By definition, the word “silo” means to isolate. In education, a silo is a simple concept that keeps things compartmentalized.
By design, career and technical education exists to break down 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 has nearly half a million enrollments each year through a network of 39 school districts, 29 technology centers, 17 skills centers and 32 Adult Education and Family Literacy providers. What’s more, most CareerTech programs offer connections between secondary and postsecondary courses.
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 may choose to avoid sharing or collaborating with colleagues in different systems. Silos can pit district against district, school against school and department against department. As a result, resources are wasted, productivity declines and achievement wanes.
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 a career and college. 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 2021, Oklahoma CareerTech programs had a 91% positive placement rate, which means nearly all CareerTech graduates found employment, entered the military or continued their education.
In addition, more than 95,000 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 6,600 companies in 2022 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.
If you would like to learn more about Oklahoma CareerTech, visit our website at okcareertech.org.
Brent Haken is the director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.