ENID, Oklahoma — As the Autry Technology Center in Enid nears its sixth decade, its new superintendent says the CareerTech Center is keen on continuing to offer students “a buffet” of practical skills to learn from.
Dwight Hughes, Superintendent and CEO, took up his position last fall. He recently said he expects the city’s healthcare and manufacturing industries to continue to grow, prompting Autry’s operational training specialists to work with those two sectors most of the time.
get hands-on education
The turnover from COVID, Hughes said, has prompted more health workers to come to Northwest Oklahoma, which currently has no student residency program.
Hughes said he is grateful Autry students are able to learn their trading skills again in person as sessions have been back in full swing since the start of the COVID pandemic almost two years ago. He said he would like Autry to eventually have a model hospital to act as a backup facility for local hospital systems should future crises arise.
Hughes, who grew up on a farm in western Oklahoma, said he personally understands the importance of hands-on learning.
“It’s hard to learn … a practical skill if you can’t get your hands on something,” he said.
Open up new possibilities
Autry is in the midst of enrolling for the 2022-23 school year to fill a total of more than 800 places, with sequential prioritization of current students, students from Autry’s 10 partner school districts, and all adult students.
High school sophomores began touring the campus a few weeks ago in preparation for fall classes, Hughes said.
The CareerTech center has 25 full-time adult programs available to accredited high school juniors and seniors who attend Autry half the school day, in addition to advanced medical programs.
Hughes said the school is now working with NOC to create a walk-to-school option for high school students to receive college credit on one of the programs Autry offers.
“If someone wants to go down this path, we should make it easy for them. It shouldn’t be difficult to do that,” he said. “So you could probably have an associate degree in a little over a year after you graduate high school.”
Each program in Autry has an advisory committee of local industry professionals who suggest new directions or purchase the latest equipment.
Since Autry Tech’s long-vaunted respiratory program opened in 2006, 118 students have graduated, with 96% passing onboard exams administered by the National Board for Respiratory Care. According to Autry, 94% of these graduates have found a job in this field.
Autry partners with Northern Oklahoma College to enable students at the Enid College to receive an Associate of Applied Science degree in respiratory medicine.
These graduates often work at Enid Hospitals, St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center and Integris Bass Baptist Health Center, as well as hospitals in Oklahoma City, Dallas, Houston and Alaska, said program director Dr. Deryl Gulliford in a recent press release.
“Today, anyone who graduates from our program and wants to practice can find a position,” Gulliford said.
Jaznee White, a graduate of the Autry respiratory program who already had a bachelor’s degree, said she completed the program in less than two years.
“A major deciding factor for me was that I didn’t want to stay in school for four more years or have any more college debt,” White said. “That’s when I found out about Autry Tech’s ventilation program and fell in love.”
application for participation
Applications for Autry’s five advanced medical programs, including respiratory care, are due May 4.
Prospective students must complete a short online application; submit three letters of recommendation; provide transcripts and test results; and attend one of the required orientation sessions. A job shadowing and a personal interview are scheduled for qualified applicants.
Autry also offers short-term evening and weekend courses and certifications in many career fields for local students and employees.
Meeting the demands of the industry
Hughes said companies, already limited to potential workers, are now looking to train current employers to develop new skills.
Hughes said he could envision Autry offering other healthcare training certifications, such as: an advanced CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) to keep up with advancements in the industry.
“If those things come up, I could see us adding those certifications just to meet industry demand for them,” he said.
Autry’s corporate training team has provided certifications such as industrial maintenance, AC/DC, hydrological schemes and rigging for cranes. For example, a manufacturing company needed certification for polyfusion welding — which is used to make housings for fiber optic cables — so Autry started providing that, Hughes said.
“Companies know they have a place to land,” he said.