As Autry Technology Center nears its sixth decade in Enid, its new superintendent says the CareerTech center is keen on continuing to offer students “a buffet” of practical skills to learn.

Dwight Hughes, superintendent and CEO, began his position last fall. He said recently he expects the city’s health care and manufacturing industries to continue to grow, prompting Autry’s corporate training specialists to spend the most time working with those two sectors.

Getting hands-on education

The turnover from COVID, Hughes said, has called for more health care workers to come to Northwest Oklahoma, where no student residency program currently exists.

Hughes said he is grateful Autry’s students can learn trade skills in-person again with sessions back in full swing since the COVID pandemic began nearly two years ago. He said he would like Autry to eventually have a model hospital to serve as a backup facility for local hospital systems if future crises emerge.

Having grown up on a farm in western Oklahoma, Hughes said he personally understands the importance of having hands-on learning.

“It’s hard to learn … a hands-on skill, if you can’t get your hands on something,” he said.

Opening new opportunities

Autry is in the midst of enrollment for the 2022-23 school year to fill more than 800 total seats, prioritizing, in order, current students, those from Autry’s 10 partner school districts and any adult students.

High school sophomores began touring the campus a couple weeks ago in preparation for taking courses in the fall, Hughes said.

The CareerTech center has 25 full-time adult programs, which, aside from advanced medical programs also are available to accepted high school juniors and seniors who attend Autry half of the school day.

Hughes said the school is now working with NOC to create a high school student pathway option to receive college credits for any of the programs Autry offers.

“If that’s a route somebody wants to take, we ought to make it easy for them. It shouldn’t be a hard thing to do,” he said. “So probably in just a little over a year, you could have an associate degree after you graduate high school.”

Finding a career

Each program at Autry has an advisory committee of local industry professionals to suggest new directions or acquiring the latest equipment.

Since Autry Tech’s long-touted respiratory care program opened in 2006, 118 students have graduated, with a 96% pass rate on board examinations conducted by National Board for Respiratory Care. Of those graduates, 94% have found positions working in the field, according to Autry.

Autry partners with Northern Oklahoma College so students go on to receive an associate of applied science degree in respiratory care from the college in Enid.

These graduates often go to work at Enid’s hospitals, St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center and Integris Bass Baptist Health Center, as well as hospitals in Oklahoma city, Dallas, Houston and Alaska, program director Dr. Deryl Gulliford said in a recent news release.

“Today, anyone who graduates from our program and wants to practice will find a position,” Gulliford said.

Jaznee White, a graduate of the Autry respiratory care program who already had a bachelor’s degree, said she was finished with the program in less than two years.

“A big decision factor for me was I didn’t want to be in school another four years or be in more student debt,“ White said. “That’s when I learned about Autry Tech’s respiratory care program and fell in love.”

Applying to attend

Applications for Autry’s five advanced medical programs, including respiratory care, are due May 4.

Potential students must complete a short, online application; submit three letters of recommendation; provide transcripts and test scores; and attend one of the required orientation sessions. One observation and a personal interview will be scheduled for qualified applicants.

Autry also offers evening and weekend short-term courses and certifications in many career fields to students and to area employees.

Meeting industry demand

Hughes said companies already limited on potential workforce are now looking to train current employers to develop new skills.

Hughes said he could see Autry offering other training certifications in health care such as an advanced CNA (certified nursing assistant) to meet advancements in the industry.

“As those things come along, I could see us adding those certifications just to meet the industry demand on that,” he said.

Autry’s corporate training team has provided certifications such as industrial maintenance, AC/DC, hydrologic schematics and rigging for cranes. A manufacturing company was in need of certification in poly fusion welding — used to create casings for fiber-optic cable — for example, so Autry began providing it, Hughes said.

“Businesses know they have a place to go and land,” he said.

Article by: Alex Ewald, Enid News & Eagle 3.7.21

Photo by: Billy Hefton