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Priorities in education have changed

Thursday, September 28, 2023

By Brent Haken

Priorities in education have changed

Preparing students for careers has become a higher priority for more Americans, according to a survey that underscores a strong shift toward practical skills.

Among those surveyed in 2022, preparing students for careers was the sixth highest priority, up sharply from the 27th highest priority in 2019, according to the Purpose of Education Index, an annual survey on education from Populace, a Massachusetts think tank.

The survey shows a drastic shift in priorities for America’s K-12 education system since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The outbreak disrupted K-12 education, prompting parents, educators and policymakers to question America’s approach to education.

More Americans now believe K-12 schools should redirect their efforts to equipping students “with practical skills that prepare them for life,” the survey found: “An education system that prepares students with practical skills for both life and career is among the top 15 priorities for the general population and most subgroups.”

As more Americans consider career readiness a top priority in education, the increased interest in career training has led to higher enrollments in the Oklahoma CareerTech System.

Through a network of 29 technology centers with 60 campuses, 397 PK-12 school districts, 16 Skills Centers sites and 32 adult education and family literacy providers, Oklahoma CareerTech recorded 489,635 enrollments in fiscal year 2023. That’s 9.5% higher than the total systemwide enrollments in the previous fiscal year.

In addition, membership in Oklahoma’s seven CareerTech student organizations such as FFA and TSA has jumped to an all-time high of 98,225.

The Populace survey points to a public desire to revamp American education in favor of practical skills and personalized curricula, said Todd Rose, co-founder and CEO of Populace.

“The COVID era fundamentally altered the way most of us view education and what our kids should get out of it,” Rose said. “Americans don’t want better; they want different.”

Luckily, your education system for teaching students practical skills is different. The Oklahoma CareerTech system, the most unique CareerTech system in the country, can and will meet that growing demand.

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 career training developed in tandem with Oklahoma businesses. CareerTech is known for breaking through barriers that traditionally separate the academic subjects from the skills and knowledge provided by career and technical education.

We’re seeing increasing participation in CareerTech programs among high school students in Oklahoma. More than 42% of all ninth through 12th graders in the state participated in a CareerTech program in fiscal year 2023.

Nineteen-year-old Kaden Wittig was one of those students.

As a high school junior at Broken Arrow High School, Wittig enrolled in a two-year film and television production program at Tulsa Technology Center and received several certifications. During his senior year, Tulsa television station KJRH hired him as a photographer and video editor.

Wittig recently celebrated his one-year anniversary at KJRH. He said he still applies many of the skills he learned at Tulsa Tech.

“After graduation, I came out of my program with a solid resume and certifications that have opened up a lot of career opportunities for me and will continue to do so,” Wittig said.

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

Brent Haken is the state director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

Last Modified on Sep 29, 2023