SHAWNEE, Okla. (OBV) – A Shawnee technology center that equips students with the skills they will need to gain and maintain a successful career was honored for its excellence.
SkillsUSA, a nonprofit national education association that helps middle through college age students prepare for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, named Gordon Cooper Technology Center in Shawnee one of 23 Models of Excellence schools for 2023.
Gordon Cooper Technology Center and 22 others SkillsUSA chapters from across the nation were recognized for exceptionally integrating personal, workplace and technical skills into SkillsUSA chapter activities.
“This is the highest honor bestowed on chapters by SkillsUSA, which is among the largest student organizations for career and technical education,” a SkillsUSA news release states.
Students who attend the selected schools learn and practice skills that employers consider valuable, including leadership, initiative, communication, teamwork and problem solving.
“Our Models of Excellence represent the very best in SkillsUSA chapter achievement and community involvement,” said Chelle Travis, executive director of SkillsUSA. “These students represent America’s future skilled workforce and are future leaders in their local communities. It is a tremendous honor for these chapters and the recognition validates these outstanding SkillsUSA programs and schools.”
Gordon Cooper Technology Center (GCTC) received the Models of Excellence for the last three years. It is the only chapter in Oklahoma to earn the award, according to Matt Stephens, communications and marketing coordinator for the school.
“Gordon Cooper gives its students a chance to learn in a more hands-on environment whether they are training for a career or preparing to further their education elsewhere,” Stephens said. “In 2021-22, 97 percent of Gordon Cooper graduates moved on to a start a career in their area of training, continued their education or entered the military. The average starting wage for GCTC grads was $17.82 an hour in the same time period.”
The school, established in 1969, serves Pottawatomie and Seminole counties and the southern portion of Lincoln County and has approximately 31 partner schools. It had 958 full-time students and 22,156 short-term students in 2021-22. Most of the school’s full-time students are juniors and seniors from area high schools. Several of the programs also accept adults, most of whom are seeking to change careers, according to Stephens.
Nearly all the full-time programs are two-year programs. GCTC’s Pre-Engineering Academy is an exception in that it is a three-year program that accepts sophomores. Health Careers Certification is a one-year program. Students who complete Health Careers can apply for Advanced Health Careers, an additional one-year program.
Gordon Cooper students train in hands-on environments to prepare for either careers or education elsewhere. It offers 20 full-time programs, including automotive collision repair, automotive services, aviation maintenance, business education, carpentry and masonry, computer networking, cosmetology, criminal justice and emergency services, digital careers, early care and education, electrical careers, graphic design, health careers certification, advanced health careers certification, heating, air conditioning and refrigeration, practical nursing (adult students only) precision machining, pre-engineering academy, professional diesel technician and welding. GCTC also partners with Seminole State College to offer medical lab technology and physical therapist assistant programs. GCTC’s Emergency Medical Services also offers paramedic, emergency medical technician and emergency medical responder programs.
Full-time GCTC students complete between 900 and 1,000 hours of course work and hands-on training. GCTC programs have certifications students can receive that will help them in qualifying for their future careers.
GCTC and the other Models of Excellence schools will be evaluated in this month at the SkillsUSA National Leadership & Skills Conference for top honors.