STILLWATER — An Ohio education services executive will be the next director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, officials announced.
Bob Sommers, of Middletown, Ohio, will begin work with CareerTech in April. Sommers is the chief executive officer of Carpe Diem Learning Systems, a learning services company.
Before going to work for Carpe Diem, Sommers served in several capacities with the Ohio Department of Education from 1986-2001. Before that, he served as superintendent of Butler Technology and Career Development Schools, a career-technical school district based in Hamilton, Ohio.
When he arrives, Sommers will replace former director Phil Berkenbile, who steps down Thursday. Kay Martin, former superintendent of Francis Tuttle Technology Center, will serve as interim director.
Sommers steps into his new role amid a major degree-completion effort that includes the department, as well as public and private colleges and universities across the state. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has called for a 67 percent increase in the number of college degrees and certificates earned in Oklahoma by 2023.
Higher education officials announced in September the state had surpassed its goal during the 2011-2012 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 department is in a good position to contribute to those efforts, Sommers said. Students who go through career and technical education courses tend to have a greater idea of what they want to do if they go on to college, he said. That makes them more likely to eventually complete their degrees.
CareerTech also gives students the skills to go to work when they graduate from high school and eventually go to college without incurring as much debt as if they financed their education through student loans.
Career and technical education also gives students a practical application for what they learn elsewhere. They may learn math and science in other courses, he said, but CareerTech courses show them how that knowledge can be put to work in the real world.
“It gives a sense of purpose,” he said. “CareerTech brings education to life.”