A proper kitchen is run by a chef with militarylike precision, a trait that made it a logical career choice for Ian Rutledge.
Rutledge, of Oklahoma City, served 10 years in the U.S. Army before leaving the service this year. Like many former soldiers, he discovered he needed to learn new career skills.
He had the option of using the GI Bill to go to school, but he couldn't see himself in college.
CareerTech was an alternative, and Rutledge took it.
He's a culinary student at Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City.
Members of the military can use their benefits to learn a trade at CareerTech, which is often a more desirable option for those who want to make a good living without spending four years as a full-time student.
“School has never been something I enjoyed,” Rutledge said. “There was always a big push for every high school student to go to college. That's just not for everyone.”
March Dunham, director of the Francis Tuttle School of Culinary Arts, said programs like his can be a good place for a former soldier.
“The basics are already built in there,” Dunham said.
“Organization, dress, cleaning — we say ‘Yes, chef,' and ‘No, chef,' in the kitchen.”
Culinary school isn't the only option.
Danny King is director of Francis Tuttle's Portland Campus, which focuses on manufacturing.
He said there aren't enough people, including veterans, taking advantage of training that can earn them starting salaries between $50,000 and $100,000 a year.
King said it's also a myth that there are no jobs in manufacturing.
“We're not training assembly line workers,” King said.
“We're training the maintenance people who keep those lines running.”
Oklahoma National Guard officials have pushed hard to help soldiers returning from deployments find work.
They said one of the biggest challenges is finding veterans jobs that pay what they have grown accustomed to earning while serving combat duty.
Programs such as King's and Dunham's make those jobs available.
Before Sept. 11, 2001, veterans couldn't use their GI Bill benefits on CareerTech programs.
Lawmakers changed that after wars in Iraq and Afghanistan led to a glut of veterans looking for work.
Many CareerTech schools also offer scholarships for veterans that include free tuition.
And unlike a four-year college, CareerTech training is relatively inexpensive, Dunham said.
“A four-year degree is going to cost you maybe $20,000 to $70,000 in tuition,” he said.
“Our program is $2,500. We offer such a great deal, people can't believe it's worth anything.”
It's worth a lot to someone like Rutledge.
“I'm 35 years old,” he said.
“I've been working since I was about 10. Cooking is something I enjoy. I've been cooking for my family since I was about 9 or 10. I want to run a diner.”