The future of CareerTech in Cleveland County rests in new Moore Norman Technology Center Superintendent Brian Ruttman.
So it's a good thing he's familiar with its past, too. Ruttman is simply staying in the family business, since his father, Dennis, was a longtime superintendent at the Caddo-Kiowa Technology Center in Ft. Cobb.
For the past 16 years, Ruttman worked his way up from unpaid intern to assistant superintendent at Metro Technology Centers in Oklahoma City. When Jane Bowen retired from MNTC last spring and the position became available, Ruttman said he saw it as a perfect opportunity.
"I can't think of a better situation to walk into," Ruttman said. "How I got here, honestly, I had planned to spend my whole career at Metro Tech. But when the opportunity came here ... it was a no-brainer to pursue this option."
Ruttman said his goal is to "make great greater" at MNTC. He lauded the staff, the students, the campus atmosphere and the facilities -- a new building was recently completed and renovations have been made in others.
But Ruttman also brings a first-hand understanding of the status CareerTech holds in Oklahoma. While Ruttman studied at Oklahoma City University and received a master's degree from the University of Central Oklahoma, his son got his start at Canadian Valley Technology Center.
"He received his CNA [Certified Nursing Assistant] and AUA [Advanced Unlicensed Assistant] in high school, worked his way through Southwest Integris and he's now in nursing school at OCCC," Ruttman said. "His pathway was different than mine. Because of my experience, I wasn't one of those parents who said, 'You have to go to college.' I wanted him to find what suited him and give him the encouragement to pursue that."
And that's the goal for MNTC, Ruttman said: for every student to find the path that best suits them, so long as it leads to employment. Sometimes, it leads to higher education, and other times it leads to industry certification.
"Our goal with everything we do is about getting people trained in something they have a passion for and helping them find employment in that field," Ruttman said. "Everything we do is geared toward those outcomes."
The Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development released data in 2017 that predicted 54 percent of new jobs in Oklahoma by 2025 will require an industry certification or associate degree. In contrast, just 19 percent will require a bachelor's degree, and 5 percent will require a master's degree or higher.
"You take Norman North, 600 graduating class for 2019," Anna Aguilar, media and creative coordinator at MNTC, said. "Only a quarter of them will actually finish their degree within five-to-six years, but 100 percent will need work. They're looking at retail or fast-food, unless they have some kind of industry certification that can launch them into the realization that they are a better student than they might think."
Ruttman said he wants to use MNTC's popularity -- almost every program is at 100 percent capacity, he said -- and statewide trends to take the CareerTech facility forward. One initiative from Metro Tech he wants to bring with him is eye care.
The Dean McGee Eye Institute in Oklahoma City partnered with Metro Tech on programs to train eye care technicians on current technology.
"A program like that could work here at Moore Norman, as well," Ruttman said.
A longer-term goal involves Oklahoma's second largest industry: aerospace. Ruttman said companies in the state are telling CareerTech centers that they are in need of more Oklahoma employees, and he believes that is a need that can be met.
"Employers like Tinker, AAR, Spirit Aerospace and others are clamoring for workforce," he said. "The challenge is it's an extremely expensive program to run, and it generally requires some type of access to an airstrip so you can access the planes and things you'll be working on. That's something I would like to, in the Moore Norman area, look into doing that, but also on the statewide level look into establishing some type of training center."
Ruttman sees CareerTech in Oklahoma serving the state in areas of need. The fact that they are free for high school students -- and in MNTC's case to anyone under 21 years old who lives in the district -- only adds to the value, Ruttman said.
"The joke used to be that CareerTech is the best kept secret in Oklahoma," Ruttman said. "And unfortunately it is. There was such a push to go to higher education for so long, and now we're sitting with this huge skills gap in the trades.
"We'll do our part to fill it in," Ruttman said.