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Partners of the community.

Career and technical education is not represented by the stereotypical "Ivory Tower" of education. The building that more aptly represents our field is the community center, and it may be a building that we helped construct, wire for electricity, install with plumbing and network with computers. After the community center is constructed, we continue to contribute our assistance in health care, counseling and meeting numerous special needs. Seeing a need and fulfilling it--that's what a true partner does, and that's what makes career and technical education the perfect partner of the community.

Career and technical education programs across the country are serving as active partners of their communities, meeting needs that are sometimes economic and sometimes social. Often these programs have grown or evolved in response to the changing needs of local residents, businesses and industries.

Oklahoma is one state that has a long tradition of partnering with the community, and its CareerTech system is even viewed as the economic development arm of the Oklahoma public school system.

An Economic Alliance

ACTE's Career Tech Update newsletter recently profiled an economic development partnership that involves the Oklahoma CareerTech system, the Oklahoma Alliance for Manufacturing Excellence and several other state agencies (Career Tech Update, April 8, 2002).

The alliance, which was created in 1991 by Oklahoma manufacturers and public/private stakeholders, is sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology along with private and public sponsors. Roy Peters, the chief executive officer and president of the Oklahoma alliance, puts the return from the alliance at approximately $134 million measured in terms of retention of sales, cost savings and jobs created.

The alliance has a statewide network of manufacturing extension agents based on the model of the agricultural extension system's agents. Through their partnership with the alliance, 11 higher education institutions and 19 technology centers in Oklahoma help fund the manufacturing extension agents, contribute office space and clerical support, and house agents working with manufacturers in their area.

The Career Tech Update article cites manufacturers in the state that credit the alliance with helping them increase productivity and quality while reducing costs. Peters notes, "They have found the CareerTech system to be extremely capable and responsive."

Peters also points out, "Manufacturing is a strong part of Oklahoma's economy, and technology centers are committed to economic development. Creating jobs adds to the economic value of the community."

Rural Health Partnership

The Oklahoma Rural Health Project "Home Base" is a joint project of the Oklahoma State Department of Health's Office of Rural Health and the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education (ODCTE) and is intended to solve training issues facing rural hospitals in the state. The mission of the project is "to implement statewide sites that partner local technology centers with rural critical access hospitals for the purpose of updating occupational skills of health care professionals."

The sites where the project is being implemented are: Canadian Valley Technology Center, Kiamichi Technology Center, High Plains Technology Center, Caddo-Kiowa Technology Center, Western Technology Center, Southern Oklahoma Technology Center, Tri County Technology Center, Gordon Cooper Technology Center, Red River Technology Center and Wes Watkins Technology Center.

The goals of the project are to provide rural health care professionals employed by the participating critical-access hospitals with the opportunity to:

* Remain in their home community areas for advanced skill training.

* Participate in learning environments that integrate distance education options with real-time clinical and laboratory experiences.

* Have access to customized quality curriculum, assessments and varied learning opportunities through the ODCTE CareerTech Learning Network.

* Use their local technology centers as a home base for further training and educational advancement.

According to Debbie Shumaker, the project coordinator, scheduling problems arise when health care workers at rural hospitals have to leave for retraining. "When workers need to update their skills, they may be away from the hospital for several days traveling to and from a metropolitan area," says Shumaker. "One employee taking about three days off can cause major problems for a hospital with a small staff."

Through the Rural Health Project, these workers receive training in their local communities at one of the CareerTech system's technology centers. The training includes clinical training, of course, but there are also computer classes designed to help hospital workers learn to work more with computer technology--something Shumaker says is needed now that the medical field is transitioning from traditional charts and notepads and toward the use of laptops and keyboards.

Another important aspect of the training received by the rural health care workers is leadership. "In some of these hospitals there is a need for supervisory training," Shumaker notes, citing the situations of floor nurses who are promoted to charge nurses. Workers such as these will benefit from the leadership skills, team-building skills, conflict management and stress management taught by the Rural Health Project.

Another major asset of the training provided by the project is the way it can be designed specifically for the hospital. As Shumaker explains, "The technology centers can customize the training to meet the hospital's needs."

