Virgil Teter was once working various jobs in fast food and retail, looking for a career opportunity. He then learned clerical skills while in the Career Transitions Program, which led to him getting get a stable job.
Now, years later, Teter is back at OCCC working as the Career Transitions Retention Coach and earning his master’s degree at the University of Oklahoma.
Teter said the Career Transitions Program allowed him to get an education and encouraged him to pursue his dreams.
Students are referred to the program by the Department of Human Services.Teter said the students are taught employment skills while in the program so they can re-enter the workforce.
After being referred, they are required to meet admissions requirements: a high school diploma or GED.
The Career Transitions staff works with the students to help make sure they utilize all resources on campus, Teter said.
They are able to choose from 118 certificates of mastery, technical occupational training, and degrees such as Film and Video Production Technician, Child Development, Pharmacy Tech and Emergency Medical Technician, Photography, Nursing and Accounting.
Teter said he encourages students to pick a program they can build upon.
“Generally speaking, we want students to pick a certificate of mastery and then have in mind an associate degree down the road, long term,” he said.
“So that way, with these stackable degrees, they’re able to work toward self sufficiency and work toward a good job.
“At the same time, we want to help our students develop an orientation toward life-long learning, so even after the program, we want to see our students moving on to earn those associate degrees, and then beyond.”
Tech centers offer similar programs, Teter said; however, OCCC is better for students who intend to expand their education. He said some classes offered take a few months longer than others, but the end result is worth the wait.
“When a student comes here, we understand the goal is to get them back into the workforce. That’s the ultimate, long-term objective, but we take the perspective that the best assistance we provide to students is to get them a new credential — whether it be a certificate or degree.
“That education is what’s going to be able to provide them a foundation that they need, the economic security, and the greater chance of success and likelihood of being able to secure a job that pays a living wage and that can help support them and their families.”
Although health care and clerical jobs seem to be the most popular within the program and will have the most openings in future years, Teter said students need to choose a career path appealing to their interests.
“Whenever you’re doing what you want to do, whenever you’re enjoying your work and enjoying your job, and enjoying your career, you create that job yourself,” he said.
“It’s a lot easier to find work if you don’t have to feel like you’re obligated to go, you don’t have to feel like you’re dragged in every day.”
Teter said the program has a success rate similar to the rest of the college. Most students have personal struggles they must overcome, but he said the Career Transitions staff is there to help.
“You’re going to have some students who ‘life happens’ and they’re not able to complete … .”
Teter said part of what is learned is being able to troubleshoot issues.
“How do you keep yourself out of your way so you can continue to go to class, so you can continue to do your homework, so you can finish out that entire semester,” he said.
Not only do students expand their education, but also they learn life skills and get work experience.
Teter said students are often given opportunities for work-study jobs and internships in their career field.
The Career Transitions Program currently has around 20 students, and is looking to expand.
Teter said he is looking forward to the future and helping more students.
“We find our jobs pretty easy here. We do troubleshoot life’s roadblocks, but generally speaking, every student here wants to succeed … .
“… It’s very important that they understand they have support, they have resources, they don’t have to do it alone, and they don’t have to give up on themselves or sell themselves short.”
For more information, visit www.occc.edu/career/index.html or call 405-682-7844.
To contact Lauren Daniel, email firstname.lastname@example.org