Empowering Students Through Technical Training

by Dr. Michael Armbruster

For more than 80 years, Orange County Public Schools has been providing career and technical training to tens of thousands in the region, helping create and develop local workforce pipelines to critical hiring industries.

“Orange Technical College is making an impact on the lives of students in Central Florida and in the life of our community,” said Michael Armbruster, Ed.D., associate superintendent of career and technical education at OCPS, and leader of the district’s Orange Technical College.

With five local campuses, Orange Technical College offers a diverse array of career certificate training programs, most leading directly to an industry certification and/or license. Articulation agreements and partnerships with local and state colleges are also allowing more students than ever to engage in numerous career paths across high-skill, high-wage technical industries.

OTC is creating value in many ways. The college promotes economic growth in Central Florida as a primary source of education to residents and a supplier of trained workers to regional industries. The college plays a key role in helping students increase their employability and immediately enter the workforce upon program completion.

“Students who come from Orange Technical College have the desire and the will; they’ve worked hard to come into this industry,” said Mike Gordon, Kenworth of Central Florida service manager. “We’ve found that OTC offers the best and the brightest in the industry today.”

Students, parents, community leaders and industry professionals are also beginning to discover the lucrative opportunities afforded by career and technical education programs like those offered through Orange Technical College. For some, the programs represent a starting point on a student’s path to higher education, equipping those who have never had employable skills with a solid foundation. For others, CTE programming allows for efficient, affordable and effective continuing education in their chosen field of interest.

Orange Technical College is home to a diverse array of career certificate training programs, including 3-D animation technology, licensed practical nursing, automotive service, building construction trades, culinary arts, advanced manufacturing, machining, welding and more. The college is also the largest provider of adult general education programs in Central Florida, helping thousands of foreign residents learn to speak English each year and providing more GED training and testing than any organization in Orlando.

Each career training program at Orange Technical College has a workforce advisory council in place to ensure industry standards are met in the classroom and to advise in making sure curriculum is aligned with industry-specific skills. The goal is to position graduates for immediate employment upon completion of career training programs.

There has been a significant shift in our nation that calls for a highly trained, highly skilled workforce — a workforce with specific skills essential to hiring companies. Employers of today, now more than ever, are seeking candidates with skill sets to fill meaningful positions in their organizations, many of which do not require a degree.

“Our employees who came from Orange Technical College are very focused and knowledgeable, and more importantly, have a broad understanding and solid training in the programs we use,” said Jack Williams, senior vice president of Harvard Jolly Architecture. The architecture firm, which works closely with OTC’s drafting program, has hired four career training program graduates after previously only considering candidates with a college degree.

With the manufacturing industry likely facing the need for 3.4 million workers and an expected shortage of two million manufacturing workers in the United States over the next decade, CTE partnerships and local “educational ecosystems” will play a vital role in filling the country’s skills gap. Promoting these opportunities and exposing students to both college and career paths is key to advancing our workforce into the future.

Even today, career and technical education is still considered by many as a final option for students struggling in traditional classroom environments. However, with the competitive salaries and growth opportunities in technical fields, career and technical education programs are becoming more of a first option rather than an afterthought.

OTC believes the important questions to ask students are: “What do you want to be?” and “What do you want to do?”

The goal in education should be to empower students toward their chosen career path, regardless of where that road may lead in their higher-education journey. Orange Technical College is happy to play a role in any given student’s journey on his or her path to sustainable career success.

“We help people change their lives through education, and in doing so, positively impact the economic development of our community,” Armbruster said. “That’s what our job is; that’s what our mission is.”

With the manufacturing industry facing an expected shortage of workers in the United States over the next decade, CTE partnerships and local “educational ecosystems” will play a vital role in filling the country’s skills gap.

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