OCC Celebrates Career & Technical Education Month

Feb 01, 2024

February is Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month. Olney Central College along with community colleges across the nation will be celebrating and recognizing their CTE programs that successfully prepare students to enter the workforce. 

CTE programs often differentiate themselves from others by providing a more hands-on opportunity for students as they learn and gain experience before joining their respective industries. 

Illinois Eastern Community Colleges Chief Academic Officer Paul Bruinsma shared that CTE programs often offer unique flexibility that is not provided by most other programs. 

“These programs allow students to gain the knowledge and experience necessary in a short amount of time to be able to begin their career. They can continue their education, of course, but these programs prepare them to meet all the qualifications necessary to be employed after completion,” said Bruinsma.  

As CTE programs thrive, state funding continues to help sustain and build upon that success, as over $50 million in Perkins Grant Award money was provided to Illinois CTE programs in FY23, according to the Association for Career and Technical Education.

Olney Central College introduced its first CTE program in 1969. Today, the college offers more than 40 degrees and certificates in CTE fields ranging from Administration of Justice and Information Systems Technology to Nursing and Radiography.

OCC Welding Specialist Maverick Fisher said students looking for high-income, in-demand jobs will find them in the CTE fields.

“CTE programs are important because they’re in such high demand,” he said. “In the Welding Program, we have 100-percent job placement for anyone who puts an application in somewhere. These are good-paying, middle-class jobs.”

Several students, who have completed the program’s associate degree, are now employed through local Pipefitters and Boilermakers unions.

“Those jobs are top tier,” Fisher stressed. “These graduates are getting prevailing wage. They’re getting a retirement in the form of a pension. They have a vacation fund. They have healthcare. They have all of that, and they love what they’re doing.”

The Department of Education reported that eight years after their expected graduation date, students who focused on CTE courses had higher median annual earnings than the students who did not.

According to the National Skills Coalition, two-thirds of jobs in the U.S. economy are middle-skill jobs that require education beyond high school, but not a four-year college degree. Many of these jobs are in CTE fields such as healthcare, advanced manufacturing, and IT which are among the fastest-growing occupations projected through 2029 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

CTE programs at Illinois community colleges offer a cost-effective way for individuals to pursue their career goals by costing a fraction of the tuition at four-year institutions, making it a more accessible option for many students. 

"Illinois community colleges have a long history of working with local businesses and industries to provide students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in today's workforce," said Brian Durham, Executive Director of the Illinois Community College Board. "CTE programs at community colleges are an essential part of our state's workforce development strategy, and we are proud to be a part of preparing the next generation of workers." 

For more information regarding Olney Central College’s CTE programs, visit