Category Archives: Technology Centers

CareerTech Conversations – John Day, T&I Program Manager

We sat down with John Day, state programs manager for Trade and Industrial Education, to discuss CareerTech’s impact in filling the skills gap in numerous licensed trades.

CareerTech Champions

Dylan Moore – Mid-America Technology Center

The high school graduate from Elmore City saw a Facebook post about a new training program at Mid-America Technology Center and thought it might check off two boxes on his career checklist – money and travel.

Moore enrolled in Mid-America’s first lineworker technology class, and his instructor, Bruce Beam, said Moore met the challenge head-on and quickly became a sought-after employee.

“He always came to class ready to learn,” Beam said.

Beam uses a combination of indoor and outdoor labs and theory-based instruction, covering everything from pole climbing and framing to principles of electrical transmission and distribution. Students graduate with the skills they need to become high-voltage journeymen-lineworkers.

Moore is also a specialist E-4 in the U.S. Army Reserves, and it was his sergeant who told him about a job opening at MDR Powerline Construction in Stillwater. He was hired and started work just three days after his last class at Mid-America.

MDR specializes in constructing, repairing and upgrading utility lines, responding to everything from storm restoration to heavy construction. After two months on the job, Moore is making $24 an hour.

Beam described Moore as a “good student with a great attitude.”

CareerTech Left Out of Workforce Discussion

By Brent Haken

Acknowledging missed opportunities to lure new businesses to Oklahoma, state leaders are confronting the state’s shortage of skilled workers with plans to explore and overhaul the way we deliver and fund workforce development in Oklahoma.

We agree that more should be done to meet the state’s demand for highly skilled workers.

Enrollments within Oklahoma’s CareerTech System totaled 446,940 in fiscal 2022, and membership in Oklahoma CareerTech student organizations such as FFA and FCCLA has soared to an all-time high of 97,385.

Yet, Oklahoma can’t keep up with demand for skilled workers for high-growth industries. The waiting lists for training programs at many of the state’s 29 CareerTech technology centers remain insufferably long, despite higher enrollments amid stagnant state funding.

Oklahoma CareerTech has been training students of all ages for rewarding careers for more than 100 years and is well positioned to help meet the labor demands of Oklahoma’s growing economy. We think Oklahoma CareerTech can and should play a starring role in the state’s efforts to attract high-tech industries and provide highly trained workers.

However, we are disappointed and surprised that Oklahoma CareerTech has been excluded from a state task force, a workforce commission and a new select committee charged with reviewing and restructuring workforce development in the state. Oklahoma is regularly recognized by other states for having one of the best CareerTech systems in the nation.

Through an alliance of teachers, administrators and business owners, we think Oklahoma CareerTech has a lot to offer to the state’s plan to create a workforce solution and should have a seat at the table for these important discussions.

Since becoming an independent state agency in 1968, Oklahoma CareerTech has built a reputation for pursuing innovative ideas that break from tradition and the accepted paradigm.

Despite an expansion of career-based curriculums, the state and nation are facing an era of chronic skills shortages, the result of rapid automation, digital transformation and a workforce exodus of retiring baby boomers. Oklahoma companies are dealing with a growing talent problem, one that has the potential to become a strategic bottleneck.

Oklahoma CareerTech has been reaching more students with customized training developed in cooperation with Oklahoma businesses. Matching the talent with the needs of businesses can be complicated. That’s where CareerTech comes in.

Businesses haven’t been able to hire enough people with the right skills because the skills just keep changing. A strategy for upskilling is vital to the future of every business.

Our ability to respond quickly to changing workforce needs and bring innovation to Oklahoma classrooms is core to CareerTech’s mission.  We have a long track record of breaking down barriers and building bridges between secondary schools, postsecondary schools and business and industry. This is the tenet behind career and technology education.

Because of its experience and long history of helping Oklahomans find rewarding careers, Oklahoma CareerTech should have a leading voice in the state’s discussions to improve workforce development. Right now, CareerTech is noticeably absent from several proposals to review and restructure the current system.

The state’s decision-makers should be fully informed about the potential growth of career and technology education in Oklahoma and what it can do to help solve the state’s talent problem. CareerTech has a lot to contribute to the discussion and can lend the expertise needed to craft a workforce solution that works for all Oklahomans.

If you would like to learn more, visit our website at

Brent Haken is the state director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

CareerTech Champions

Valerie Dowis – High Plains Technology Center

There’s not much Valerie Dowis hasn’t done. A graduate of Fort Hays State University in Kansas, Dowis was a radiologic technologist for nine years, performing X-rays, CT scans, mammograms and fluoroscopic procedures.

The job market was tight in the area around her northwest Oklahoma home, so she decided to look into other career options. First, she drove a water truck in the oil field. Three years later, Dowis discovered High Plains Technology Center’s wind energy program.

