Sunday, February 11, 2024

Pinnell: CareerTech is the key to OK's workforce development success

by Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell

      February is National Career and Technical Education Month, and as Secretary of Workforce and Economic Development, there’s nothing I love to brag on more than Oklahoma 

CareerTech. It’s no secret that our CareerTech system is one of the best in the country. Our 29 technology centers provide 121 unique degree programs, giving Oklahomans across all 77 counties the opportunity to turn their passions into a paycheck. Oklahoma CareerTech graduates add more than $3.5 billion to the state economy each year and are an invaluable asset to our workforce. 

            Throughout my time as Lt. Governor, I have championed CareerTech and shared the important role it plays in advancing Oklahoma’s workforce and economy. I’ve toured our state-of-the-art CareerTech facilities and met with many of the educators and administrators that make it possible. But two years ago, I realized there was still one key element of the story I was missing – the students. That’s why I launched “A Look at Oklahoma CareerTech,” a video interview series where I listen to students’ stories firsthand and learn the impact CareerTech made on their lives. 

            I have interviewed students from across the state, each with unique degree plans and goals. Through their stories, I have learned about impactful faculty members, extracurriculars and internships, and resources to find jobs. Despite many differences between them, each student has come to the same conclusion: Oklahoma CareerTech is an excellent way to get a high-paying job in a fulfilling career without breaking the bank.  

            Many of the students I have interviewed chose a CareerTech education because it saves time and money. University degrees take, on average, 6 years to complete. Most Oklahoma CareerTech programs can be fully completed in ten months or less. Many of the CareerTech graduates I have interviewed completed some or all of their programs while still in high school, giving themselves the unique opportunity to graduate with both their high school diplomas and CareerTech certifications simultaneously and kickstart their careers early. In Oklahoma, high school students can enroll in CareerTech for no cost, giving them the incredible opportunity to receive career training for free. 

            One great example of this is Liam Bryan, a graduate of the Aviation Maintenance Technology program at Tulsa Technology Center. Because of Tulsa Tech’s career fairs and mechanic competition opportunities, Liam was courted for a job with Omni Air International while still in school. He graduated high school with a CareerTech certificate, no debt, and a high paying job in his dream career.  

      Another reason students choose Oklahoma CareerTech is because of the program flexibility and support. Our CareerTech system is dedicated to accommodating students' needs and supporting their unique paths to success. This especially is true for Nola Rodriquez, a Practical Nursing student at Caddo Kiowa Technology Center. Nola is a working mom of seven with big career goals. Because of her strong support system at Caddo Kiowa Tech, Nola has been able to work full time, raise her children, and care for ill family members all while pursuing her dream of becoming a nurse.  

      Finally, Oklahoma CareerTech prepares its students to be the best of the best. Many students I’ve spoken to have shared about prestigious awards, internships, and organizations they have been a part of because of their time at CareerTech. One great example is Jazlyn Hancock, a Culinary Arts graduate from Meridian Technology Center in Stillwater. Jazlyn recently returned from Paris, where she completed a two-month French Pastry Arts course and internship through the École Ducasse culinary academy. This highly competitive program required a rigorous application and interview process and only accepted 16 students from around the world. After learning a blend of modern and traditional techniques from experts in her field, Jazlyn brought invaluable experience back to Oklahoma, where she now works as a culinary educator at Meridian Tech. Our CareerTech schools offer a top-notch education, and graduates like Jazlyn are globally competitive in their fields. 

      It has been so fulfilling learning more about the impact of our world-class CareerTech system. This CareerTech Month and beyond, we must advocate for CareerTech as much as we do college. Now more than ever, I understand that CareerTech is key to Oklahoma’s workforce development success. Let’s continue investing in and promoting Oklahoma CareerTech; the future of our state is counting on it. 

Matt Pinnell serves at the 17th Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma and Secretary of Workforce and Economic Development on the Governor’s cabinet. The “A Look at Oklahoma CareerTech” series can be found on the Lt. Governor’s YouTube channel and Facebook page


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