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Director's Column - April 2022

Sunday, April 10, 2022

By Lee Denney

CareerTech breaking down silos

While silos are great for storing grain on the farm, they’re not so good for education.

In the business world, the silo mentality is described as a reluctance to share information or knowledge across different divisions within a company. Such attitudes reduce efficiency, lower morale, disrupt workflows and weaken the corporate culture. It’s a byproduct of competition between senior managers that is passed on to their employees.

The same is true in education as administrators often avoid sharing or collaborating with colleagues in different systems. Silos pit district against district, school against school and department against department. As a result, resources are wasted, productivity declines and achievement wanes.

By design, career and technical education exists to break down these educational silos by building bridges and removing barriers between secondary schools, postsecondary schools and business and industry. This is the tenet behind career and technical education, and it’s why Oklahoma CareerTech successfully trains nearly half a million students each year through a network of 394 school districts, 29 technology centers, 13 skills centers and 31 adult basic education providers. What’s more, most CareerTech programs offer connections between secondary and postsecondary courses.

Giving all stakeholders a voice and asking students, colleagues and communities what resources and support they need to be successful is innate in CareerTech’s mission to get students ready for college and career. As a result, Oklahoma CareerTech has been able to reach more students by customizing training developed in tandem with Oklahoma businesses.   

Oklahoma is regularly recognized by other states for having one of the best CareerTech systems in the nation. That’s because we’ve built a reputation for being inclusive and breaking through silos that traditionally separate the academic subjects from the skills and knowledge provided by career and technical education.

In fiscal 2020, Oklahoma CareerTech programs had a 93% positive placement rate, which means nearly all CareerTech graduates found employment, entered the military or continued their education.

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

Also, Oklahoma CareerTech served more than 5,600 companies in 2021 through our business and industry training programs, increasing profitability through some form of CareerTech service or training. These programs are customized to fit the needs of Oklahoma businesses.

None of these milestones were achieved in a silo. They are the result of collaboration between CareerTech and the many education systems and industry groups in Oklahoma to develop training materials, curriculums and programs that translate immediately to Oklahoma’s workforce needs.  

As we move ahead in this era of college and career readiness, CareerTech’s mission to provide Oklahomans skills to enter the workforce and make informed career choices has never been more relevant.

Breaking down the state’s educational silos begins with a vision, a vision similar to the one Oklahoma CareerTech adopted in 1968, when it became an independent agency under then State Director Francis Tuttle. Through collaboration and partnerships, Oklahoma CareerTech has been charting new paths for other states to follow ever since.

Making more progress in breaking down silos in education will take some time. Let’s take the time and leave the silos for the farmers.

If you would like to learn more about Oklahoma CareerTech, visit our website at okcareertech.org.

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 https://www.cthorizon.org/.

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 Jun 10, 2022