportunities to work and serve our state through different energy services including utilities, renewable energy, oil and gas and more. We want to always be able to introduce our students to these opportunities in our community, and this collaboration is a great way to spur these conversations,” said Lee Denney, interim state director of Oklahoma CareerTech. “The partnership between the energy industry and CareerTech helps us provide meaningful and tailored energy education programs to more Oklahomans, increasing their chances of securing a rewarding career and improving their earning potential.”

In addition to industry leaders, the consortium includes leaders from Oklahoma CareerTech, K-12 education, higher education and government and is focused on creating a pipeline of talented, diverse individuals to meet future needs within the state’s energy sector.

Getting young Oklahomans excited about careers in energy is a top priority of the consortium, as developing future engineers, technicians, chemists, construction managers and many other important positions are key to sustaining the industry’s momentum.

“In Oklahoma, the energy industry plays a critical role in everyday life, and we want all Oklahomans, particularly young people, to understand the incredible career opportunities in the industry,” said Sean Trauschke, chairman, president and CEO of OGE Energy Corp. “The partnership between the industry, educators and government is vital to inspiring our future workforce to power the state through a wide variety of energy-related occupations.”

“The energy industry is always evolving, and there’s a continual need for innovative skill sets, which is what makes our partnership with the state so important,” said PSO President and Chief Operating Officer Leigh Anne Strahler. “We rely on highly skilled workers to serve our customers and power a brighter future for all Oklahomans. From lineworkers, power plant operators and electricians to engineers, accountants and analysts – there’s a place for everyone in the energy industry.”

The OEWC cites the impending workforce shortage as a major driver for its formation. STEM curriculum plays a pivotal role in energy occupations, and many schools are implementing more programs as a pipeline for similar jobs. STEM education opens doors to many different industries and provides tools and skills for future generations to apply to occupations like energy.

“At the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development, we strive to connect industry and education across the state to secure and embrace the skill needs of our future workforce,” said Don Morris, executive director of the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development. “Fostering these collaborations across industries provides more opportunities for meaningful occupations for more Oklahomans. This also helps Oklahoma retain talent and passion to drive success today and tomorrow in the energy sector.”

For more information about careers in energy and the Oklahoma Energy Workforce Consortium, visit oklahoma.getintoenergy.com.

About Oklahoma Energy Workforce Consortium

Oklahoma Energy Workforce Consortium is a partnership among Oklahoma energy companies and organizations with a mission to raise awareness about the energy industry and career pathways available to Oklahoma students. The consortium represents energy industry, education, government and community leaders united to build a talent pipeline for Oklahoma’s energy sector. The full list of consortium members can be viewed at oklahoma.getintoenergy.com.

Oklahoma CareerTech Students Win NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Awards

Three Oklahoma CareerTech students received the National Center for Women & Information Technology Award for Aspirations in Computing.

They were honored at an April 23 awards ceremony at the Tom Love OU Innovation Hub on the University of Oklahoma-Norman campus.

Madelyn McDonald, a cyber defense student at Moore Norman Technology Center, received the Aspirations in Computing Award.

Favour Aloziem, a Computer Science Academy student at Francis Tuttle Technology Center, and Sara Kennedy, a pre-engineering/robotics student at Southern Technology Center, received honorable mention recognition.

Award recipients were selected from more than 3,500 applicants from all 50 U.S. states; Washington, D.C.; Guam; Puerto Rico; the U.S. Virgin Islands; U.S. overseas military bases; and Canada. Selections were based on outstanding aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing as demonstrated by computing experience, computing-related activities, leadership experience, tenacity in the face of barriers to access and plans for postsecondary education.

“Encouraging all students’ interest in technology careers is critical: Our workforce needs their creativity and unique perspectives to produce technology that is as broad and innovative as the population it serves,” said NCWIT CEO and co-founder Lucy Sanders.

CareerTech Named CyberPatriot Center of Excellence

Oklahoma CareerTech has been named a CyberPatriot Center of Excellence by the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot program.

CyberPatriot is the AFA’s National Youth Cyber Education Program. It was created to inspire K-12 students to enter careers in cybersecurity and other science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines critical to the future of the United States. The CyberPatriot program includes the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition for high school and middle school students, AFA CyberCamps and the Elementary School Cyber Education Initiative and Literature Series.

Since the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education took leadership of the Oklahoma CyberPatriot program, participation has more than doubled, said Kristi Akehurst, program specialist and information technology cluster team leader in CareerTech’s business, marketing and information technology division.

“Oklahoma CareerTech is proud to be recognized as a CyberPatriot Center of Excellence,” said Lee Denney, ODCTE interim state director. “CareerTech is dedicated to advancing CyberPatriot’s mission to promote more interest in cybersecurity careers or other science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines critical to U.S. security.”

In a letter of support, AFA Gerrity 215 Chapter President Jeff James wrote that the program in Oklahoma has grown from 30-50 teams to more than 100 teams since it moved to CareerTech.

Through CareerTech’s participation, James has been able to speak to teachers from across Oklahoma to grow the Elementary School Education Initiative, and CyberPatriot representatives attend CareerTech local, regional, state and national conferences to share information through vendor booths.

CareerTech has also hosted many CyberCamp programs on technology center campuses throughout the state.

CyberPatriot instructors host train-the-trainer programs each summer for potential coaches and mentors, Akehurst said; students, coaches and mentors receive training each fall at CareerTech locations around the state. Students compete locally and at state contests, and instructors and trainers are supported through recognition dinners and stipends hosted by ODCTE and AFA, she said.

“We value our instructors and students who are involved in the Oklahoma CyberPatriot program,” she added.

Oklahoma CareerTech manages the curriculum and shares it through a learning management system provided to all of the instructors in the state.

Oklahoma CareerTech Students Win NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Awards 

Three Oklahoma CareerTech students received the National Center for Women & Information Technology Award for Aspirations in Computing.

They were honored at an April 23 awards ceremony at the Tom Love OU Innovation Hub on the University of Oklahoma-Norman campus.

Madelyn McDonald, a cyber defense student at Moore Norman Technology Center, received the Aspirations in Computing Award.

Favour Aloziem, a Computer Science Academy student at Francis Tuttle Technology Center, and Sara Kennedy, a pre-engineering/robotics student at Southern Technology Center, received honorable mention recognition.

Award recipients were selected from more than 3,500 applicants from all 50 U.S. states; Washington, D.C.; Guam; Puerto Rico; the U.S. Virgin Islands; U.S. overseas military bases; and Canada. Selections were based on outstanding aptitude and aspirations in technology and computing as demonstrated by computing experience, computing-related activities, leadership experience, tenacity in the face of barriers to access and plans for postsecondary education.

“Encouraging all students’ interest in technology careers is critical: Our workforce needs their creativity and unique perspectives to produce technology that is as broad and innovative as the population it serves,” said NCWIT CEO and co-founder Lucy Sanders.

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, 399 PK-12 school districts, 13 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities and 32 adult basic education service providers.

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

About NCWIT

NCWIT is a nonprofit community that convenes, equips and unites change leader organizations to increase the influential and meaningful participation of girls and women — at the intersections of race/ethnicity, class, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status and other historically marginalized identities — in the field of computing, particularly in terms of innovation and development. Find out more at www.ncwit.org.

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.

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