Good conversation brews like fine coffee. It is flavorful and moderately stimulating. Even aromatic.
Among the good and necessary chats for families with a high school student is one that delves into the possibilities of future careers, suggests Dr. Gayla Lutts.
The goal should be providing answers to three questions, said Lutts, who is superintendent of Canadian Valley Technology Center’s three metro area campuses.
“What’s my purpose? Where is my passion? Will my career choice pay the bills when I no longer live at home?” Answering them determines what each student’s next step is, said Lutts, a 28-year educator and mother of three.
February is Career Tech Education Month as recognized by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, which is intent on raising awareness of the role that CTE has in readying students for careers and college.
Roughly half of Oklahoma’s more than 37,000 high school graduates each year enroll at an Oklahoma college or university, according to the most recent data provided by the state Regents for Higher Education. Only 23.7 percent complete a bachelor’s degree, according to U.S. Census figures.
“For about the past 50 years, the message to high school students has been that college is the only option for good-paying jobs,” Lutts said. “That thinking should expand to include Career Tech as a valuable path for enhancing a person’s skills and aptitudes, while preparing them for the workforce.
“Encouraging student achievement and endorsing life-long learning will benefit the individual as well as addressing the nationwide skills gap.”
A skills gap (or talent shortage) can exist when job seekers lack the skills employers need. Lutts’ statement is supported by the fact there are seven million unfilled American jobs, according to new data supplied by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Society for Human Resource Management claims the largest numbers of job openings are in health care, science, manufacturing (skilled trades), engineering and information technology. All of these are covered in some fashion by educational programs at CV Tech, Lutts said.
Career Tech is the umbrella organization for the state’s 29 technology centers. Its mission is “Empowering Oklahoma’s Economy.”
“I truly believe Career Tech is the solution for individuals and our society,” Lutts said. “Not only do individuals benefit by identifying education that relates to the purpose for their life, but communities prosper by having a skilled workforce. As the labor needs of companies are met, the economy benefits as well.”
CV Tech offers two dozen daytime career programs, nearly all of which include certifications being granted upon completion. These include education for aircraft and automotive mechanics, computer technicians, graphic designers, machinists, welders, and more.
The school also offers college-prep programs, such as Biomedical Sciences and Pre-Engineering. Twenty percent of CV Tech graduates pursued a college education last year. Most went to work. The school’s positive placement rate was 94 percent.
Canadian Valley is responding to industry needs by adding additional opportunities for students, Lutts said.
“CV Tech’s Board of Education supports our exploration of new educational opportunities for students and business and industry as well,” she said. “Our board is aligned with the mission and vision of the school, which is to prepare people to succeed in life and in the workplace.”
The board recently approved funding for construction at the Cowan Campus. This addresses an increased demand for careers in the health care industry, such as ophthalmology, surgical technology and monitor technology. CV Tech’s board is comprised of Christy Stanley, Penny Jones, Dean Riddell, Travis Posey, and Jimmie Vickrey.