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CareerTech Critical to Economic Success

By Robert Sommers

July 29, 2013


The Oklahoma CareerTech System will hold its 46th annual conference and expo Aug. 1 in Oklahoma City. Thousands of educators and exhibitors will gather to advance their abilities to help high school and adult students receive meaningful education that provides economic security.

This conference comes at a time when state leaders are rolling up their sleeves to increase education attainment for Oklahomans, most notably through the governor’s Complete College America initiative. This laudable initiative is focused on increasing the number of industry certificates and degrees in the state by more than 50,000 by 2023. Oklahoma’s CareerTech System is a major contributor to these aggressive efforts.

Unfortunately, many Oklahomans perceive industry credentials as something less than college degrees. Recent research by Harvard and Georgetown universities, well-respected higher education institutions, are challenging these perceptions. These reports are calling for government officials, educators and CEOs to put greater emphasis on CareerTech and industry certificates.

Last month, Georgetown published a study calling certificates “bite-sized educational awards” that “provide the on-ramp” to college and good paying jobs. The report indicated that for incumbent workers, certificates are an effective way to get ahead, and for unemployed and underemployed people, certificates offer a jump start in the labor market.

The report also notes that on average, certificate holders earn 20 percent more than high school-educated workers. Incredibly, the report found certificate holders often earn more than those with associate or bachelor’s degrees. Specifically, the median male certificate holder earns more than 40 percent of men with associate degrees do and more than 24 percent of men with bachelor’s degrees do. The median female certificate holder earns more than 34 percent of women with associate degrees do and more than 24 percent of women with bachelor’s degrees do.

The report also found individuals with industry certificates pursue further education, often earning degrees later in their careers. Incredibly, individuals with industry certificates and degrees out-earn their degree-only counterparts.

Many CareerTech programs lead to industry certificates that are noted in these reports , and all CareerTech programs prepare students for further education and jobs. Our students are preparing for careers in alternative energy, agriculture, biosciences, technology and engineering, to name only a few.

Additionally, CareerTech tuition and overall costs are very low. High school students can earn industry certificates tuition-free. For adults, tuition costs are very low. This is important given the national student education debt crisis we face. Overall, costs are also very competitive. In fact, a recent independent study showed the state’s investment of $138 million resulted in CareerTech graduates adding $3.5 billion to Oklahoma’s economy.

CareerTech is rooted in Oklahoma’s history, but it is focused on the future. CareerTech is a critical partner in the quest to assure every Oklahoman is economically productive and every Oklahoma business has the workforce it needs to prosper.

Robert Sommers, Ed.D. is Oklahoma Secretary of Education and Workforce Development and the director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

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