Dowis enrolled at High Plains, where she learned about basic safety and electrical systems and how a turbine works. A job opportunity was waiting for her as soon as she completed the program, and she went to work as a wind tech with NextEra Energy Resources.

She quickly worked her way up in the company, accepting the site manager position when it became available, and was recently promoted to regional wind site manager.

“The training allowed me to get my foot in the door with NextEra, an opportunity I may not have had otherwise,” she said.

According to Dowis, her career has soared in the last five and a half years. She described every day as “an exciting day to go to work.” 

“It never gets boring,” Dowis said. “Because I love what I do, compensation isn’t even the most important piece of my career. But it’s a very nice perk.” 

In addition to her work at NextEra, Dowis said she also saves money by using her skills at home, doing electrical work she would have had to hire someone to do. 

“High Plains Technology Center is where it all began,” she said. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the need for wind turbine technicians will grow more than 50 percent by the end of this decade. 

Tulsa Tech Student, Instructor Share a History

A new Tulsa County sheriff’s deputy and a Tulsa Technology Center instructor met in class decades after a deadly shooting.

Their story, reported by KJRH in Tulsa, began when Michael Brown, then an officer in the Tulsa Police Department, had to notify the family after a man was shot and killed by police. The man’s daughter, in elementary school at the time, was among the first class to graduate from the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office’s new academy.

The new deputy, Aaliyah Sanchez, was a student of Brown’s at Tulsa Tech, where he is the senior instructor of the criminal justice program. Read more about their story on the KJRH website.

Oklahomans Honored for ‘Making It Work’

The Oklahoma Career and Technical Education Equity Council honored 17 Oklahomans and three businesses and organizations at the 29th annual Making It Work Day at the Capitol on March 6.

Making It Work Day recognizes nontraditional students and individuals who are committed to removing barriers to success for single-parent families by providing educational experiences for students beyond the classroom. The ceremony was held in the rotunda at the Oklahoma Capitol.

Outstanding Graduate recipients were Myranda Strain, Northern Oklahoma College; Katelynn Jones, Tulsa Technology Center; and Rosebud Benally, Moore Norman Technology Center. Outstanding Non-Traditional Graduate recipients were Angel Rodriguez, Metro Technology Centers; and Alice Roughface, Caddo Kiowa Technology Center.

Making It Work Day Spotlight Award recipients were Deborah Morgan, OSU-OKC; Blake McCrabb, Mid-Del Technology Center; Ramona Smith, Carl Albert State College; and Dale Latham, Southwest Technology Center.

Outstanding Instructor recipients were Suzanne Damon, Mid-Del Tech; Leslie Pfrehm, Moore Norman Technology Center; and Mary Turner, Oklahoma City Community College. Outstanding Instructor of Non-Traditional Students recipient was Gail Sperry, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.

Outstanding Business and Industry Partner recipients were Healing Hands Veterinary Wellness Center, Oklahoma City; Bo Gwin, Sharpe’s Department Store Okmulgee manager; Holly Lantagne, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma – Norman office; and Oklahoma City VA Healthcare System. Outstanding Community Partner recipients were Janna Pelletier, Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Garfield County; Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma; and Carol Hinex, Oklahoma Department of Human Services – Region II, Shawnee.

“OkCTEEC is very excited this year to be able to host the Making It Work Day event once again at the Oklahoma state Capitol,” said KayTee Niquette, Work Prep and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families coordinator at the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. “It is the perfect venue to showcase the achievements of our students at both the CareerTech and community college level, as well as those community and business partners that have assisted our students in their educational and employment pursuits. The opportunity for legislators to be able to hear our students’ stories and see the difference our programs make is just priceless.”

She serves as an adviser for OkCTEEC, along with Lisa French of the Department of Human Services and Gina McPherson of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

“OkCTEEC is delighted to host Making It Work Day for another year. We honor our remarkable awardees at the state Capitol for their tireless efforts, commitment and resilience. Our programs, students, graduates, instructors and business and community partners around Oklahoma strive to create a positive change in the lives of families in the state. We take immense pride in recognizing and celebrating their contributions,” said Kelly Vinson, OkCTEEC president and director of Project Achieve at Northern Oklahoma College.

OkCTEEC is affiliated with the administrative division of the Oklahoma Association of Career and Technology Education. The council advocates for students pursuing nontraditional careers and for resources for educating single parents.

OkCTEEC’s purposes include promoting and supporting career and technology education, increasing its effectiveness, promoting research in the field and in educational equity, developing leadership and advocating for equity and diversity.

For more information about OkCTEEC, visit For more information about the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, visit

Oklahoma CareerTech: Oklahoma’s Workforce Solution

Oklahoma CareerTech is known for being nimble and flexible, quickly adapting to the needs of industry in Oklahoma. In addition to 29 technology centers across the state, Oklahoma CareerTech provides training through 391 PK-12 school districts, 15 Skills Centers, 32 Adult Education and Family Literacy providers and Work-Based Learning programs.

