The U.S. has more than one million jobs available for engineers and well-educated technicians, yet those high paying jobs stand open because there are not enough qualified people to fill them.
According to research by the National Alliance for Pre-Engineering Programs, the dropout rate in colleges of engineering and engineering technology programs exceeds SO percent in the first two years. Two contributing factors for this high number are that students don't have an understanding of what engineers do and they didn't take the right combination of high school courses to prepare them to succeed in this rigorous course of study.
Pre-engineering academies now operating in Oklahoma's technology centers plan on tightening that gap, according to Robin Schott, innovative initiatives and services manager at the Oklahoma Department of CareerTech. The goal is to help students be successful in engineering degreed programs and postsecondary engineering technology programs and create some excitement about engineering as a possible career.
To help students who are interested in an engineering career to be successful, Oklahoma's CareerTech system is now partnering with the National Alliance for Pre-Engineering Programs. CareerTech sponsored a counselor conference, Project Lead The Way (PLTW), January 14 at the Marriott in Oklahoma City. More than 80 counselors from the four participating technology centers and their high school counterparts attended, Schott says.
Last year Metro Tech in Oklahoma City began offering a Project Lead The Way pre-engineering course for more than 30 juniors and seniors. This year enrollment increased to 88 high school students, including sophomores from Northeast Academy of Health Science and Engineering. Francis Tuttle Technology Center, also in Oklahoma City, launched its Pre-Engineering Academy with 40 high school students from Edmond--primarily sophomores--this fall. The academy not only teaches pre-engineering, but also integrates essential math and science courses recommended by higher education partners.
Next fall three more technology centers will join the engineering academy roster. They are Moore Norman, Tulsa Tech and Gordon Cooper in Shawnee.
PLTW is operating in 15 states and recently became a partner with the Southern Regional Education Board's High Schools That Work initiative, which works with schools in 22 states, including Oklahoma. Both national projects are administered in Oklahoma through the CareerTech system.
"This is true integration," says Schott. "Math, science and engineering courses are being team-taught to show students relevant applications of academic courses. With an understanding of engineering, students also realize the need for upper-level math and science courses. These high school students are on the technology center campuses for three hours each day, and their home schools for the remainder of their academics."
"One of the reasons the CareerTech system is appropriate to take on engineering academies for high school students are the connections we have with business and industry across the state," according to Malcolm Fowler, director of the Bruce Gray Center.
Francis Tuttle has also developed strong partnerships with the schools of engineering at Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Christian University. …