*Oklahoma's network of 29 technology centers on 59 campuses serves high school and adult learners with specialized career training in more than 90 instructional areas. High school students living in a technology center district attend tuition free, while adults are charged nominal tuition. Technology center students also are able to earn highly affordable and transferable college credit from area colleges in many career majors.
With the impact today's technology has upon the professional world, many students find themselves better prepared for college and careers after completing CareerTech instruction.
I did not like school. I did not excel at school. I did not feel challenged. I simply did not care, which, upon reflection, could have been why I didn’t feel challenged or excel. That all changed when I had the opportunity my junior and senior year to attend vo-tech, now referred to as “Career Tech”. Vo-Tech was a godsend for me. I got to spend half of my day actually learning something that would benefit me later on in life and it made it a little easier to get up in the morning and go to “school”. I was an average student in high school but was near the top of the class at vo-tech, which didn’t make sense to some, but was perfectly logical to me. I was learning a skill that would carry me over into adulthood, and (though I didn’t realize at the time) would have a big impact on my career. I knew I would not go to college. I know that my parents would have loved if I would have, but were very supportive in my desire to attend tech instead.
Paden High School, where I attended 13 years of school, was in the Gordon Cooper Technology Center district in Shawnee, so that was where I attended 2 years of tech training. I really wanted to take a business course, with accounting being my top choice. Unfortunately it was a pretty popular course and I got put into the marketing and management course instead, which turned out to be just where I needed to be for future endeavors. The first year was focused on marketing. We learned how to market a product, a business, and ourselves. We did hands on projects. One such group project was marketing a loaf of bread. We toured everything from the farm where wheat was grown, to the mill where flour was made and sold, to the kitchen where the bread was made. Things that were interesting, held my attention, and made sense where they fell in line with things in the real world. Unlike algebra, these classes were filled with things that I could easily see helping me to make a living after high school.
My second year focused on management, from time to employees to a whole business. We covered it all. The project I remember from my senior year, maybe because I was class president and got to do more than most students, was a bowl-a-thon benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Association. First off, that was dear to my heart because the year before my grandma had passed away from MD so I knew how it could affect a family. Second, as I said, Madam President got to do a whole lot more work. I remember making phone calls to solicit sponsors for the event, scheduling the bowling alley, presenting the event to each of the other classes at tech, scheduling the participants times and lanes to bowl in, and managing the funds raised. How much more hands on can a class get? It was great experience for the future and it wasn’t boring history class that would not help me gain much of anything in my future. Sorry history teachers, no offense to you. I do actually wish now that I would have paid a little more attention in history class just for the sake of it being fun but I did not see the use when I was younger.
Fast forward to a month or two after high school graduation when I started working in a bank as a teller, interacting with customers, managing my cash drawer, and as a teller, being a face for the bank. My vo-tech training set me up to succeed with all those tasks. Sometime later I went to work in my family’s business, Davenport’s Archery. I started out only doing book keeping and soon I was doing (almost) everything! Bookkeeping, sales, marketing, managing schedules, the works. Again, my vo-tech training helped with those tasks. Then, a few years ago now, I started my own business. Like the family business, I handled everything including hiring employees and making time schedules. Yup, you guessed it. . .my vo-tech training helped with those tasks. As any business owner can tell you, you never really get a handle on all those tasks, but at least with the vo-tech training I knew which questions to ask rather than flying blind!
While nearly half of Oklahoma high school students are enrolled in a local technology center like I was, they are not just for high school students. I remember one student in my class who was well over 50 and wanting to learn a new skill so she could do something besides work in the fast food industry. Since 93 percent of full time tech students have positive placement, either employed, college, or military, she was *really* improving her chances to succeed. Had she wanted to go on to college, some of the courses will transfer to college credit.
While full time courses at tech schools get the spotlight, there are also personal interest courses and continuing education or certification courses. The personal interest courses are normally taught by folks in the community who are not professional teacher but love what they do. Several years ago I started taking some cooking classes, from cake decorating to Mexican food. I used the techniques and recipes when running my café. I now am teaching several of those cooking classes at Meridian Tech in Stillwater. I started a couple years ago with 3 or 4 classes a semester and now I am up to 15 or so classes a semester.
Food is something I am passionate about and I love teaching others what I know. I have absolutely no professional training but I think I am able to relate and be down to earth with my students. One of my favorite classes teaches people to make pies from scratch. Each student makes 3 pie crusts from scratch. One crust is filled with a cream filling and the other two are used for a fruit pie. The students take both of their pies home with them. . .at least the part of their pies they don’t eat on the way home! I fully expected this class to be full of younger ladies who wanted to learn to make pie. I was wrong! I have had everything from 18 year old girls to 70+ year old grandpas.
Another popular class is Sushi for Beginners. I do not profess to be a sushi master, but I can teach you the technique so that you can go home and play with your food. I had one class where there was a group of friends in their early 20s. At the end of each class there is a survey to fill out, one question being “How will this training will help you?” One of the young men responded to that question with this answer: “Maybe find me a girlfriend.” I loved it! These young men were taking cooking classes so they can impress the girls. I guess they were trying to learn how to cook up some bait!
The personal interest classes are great for an evening out with friends. Most are in the $25 to $30 dollar price range and last for 3 hours. There aren’t many things you can go and have a good time and learn a new skill for that price! I scanned a few of the area tech centers brochures and they all offer all types of classes. Photography, computer skills, wood working, cooking. . .you name it and a tech in your area probably can teach you how to do it! Some classes are even targeted for families. You get a great opportunity to spend a few hours with your kids and they learn a skill and have fun while doing it.
So, whether you are a high school student that isn’t sure you want to go to college but want to learn a skill that can place you into a job as soon as you graduate, or you are interested in learning or improving a new skill, look at your local tech center! College isn’t for everyone and tech can put you, or your high school graduate, into a job that can make as much or more money than a 4 year college degree. . .and it’s free for high school students!