New Career Tech program connects students and employers

Debates continue to swirl around canceling student loan debt and the cost of tuition and college fees that caused the debt in the first place. Meanwhile, a new Oklahoma CareerTech program will better connect employers and students interested in workplace learning.

Get Skilled Now (GSN) is a free online platform for CareerTech students and employers to find each other for on-the-job learning opportunities. The platform and mobile app will allow students and employers to search for specific criteria to find the best fit.

“We are very excited to expand our efforts to provide our students with real-world workplace exposure while simultaneously meeting the needs of area employers,” said Tammie Strobel, Tri County Superintendent and CEO. Tech (TCT) in Bartlesville. “Our face-to-face communication with business and industry professionals will continue, but this new technology will be a tremendous asset.”

TCT has been one of the premier CareerTech centers in the state for decades. Business development managers and TCT instructors work together to develop program-specific programs that align with changing business needs.

“In other settings, many students wonder how they will ever use what they are being taught,” says Strobel. “But our students know exactly why they are learning what is being taught and how they will use that knowledge in the real world.”

Job shadowing, internships and apprenticeships allow students to work shoulder to shoulder with qualified and experienced adults who are already working for a living.

In addition to TCT staff visiting employers, employers often visit TCT as members of an advisory committee.

“If you train, you will find work and well-paid work.” —Tammie Strobel, Superintendent and CEO of Tri County Tech

“They can see and use our equipment, technology and labs. They also review our program and provide invaluable input,” says Strobel. “We always strive to stay on top of workplace demands. As employers’ needs change, we want to change to meet those needs.

A key part of TCT’s success is having instructors return to the workplace during the summer months so they can engage in on-the-job learning.

“I recently honored one of our dental hygienists for her 20 years of teaching,” says Strobel. As you can imagine, a lot has changed for dental hygienists over the past 20 years. So every summer she goes to work for a local dentist. Every time she returns to class, she is excited to share what her students need to know and why they need to know it. »

“Amazon for the Workplace”

While TCT and Oklahoma’s other 28 technology centers will continue their work of connecting students and employers, the new GSN platform will make connections much faster. You could call it Amazon for the workplace.

The software and mobile app will allow students to search across the state for on-the-job training opportunities, clinical placements and full-time jobs. It will also allow employers to quickly engage students and their schools to build the workforce they need to succeed. Employers can search for students from across the state, a particular region, or a specific school.

Scheduled to go live later this fall, GSN will help employers with everything from recording agreements to final student assessments. Students will be able to log their working hours and give feedback. For employers and students, GSN will be accessible via a link on smartphones, laptops and tablets.

“There has always been a need for welders, heating and air technicians, plumbers, auto repairmen, machinists and health care workers, to name a few,” Strobel says. “And that need has skyrocketed since the pandemic. If you train, you will find work and a well-paid job.

“The value of a skilled workforce”

Mike Rowe, known for his TV show “Dirty Jobs”, has been a tireless advocate for the skilled trades and a strong advocate for vocational technology education. During testimony before a congressional committee in 2017, he noted that the favored mindset of “college for all” comes “at the expense of community colleges, trade schools and apprenticeship programs” .

Thus, all other educational opportunities began to feel subordinate. Additionally, the overall push toward college coincided with a wholesale removal of vocational arts from high schools across the country, and the effects of this one-two punch laid the foundation for not just a skills gap growing, but from a level of student debt that is massive, premature and completely unnecessary. I testified [previously] that tuition fees had skyrocketed, in part because thousands of well-meaning parents and guidance counselors were telling millions of children, regardless of individual ability, that their best hope for success was the path the most expensive available. The pressure on the children to borrow money was enormous. And, so, they did. As a result, tuition fees have risen faster than the cost of food, energy, real estate, and health care. I told the committee that this “cookie-cutter” approach to promoting higher education has led to thousands of graduates with expensive degrees from excellent schools, but no prospects in their chosen field and no means to repay their student loans. Alas, I have nothing new to tell you. Our growing skills gap, the disappearance of vocational education and the stratospheric increase in college tuition…are symptoms of what we value. And right now, we need to reconnect the average American with the value of a skilled workforce.

With its Get Skilled Now platform, the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education is making this reconnection a reality.

Ryan H. Bowman