The project was originally a pilot program that ran from November 2001 through May 2002 but has proved to be so beneficial that funding was extended. Shumaker expects that the continued benefits will mean continued funding. And she notes, "It has expanded to the other 12 hospitals designated as rural critical-access hospital centers in the state and their respective technology centers."

The Office of Rural Health secured federal funding to provide the training. "Our idea was to provide training that administrators of critical-access hospitals needed but could not get from a local training source," says Val Schott, director of the Office of Rural Health. "We wanted to provide as much training as close to home as possible. We see this as a recruitment and retention tool to help with workforce issues being faced by all rural hospitals. The Oklahoma CareerTech system was a logical choice for our partner."

Partnering for Dental Hygiene

Another innovative Oklahoma career and technical education partnership involves Tri County Technology Center in Bartlesville and the University of Oklahoma. It is aimed at alleviating the shortage of dental hygienists in rural parts of the state.

The University of Oklahoma offers the bachelor of science degree in dental hygiene and delivers lectures to the students at Tri County through interactive videoconferencing technology. The clinical work is done at the dental hygiene clinic, which was opened in April at Tri County, under the supervision of dental hygiene faculty and local dentists. This innovative arrangement allows the students, who are actually enrolled at the University of Oklahoma, to train at a site close to where they live. "The idea is that they will stay and work in the area after their training," explains Elaine Dettle, the director of Tri County dental programs. "By providing the education in a distance-learning format, it allows students to attend classes closer to home. Local residents will have the opportunity to receive low-cost dental hygiene services provided by students under the direction of dental hygiene faculty and a supervising dentist."

According to Dettle, the dental hygiene program includes rigorous course work in subjects such as embryology, oral pathology, pharmacology and oral radiology. The dental hygiene program meets American Dental Association accreditation requirements as followed by the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry, Department of Dental Hygiene. Admission requirements include 60 hours of prerequisite course work in subjects such as human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, nutrition, and introduction to statistics.

"Graduating students will receive a bachelor of science degree and be eligible to take the national board and clinical licensure examinations," Dettle notes.

Tri County works collaboratively with the area's dentists, and the dental hygiene program was a way to respond to the concerns they raised. "We have a partnership with the local dentists, who said that this is what we really need," says Dettle.

Assistant superintendent Lindel Fields is enthusiastic about the program and its potential benefits for the community. "We are very excited about having this new professional training opportunity at Tri County," says Fields. "Dental hygiene shortages are a reality, and the economic impact of this training will be very beneficial to our area."

Caring for Needy Children

In May of 2000, the first-ever Surgeon General's report on oral health called the dental and oral diseases of poor Americans "a silent epidemic," and pointed out the risks to the overall health and well-being of the children of disadvantaged groups. The report called for a national partnership to provide opportunities for individuals, communities and the health professions to work together to maintain and improve the nation's oral health. One career and technical education community partnership in Pennsylvania is striving to achieve that goal on a local level.

Through a cooperative effort involving the Altoona Hospital for a Healthy Community and the Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center (GACTC), and with the participation of member dentists of the Blair County Dental Society, a free dental services clinic was born. The clinic, Partnering for Dental Services, now has two locations. The Pediatric Dental Screening Clinic situated at the Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center opened in October 2000, and the Restorative Dental Clinic opened at an office building on the grounds of the Altoona Hospital in August of 2001.

Karen Riley, dental assistant instructor at the Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center, is the clinic's dental coordinator, and she and Marian Fifer, the executive director of the Altoona Hospital Partnership for a Healthy Community, are the two main driving forces behind the two free pediatric dental clinics. Riley says, however, that she couldn't do it without the support of her administrator and credits GACTC Executive Director Dr. Lanny Ross with providing that support.

Ross appreciates the benefits of the dental clinic for both the community and the school and says, "The dental clinic, operated in conjunction with the dental assisting program, provides quality screening, cleaning and treatment to deserving children in a way that adds value to the instructional program for our high school and adult students."

The school and hospital partnership provided funds for the equipment, space and maintenance, assisted by donations from the community. The financial support provided by the hospital has been a vital part of the project. Riley spent the summer before the clinic opened doing renovations at the site using $50,000 in funds from the hospital. The hospital also has grant writers to help in the funding process, and, notes Riley, "Because we went into partnership with a hospital, there are so many opportunities for grants." According to Riley, there are 13,000 children in Blair County in need of dental services, but of the 90 dentists in the county, only four were serving the most needy children. The free clinics and their 15 volunteer dentists now give those children and their families a place to turn. The students of the dental assistant program at GACTC also benefit from the opportunity to gain practical experience while serving the community. Riley and her students spend two days a week at the dental office they operate, working with a volunteer dentist.