Tulsa Tech Student, Instructor Share a History

A new Tulsa County sheriff’s deputy and a Tulsa Technology Center instructor met in class decades after a deadly shooting.

Their story, reported by KJRH in Tulsa, began when Michael Brown, then an officer in the Tulsa Police Department, had to notify the family after a man was shot and killed by police. The man’s daughter, in elementary school at the time, was among the first class to graduate from the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office’s new academy.

The new deputy, Aaliyah Sanchez, was a student of Brown’s at Tulsa Tech, where he is the senior instructor of the criminal justice program.

Read more about their story on the KJRH website.

CareerTech Champions

Science Academies Opened Doors to Medical Careers (and Romance) for Recent CareerTech Grads

What do sauerkraut and kombucha have to do with CareerTech? Both the holistic tea and the German cabbage dish involve fermentation, a process Ashley Powers said she learned about in the biomedical sciences program at Red River Technology Center in Duncan, Oklahoma 10 years ago.

Dr. Ashley Watson

Ashley enrolled at the technology center in high school. She wanted to become a doctor, but she was homeschooled and didn’t have access to the hands-on educational experiences that would be available at Red River.

At the tech center, she learned to make sauerkraut and kombucha, which she occasionally makes at home. But that science-based cooking lesson was just one of many life-changing benefits of the biomed program.

Flash forward nearly a decade, and Ashley Powers is now Dr. Ashley Watson. She is a resident physician at Capital Region Medical Center in Jefferson City, Missouri. In 2024, she hopes to complete her residency and receive her board certification.  

She credits Red River for helping her reach her career goals, but she gives additional credit to HOSA, for introducing her to her future husband and medical colleague.

Dr. Tyler Watson

HOSA is a co-curricular organization for students interested in health careers. Ashley’s involvement in that CareerTech student organization at Red River led her to Tyler Watson, then HOSA state president. Their paths hadn’t crossed at school, because Tyler attended Francis Tuttle Technology Center. Ashley was president of her local HOSA chapter, however, and one day she reached out to Tyler for advice.

“She was looking at colleges and wanted to know more about the biology/pre-med program at the University of Oklahoma,” Tyler said. “We started talking, and the rest is history.”

(Well, the rest is science, actually.)

Today, Tyler is completing his medical residency in Missouri, alongside his wife.  Like Ashley, he credits Oklahoma CareerTech for laying the groundwork for his medical career.

In 2013, Tyler was a Putnam City High School student. He said he enrolled in Francis Tuttle’s biosciences and medicine academy because he wanted a challenge. The academy offered that challenge, as well as insight into potential career paths.

“I loved science and I knew I wanted to pursue more rigorous training than what my high school alone could offer,” Tyler said, “but I wasn’t yet committed to a specific career path.”

In their respective programs at separate tech centers, the two received invaluable technical skills as well as life skills. Ashley said Red River prepared her for the rigorous medical training that followed. Her new acquired skill set included public speaking, study skills, and an understanding of experimental design.

“These skills have made my life richer and have made transitions through seasons in my career go more smoothly,” she said.

Tyler also credits CareerTech for his public speaking skills.

“I’m fairly shy by nature,” he said. “I still struggle with public speaking but learning those foundational skills as a high schooler allowed me to compensate for and improve my social interactions over time, giving me confidence to approach intimidating situations.”

Francis Tuttle also helped Tyler become more adaptable, he said. An important life skill for a student and a doctor.

“Learning to adapt early to academic challenges and new situations has made life run more smoothly,” he said.

After graduating from their respective technology centers, the Watsons followed nearly identical higher education paths, eventually receiving their Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degrees from Oklahoma State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.

For Tyler and Ashley, CareerTech was a college-prep experience. But Tyler said for some of their fellow HOSA members, CareerTech was their primary vocational training.

“CareerTech directly and successfully prepared them for a career,” Tyler said. “For all of us, choosing CareerTech showed a dedication to improving skills necessary for a career.”

Ashley’s CareerTech experience offered her the applied learning experience she had wanted as a high schooler.

“CareerTech grads offer employers a spectrum of highly-qualified individuals who have experienced hands-on training beyond what an academic-only setting can provide,” she said. “They are an essential part of today’s workforce.”  

They’ve studied together, worked together and lived together. But even though their education and career paths have been similar, their approaches to medicine are different, according to Tyler. As a result, the two have learned to divide up tasks according to each person’s strengths.

“I’m more mechanically minded and better at administration,” Tyler said, “and Ashley tends to be more holistically minded and better at public relations.”

After the Watsons receive their board certifications, they plan to return to Oklahoma to practice medicine. 

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.

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