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Director's Column - March 2022

Thursday, March 10, 2022

By Lee Denney

CareerTech providing an education for our times

As a former state lawmaker, I have long admired Oklahoma’s CareerTech System for the work it does to help Oklahoma students discover rewarding careers and Oklahoma businesses meet their workforce needs.

As CareerTech’s new interim director, I’ve spent the last few weeks meeting with the talented and dedicated staff of CareerTech. From those meetings and conversations, it’s easy to see why other states regularly deem Oklahoma CareerTech a model for CareerTech education.

Since becoming an independent agency in 1968, Oklahoma CareerTech has built a reputation for pursuing innovative ideas that break from tradition and the accepted paradigm. By thinking outside the box, Oklahoma CareerTech has been able to reach more students with customized training developed in tandem with Oklahoma businesses.

This pioneering spirit continues today, as CareerTech invests in emerging technologies and new learning methods to provide an education for our times. These efforts require a broad approach that reaches adults, secondary students, postsecondary students and inmates.

Altogether, CareerTech provides training to nearly half a million Oklahoma students through a network of 394 PK-12 school districts, 29 technology centers, 13 skills centers and 31 adult basic education providers. That includes more than 116,000 fifth through 12th graders in PK-12 school districts across the state. Nearly 30% of fifth through 12th graders and nearly 40% of ninth through 12th graders were enrolled in CareerTech courses in fiscal 2021.

Also, more than 92,000 Oklahoma students are learning important leadership skills as members of the seven co-curricular CareerTech student organizations: Business Professionals of America; DECA; Family, Career and Community Leaders of America; FFA; HOSA; SkillsUSA; and Technology Student Association.

Inmate Training

You may not know that CareerTech plays a starring role in helping inmates make successful transitions to the workplace by teaching them the skills they need to be productive and employable.

Through CareerTech’s Skills Centers Division, the agency provides training in several fields, including manufacturing, transportation, distribution and logistics, construction, business management and administration.

The training is provided at 13 skills center sites statewide. The statewide school system recently received a grant to open a new skills center at the Northeast Oklahoma Community Corrections Center in Vinita. It also saw the first class of female inmates graduate from a truck driver training class.

In fiscal 2021, enrollment in CareerTech skills centers totaled 893. More than 91% of those who completed training were positively placed in employment with an average hourly wage of $14.81. Offenders who find employment are less likely to return to crime.

Aerospace Campaign Launched

Aerospace is the second largest industry in the state, and it is looking for qualified personnel in every sector of the industry, including aircraft maintenance, unmanned aerial systems and general aviation. CareerTech offers a wide range of courses that prepare students not only for a career in aerospace but for training opportunities that go beyond CareerTech.

We recently launched a new video series highlighting career and training opportunities in Oklahoma’s aerospace industry. Over the next few months, CareerTech will release about 40 videos featuring the stories of people working and training in nearly every sector of aviation and aerospace.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in aerospace, I encourage you to watch the series. The videos can be found on CareerTech’s website at

The series, titled “Clear for Takeoff: Get Trained in Oklahoma Aerospace,” was developed over several months in cooperation with the ACES program at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. These videos highlight the value of aviation and aerospace training and the rewarding careers it can lead to.

These are just a couple of examples of the work CareerTech is doing to help Oklahoma industries meet their workforce needs and to provide students multiple pathways to explore their interests and discover a rewarding career. If you would like to learn more, visit our website at

Useful links

Follow us on Twitter at @okcareertech and find us on Facebook at OklahomaCareerTech and on Instagram at oklahomacareertech and read our blog, Oklahoma CareerTech Delivers. Find our podcast at

For news about Oklahoma’s CareerTech System, subscribe to CareerTech communications.

Lee Denney is the interim state director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. Denney served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2004 to 2016. During her last two years in office, she served as speaker pro tempore.

Last Modified on Nov 22, 2023