The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 26, 2011

Autry busy putting students to work

By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — Students are finding while pursuing career skills at Autry Technology Center their training can be used toward earning a degree or  other credentials.

“Skills and certificates gained at Autry can jump-start careers, give students a way to earn money while in college or provide a skill to fall back on in a pinch between careers,” said Melissa Baker, Autry’s marketing director. “Whether it is repairing cars, motorcycles, heating or air conditioning units; styling hair; giving facial massages; designing graphics; or working on computers, people will always need or want those things.”

Students and parents are preparing for college and a career as one rather than as mutually exclusive options, Baker said. Fifty percent of Autry graduates go on to college. The skills obtained at Autry helped them get higher-paying jobs while in college.

Matt Winfield is in his final semester in Autry’s business and information technology program. He’s also working part time at Groendyke Transport through the school’s information technology department’s supervised work program, all while finishing an associate’s degree through Northern Oklahoma College.

Once Matt finishes at Autry and NOC, he will seek full-time employment with Groendyke.

“Groendyke’s partnership with Autry has been beneficial for our students and their business,” said Barbara Leathers, business and information instructor. “Several students have gone on to work as techs over the past eight years,”

High school juniors and seniors living in the Autry district can attend tuition-free and are eligible for the Autry scholarship, which covers their tuition for three years following graduation.

Ninety-two percent of Autry program graduates now are employed in a related field, enlist in the military or continue their education, Baker said.

“The success of the students stems from the commitment of instructors and staff to their students,” she said.

Respiratory therapy program graduate Kary White started in the graphic arts program as a junior in high school. She co-enrolled in NOC while at Autry and gained college credit for completing the graphic arts program.

White applied to the respiratory therapy program after graduating from high school and discovering she wanted to work with babies. She proved herself in her first six months of practice at Tulsa Hillcrest Hospital and was advanced to a full-time therapist position in its neonatal intensive care unit.

“Kary is the kind of patient-focused therapist we need in a busy hospital like Tulsa Hillcrest Hospital,” said Tim Markus, RRT, respiratory services manager. “She goes the extra mile to see that every patient is taken care of.”

More than 80 local businesses employed 2009-10 Autry graduates, Baker said. The average starting wage of the 2010 graduates was $13.67, almost $6.50 higher than minimum wage. The highest starting wage reported was $40 per hour.

Autry Technology Center, 1201 W. Willow, has been a part of the Enid community since 1967 and is one of 29 career-tech schools across Oklahoma.

For information, programs or enrollment, call a career counselor at 242-2750 or go to www.autrytech.com.