Elaine Stith is stepping into a new role at Metro Technology Centers, but she's hardly an unfamiliar face.
Stith was named the new superintendent of the Oklahoma City-based CareerTech center last week. But after spending 18 years in various roles at the center, she's familiar with the role the six-campus system plays in the city and the services it offers its students.
For the past 10 years, Stith has served as the system's associate superintendent for student and instructional services. In that capacity, she said she has seen how the system's role has changed.
In the past, she said, students graduated high school and were often faced with the choice of going to college or training at a CareerTech center. That's no longer the case, she said — today's students often go through some combination of the two, sometimes graduating high school having already completed a professional certification from a CareerTech center.
“We prepare students for work and life,” she said. “That may mean going to college or it may mean exiting our programs and going right into the workforce.”
The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education is undergoing changes of its own, with greater emphasis placed on the number of professional certificates each of its campuses awards. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has called for a 67 percent increase in the number of college degrees and professional certificates earned in Oklahoma by 2023.
Although that initiative has largely been led by the office of the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education, state leaders have called CareerTech a key partner in that effort.
Higher education officials announced in September the state had surpassed its goal during the 2011-12 academic year. The state's public colleges and universities produced an additional 1,934 degrees and certificates that year compared to the year before, topping the goal of 1,700 degrees and certificates for all public and private colleges and universities, as well as CareerTech centers.
But officials warned that those results weren't likely to be repeated in years to come, since the students added during the first year of the initiative likely represented “low-hanging fruit.”
Oklahoma higher education Chancellor Glen Johnson has said CareerTech has a key role to play in the state's completion efforts, since the professional certificates it awards count toward the overall completion goals.
The system already offers computer training courses in that location, she said, but she hopes to see its offerings expand to focus on downtown businesses, particularly the energy sector.