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CareerTech Connects Industry Needs with Workers’ Skills through Credentials

CareerTech students can earn credentials to show they have the skills needed in the workplaces of today and tomorrow.
CareerTech Connects Industry Needs with Workers’ Skills through Credentials

VF Jeanswear's Seminole Distribution Center uses Career Readiness Certificates to identify applicants who already have the foundation of skills they need to do the job.

Oct. 21, 2013

How do you know you’re studying for a job that exists? And how do you show that you know how to do the job before you get it?

Both questions have the same answer: credentials.

“Industry credentials are an invaluable way to connect industry skill set needs with individuals’ skill sets,” said Robert Sommers, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education state director and Oklahoma secretary of education and workforce development. “Credentials are the communications tool between employers and potential employees. They also help education providers with understanding specific business needs. Industry credentials are the currency of workplace employment transactions.”

The CareerTech System offers paths to many different credentials, many of which are industry-certified or aligned to state or national standards. For the 2013-14 school year, more than 600 certification assessments are available to CareerTech students.

CareerTech offers preparation for all of the certification assessments, although technology centers administer only some of the tests, said Jennifer Nuttle, CareerTech assessment manager. Other agencies and industry organizations administer the other assessments.

CareerTech prepares students for six different kinds of assessments, five of which are industry-recognized, -administered or -endorsed or are aligned with national industry standards or state standards. The sixth type of assessment includes end-of-instruction tests developed by CareerTech that do not align to industry standards, usually because no standards have been created, said Kimberly Sadler, CareerTech associate state director for instructional systems.

In those cases, Nuttle said, “CareerTech works with industry employers to develop standards that will drive test development.”

Experts in the subject write the tests, and a panel of experts reviews them, she said.

“Since most CareerTech instructors were employed in the industry prior to teaching, they are an invaluable resource during the test development and review process,” she added.

CareerTech’s assessments also include the Oklahoma Career Readiness Certificate, which can be earned by taking three assessments in the ACT WorkKeys system: applied mathematics, locating information and reading for information. The certificate is endorsed by the National Association of Manufacturers, NCCER and the Center for Energy Workforce Development.

“We offer the CRC as an avenue to improve the quality of life for Oklahomans,” said Susan Kuzmic, CareerTech CRC project specialist. “The job seeker has an opportunity to find out what skills he or she has and develop a road map for improvement. The CRC also takes the guesswork out of hiring for the employer and streamlines the hiring and promotion process.”

David Forgety, human resources manager at VF Jeanswear Seminole Distribution Center, said CRCs have helped his company reduce job training time and improve productivity and earnings because VF Jeanswear can identify applicants who already have a foundation of skills they need to do the job.

The number of students earning credentials through CareerTech is hard to come by because not all of the assessments are offered through CareerTech – or even at technology centers where the students learned the material. Privacy concerns often keep testing entities from releasing results to third parties, which means CareerTech must rely on students to report the information, Nuttle said.

“This makes it difficult not only to accurately determine the number of students taking outside industry-recognized tests, but also those receiving credentials as a result of passing one of these tests,” she explained.

In recent years, state and national legislation and initiatives have called for more assessments to ensure that students are ready for the workplace. CareerTech is well-placed to take on that task, Sommers said.

“CareerTech is especially well-suited to help individuals learn the academic and technical content required for industry-driven credentials and certificates,” he said. “These credentials, especially those that are gatekeepers to employment within a profession, are valuable to individuals seeking employment. They are also valuable to employers trying to make well-informed employment decisions.”

For more information about the CareerTech System, visit www.okcareertech.org.

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education provides leadership and resources and assures standards of excellence for a comprehensive statewide system of career and technology education. The system offers programs and services in 29 technology center districts operating on 57 campuses, 393 comprehensive school districts and 13 Skills Centers campuses that include three juvenile facilities.

The agency is governed by the State Board of Career and Technology Education and works closely with the State Department of Education and the State Regents for Higher Education to provide a seamless educational system for all Oklahomans.

By Laura Wilson, writer/editor