Student practices cosmetology skills (photo courtesy of Cuyahoga Valley Career Center)
Ohio Life

The Benefits of an Ohio Technical Center Education

Ohio Technical Centers offer high school graduates the opportunity for hands-on learning and the education to help them begin building a career in a variety of in-demand fields.

Determining one’s life path is not easy at age 18. Is a traditional four-year college the best plan for you, or is an Ohio Technical Center a better way to go? Before you answer, know that technical centers have changed over the years. What they are today might be very different than what your parents tend to picture when they think of such types of education. Ohio Technical Centers serve vital roles in gearing workers up for the jobs of tomorrow as well as providing training for fields that do not require a college diploma.

“Back in the ’70s and ’80s, there was a big push that everybody’s got to go to college to be successful,” says Bill Bussey, Executive Director of Ohio Technical Centers. “But now, the image and perception of career technical education in general is the highest I’ve ever seen it. People are more aware that there are jobs that can be filled and pay a living wage without a college degree. Anecdotally, what I hear from directors is that we’re getting more students now who are graduating from high school and going into OTCs than we ever have.”

The main advantage of such an education is Ohio Technical Centers help students focus on one specific skill, have flexible hours, and provide valuable hands-on experience. Additionally, coursework can be completed in a relatively brief amount of time. In the past, such centers focused on skilled manual-labor jobs, but today a variety of choices in programs offered in fields ranging from manufacturing to construction and information technology to healthcare.

“There are a variety of choices in training programs,” says Terri Lynn Brosseau, Adult Education Coordinator for Cuyahoga Valley Career Center in Brecksville. “It usually takes between three to 18 months to complete a career technical education program. Since this education is shorter than most traditional college and university degree programs, the graduates can start on their career path sooner. In the past, an entry-level job was the goal. Now, the goal of career technical training is the career.”

Verda McCoy, Director of Perkins Reporting and Compliance for the Ohio Department of Higher Education, explains that the convenience of flexible hours is attractive to post-high school students and adults who have jobs or family obligations during the day.

“While traditional day programs are widely available,” she says, “Ohio Technical Centers are aligning programs to focus on student-centered day and evening scheduling.”

How can a student determine whether an Ohio Technical Center is the right choice for them? The key is to think about what you want to do and how you like to learn, according to Bussey.

“Ask yourself, do you like more hands-on activities?” he says. “We’ve always touted our hands-on education and training. It’s not just reading a book and learning about a topic, it’s hands-on learning ... Like with welding, there’s instruction, of course, but the welding is hands-on, done in a lab.”

If you’re still not sure, set an appointment to visit an Ohio Technical Center to see what it’s like and ask questions. All have some type of career-counseling center to consult. Remember, too, that your path may be a flexible one. Because Ohio Technical Centers have lower costs and shorter-term learning commitments than four-year colleges, such options give students a chance to try a field and see if it’s right for them.

“Explore your options and opportunities,” McCoy advises. “Short-term courses allow students an introduction to programs, and the opportunity to earn credentials equipping them with the skills and knowledge to transition into the workforce or pursue a degree." 

Some of most-sought-after courses at Ohio Technical Centers currently include healthcare, public safety, information technology and skilled trades.

“HVAC and maintenance and repairs is a big one, because every building needs maintenance,” Bussey adds.

Like so many aspects of daily life, the pandemic changed the landscape at Ohio Technical Centers, too. For one, it fueled a high interest in information technology careers.

“The hastened need and awareness for greater connectivity brought on by the pandemic fueled even greater focus on IT and cybersecurity programs,” McCoy says. “Demand has surged for IT, telecommunications, and broadband training.”

Students can enter these fields and others in a much shorter time than if they went to a traditional college with a broader educational focus. Brosseau notes that Cuyahoga Valley Career Center’s adult-education programs provide job-specific training for some of the region’s most in-demand fields, while also giving students the know-how and certifications needed to build a stable and meaningful career upon completion of the program.

“I chose [Cuyahoga Valley Career Center] to take my cosmetology program because of the flexible schedule and the program’s ability to fit into my busy life,” says Samantha Mischak. “The value of the Career Center is that it is personal and flexible. The class size is smaller, and thus, the relationships are stronger.”

Mischak, like so many other young adults who choose Ohio Technical Centers for their education after high school, also appreciates knowing that she will hit the ground running and be adequately prepared for her career as soon as she completes her coursework.

“I have real-world experience. I see clients in the Career Center Salon,” she explains. “I have the opportunity for an internship as well, and the theory portion prepares us to sit for the written portion of our state boards.”

Ohio Technical Centers also often have relationships with local companies and help them by identifying well-educated, prepared workers for hire. This connection has been vital for the students as well as the businesses.

“Many of our technical programs have the advantage of a community made up of business and industry leaders,” Bussey explains. “We set out to meet the needs of those leaders instead of having a canned program we do year after year.  … There’s such a demand for skilled workers right now that many students are hired before they are finished.”

This story ran in the Summer-Fall 2023 issue of College 101.