Meridian Technology Center students use hands-on classroom experience to advance their careers, even before many graduate.
Masonry student Cantrell Haley attends Tech in the mornings and spends his afternoons on a job site. The Stillwater student works for Shann Stones Masonry, a local residential masonry business owned and operated by Meridian Masonry alumni Zach Shann. At the start of the school year, the two connected when Shann was a substitute teacher at Meridian. Shann was impressed with Haley’s skills and work ethic and offered a part-time job if Haley was interested. Haley accepted Shann’s offer, and since then he’s been working an average of 15-20 hours a week on projects like building fireplaces, building a hearth for a fireplace, repairing a driveway neighborhood and the completion of an outdoor kitchen.
Haley earns credits in the masonry program for the experience he gains on the job. “It was a phenomenal experience working for Zach,” he shared. “In addition to gaining hands-on experience in residential masonry, I had the chance to learn customer service skills and get an inside look at what it’s like to own a business. . All of this has been invaluable.
In addition to work-based learning opportunities for individual students, entire programs also have the opportunity to put their skills into practice. Earlier this year, Stillwater Country Club approached computer-aided drafting instructor Russell Frick and asked if his students would be willing to help redesign the club logo and tee boxes for the golf course. Frick knew this would be a great opportunity for his students to apply their skills and learn how to work with clients on new designs. The Country Club provided size and dimension information to the students, but left everything else to them.
When club staff members decided on Remington Denton’s design, he worked with them to finalize his details. “We went back and forth, discussing what design elements they liked and a few things they wanted to change,” the Stillwater student explained. “That’s what it will be like working in the industry, so it was a great learning process.”
Upon completion, its design was transferred to Meridian’s precision metal fabrication program for production. Denton’s creation can now be found at every teeing ground along the course.
Students in Meridian’s building trades programs — air conditioning and refrigeration, carpentry, electrical technology, facilities management, and masonry — gain real-world work experience with the school’s Building Trades House project. Students in these programs work together to build an upscale home in a Stillwater neighborhood every two years. Between local subcontractors and Meridian programs, the house goes from the ground to the finished house.
Carpentry student Garrett Knutson worked on the house and noted that while the experience allowed him and his fellow students to apply the skills learned in class, the benefit of this type of hands-on project goes beyond their ability to build.
“The biggest benefit of this type of project is the confidence you get from it,” he explained. “You’ve done the work in class, but it’s not the same as when you’re working on a real project. Working on something like home gives us the confidence we need to go along with the technical skills.
Making Today Count with Workplace Learning
The Oklahoma Governor’s Council for Work-Based Learning Activities defines work-based learning as activities that provide Oklahomans with real or simulated work experiences to develop and apply academic, technical and essentials required for success in the workplace. It includes career exploration activities, industry-related field trips, guest speakers, apprenticeships and internships, job shadowing, and on-the-job training.
Due to the variety of activities that make up workplace learning, it looks different in each Meridian program. For example, in the school’s health-related programs, students spend time in a clinical setting working with patients; Cosmetology students work with customers in the school salon and culinary arts students plan and prepare food for The Terrace Café.
When students participate in work-based learning, they gain a better understanding of what it will be like when they enter the workforce, but work-based learning benefits employers.
“It’s hard to get a job if you don’t have work experience, but it’s also hard to get work experience if you don’t have a job,” explained Wayne Ford, Electrical Technology Instructor. “Work-based learning gives students the chance to build their résumé before looking for a job. It also gives employers the opportunity to view a student as a potential employee. It benefits everyone. »
When students participate in work-based learning opportunities, they typically spend one day in class and the rest of the time working alongside an industry professional. The employer provides weekly progress reports outlining the skills students are learning and applying on the job. Progress reports also indicate that the student is progressing as expected.
“It’s the time of year for students when all their hard work pays off,” Ford said. “Nearly half of the graduates in my promotion have completed the course and are already working in the industry. It’s not something unique to my program. It’s all over campus.
For more information or to register, visit meridiantech.edu or contact a guidance counselor by phone at 405-377-3333 or toll-free at 888-607-2509.
Meridian Technology Center has been an engine of economic development since 1975. With a mission to educate, enrich lives and secure economic futures, Meridian offers full-time professional training programs, short courses, labor and economic development assistance and entrepreneurial support for residents of the School Districts of Agra, Carney, Glencoe, Guthrie, Morrison, Mulhall-Orlando, Pawnee, Perkins-Tryon, Perry and Stillwater . The school has locations in Stillwater and Guthrie. Meridian is one of 29 schools in Oklahoma’s CareerTech system.