"I'm so proud of my students," Riley says, describing their work at the clinic. "They know what to do when they go to the sterilization room or to do x-rays. When they come out of the program, they really know what they're doing."

That knowledge has translated into 100 percent of the GACTC dental assistant program students passing the NOCTI exams and has earned them a 100 percent placement rate.

Partnering for Dental Services provides dental examinations, cleanings, fluoride treatments, restorations and radiographs for Blair County children ages three through six whose families do not have the means to pay for such services. Dental education is provided not only at the clinic but also through an outreach program in which Riley and her students go into elementary and Head Start classrooms. "We teach them about dental health and prepare them for what to expect when they come into the clinic," Riley says. "We show them the gloves and the masks and read them a storybook about coming to the dentist. When they come, they're ready."

Riley and her students have also given out 1,000 toothbrushes along with toothpaste, floss and posters.

Since GACTC has the only dental school in the area, Riley believes it is important to have a good working relationship with the local dentists. "You have to have that rapport with the people you are training your students for."

The dentists who volunteer at the clinics appreciate the opportunity afforded to them to give back to the community. "Giving of one's abilities to the children in need of dental health in our society is most gratifying to me," says Thomas E. Zajac, D.M.D. "If everyone in the health professions could give back just a little, a big problem could be diminished."

James Barner, the CEO of Altoona Hospital, is very pleased with the partnership and the resulting clinics. "As a community hospital, we take our mission to serve the community very seriously," Barner points out. "Knowing that these previously unserved children are now able to receive care due to the partnership we have forged with the career and technology center is deeply gratifying."

The work of Partnering for Dental Services has not gone unnoticed by others in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Dental Society is trying to use the partnership as an example for other schools and hospitals to follow, and an article about the free dental clinics appeared in the January/February 2002 issue of the Pennsylvania Dental Journal.

According to Riley, insurance companies have called as well to ask about the partnership, which they see as an initiative that could save them money by keeping children healthy. One company, Select Blue, has even donated funds for the purpose of starting another free clinic. Riley has been approached about helping to start a clinic in Somerset, Pa.

A Better Future

Thanks to Karen Riley and her associates, many children in-Blair County, Pa., will have the chance to lead healthier lives, and the students of the dental assistant program at GACTC will continue to receive an education that encompasses both career skills and community service.

Dr. Barbara Thaler is another of the dentists who appreciates the efforts of the partnership. "It is wonderful to see how caring people and hard work made this much-needed dental clinic become a reality," says Thaler. "It will benefit children and students for years to come."

Dr. Zajac agrees with that assessment and says, "The free children's dental clinic is a stepping stone that reaches out to the human spirit of giving and caring for one another."

This spirit of giving and caring is alive and well in the many career and technical programs that are stepping forward tO work as partners with their communities to make them better places in which to live and work.

Winning Partnerships: Oklahoma's CareerTech and Its Business Champions

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education's Business Champions are businesses that attribute much of their economic success to the partnerships they have formed with the local technology centers or high school CareerTech programs.

These are just some of the partnerships.

* Altus Air Force Base and Southwest Technology Center

* Goodyear and Great Plains Technology Center

* Conoco Cevolution and Pioneer Technology Center

* Mutual of Omaha and High Plains Technology Center

* Kimberly-Clark and Tulsa Technology Center

* Valco and Red River Technology Center

* Georgia-Pacific and Indian Capital Technology Center

* Tulsa's Daniel Webster High School and Information Technology Business Partners

* Shaklee and Moore Norman Technology Center

* ClientLogic and Tri County Technology Center

* Nestle Purina Pet Care Company, AYES and Francis Tuttle

For a complete list of the partnerships or for more information on the Oklahoma CareerTech Business Champions, call 405-743-5559 or visit www.okcareertech.org.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Association for Career and Technical Education
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:career training in rural Oklahoma
Author:Reese, Susan
Publication:Techniques
Geographic Code:1U7OK
Date:Oct 1, 2002
Words:2628
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