OpEd: Why Oakland Schools Technical Campuses has a Working Relationship With Business

Paul Galbenski is the dean of Oakland Schools Technical Campus Northeast. Paul has 21 years of experience as a career and technical education instructor, with expertise in business, entrepreneurship and information technology. In 2003, Paul was named the Oakland Schools District Teacher of the Year, and during the 2008-2009 year, he was the recipient of the Wells F. Cook Master Teacher of Secondary Business Education Award presented by the Michigan Business Education Association (MBEA). He also earned a Japan Fulbright Memorial Teacher Fund Scholarship that year, spending three weeks in Japan learning about Japanese business, education and culture. 

In 2011-2012, Paul was named Michigan Teacher of the Year by the Michigan Department of Education. He is the first career and technical education teacher to earn this prestigious award. Paul is a member of many professional organizations and has extensive experience as a conference presenter and provider of professional development for teachers on a local, state and national level.

Mary Kaye Aukee is the executive director of career-focused education at Oakland Schools. She has held this position for the last 15 years, building a career development and career technical education system in Oakland County at four career technical education campuses and 28 school districts. Mary Kaye has also been a high school administrator in the Clarkston public schools and a career technical education teacher in the Detroit public school system.  

Cynthia Scherphorn is an instruction and resource and career development consultant at Oakland Schools. She is a certified Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF), with over 24 years of experience working within the educational system and focusing on business and industry partnerships. She has developed relationships and the process to integrate business and education through the industry pipeline advisory forums. Cynthia is a member of the National Career Pathways Network and the National Career Development Association, and a board member of the Michigan Career Placement Association.

Why Oakland Schools Technical Campuses has a Working Relationship With Business

For years, Oakland Schools Technical Campuses (OSTC) were the region's best kept secret. Offering Oakland County high school students a gold mine of college and career training for emerging technologies, but mired in old vocational school stereotypes, we knew OSTC had to make some collaborative 21st century changes to be part of the solution in creating a sustainable pipeline of trained and certified students for business and industry.  

The four Oakland Schools Technical Campuses in Clarkston, Pontiac, Royal Oak, and Wixom are governed and operated by the Oakland Schools Career Focused Education (CFE) system, offering a secondary institution as an extension option to the county's high schools. 

Students spend half a day at their home high school and half a day at OSTC, where they can earn national certifications and free college credits. Industry specific and educational technologies are seamlessly integrated into instruction; students, rather than learning content knowledge separate from technologies required in industry, are immersed in the use and management of them as a tool to enhance and further their conceptual foundation. 

Our 21st century wake-up call actually rang in 2009 when the Oakland County Workforce Development prepared the Skills Needs Assessment Project (SNAP), which identified the skills and competencies needed to satisfy the demands of the emerging sector workforce. The Workforce and Education Committee first identified the existence of a widening gap between the expectations of emerging sector employers and the capabilities of the education/workforce community:  

"The lingering perception behind this divide was that employers were either not confident in, or unaware of, the offerings available to them; and, the education and workforce coalition was not confident in, or unaware of, the specific workforce needs of the employers." 

SNAP has become our key driving force.

In order to create the framework to close the gap and join education and business in partnership, we developed our OSTC purpose and determined four objectives. The purpose was to generate several layers of advocacy for students and to provide them with relevant training opportunities with business and industry partners. Below are the four objectives that guide our system:

1)    To share the Oakland Schools CFE Mission's guiding North Star: "Every student graduates, progressing to quality postsecondary learning!"

2)    Provide a system for partnership between the Oakland Schools Technical Campuses, business and industry, and the surrounding community.  

3)    Generate a pipeline of qualified workers educated with strong technical and academic skills. 

 4)    Form a collaborative understanding of partnership opportunities to support student success and a sustainable workforce. 

These objectives created a win-win situation for education and industry. The following achievements and outcomes will assist us in evaluating our mission, progress and future planning: 
  • Meeting the number-one recommendation by SNAP to market Oakland County's workforce development and education programs
  • Increasing post-secondary partnerships to prepare students for all avenues of the workforce and levels of education, filling the skilled workers gap
  • Developing a sustainable implementation plan for education and training focused on specific industry pipeline
  • Increasing collaboration and understanding in 2013-14 through the pipeline advisory forums within the advanced manufacturing, construction/utilities, health care, and information technology industries
  • We received the 2014 DiSciTech award in the Technology category from Corp! Magazine, reserved for Michigan companies "leading the way."
We value our stakeholders who work with us to promote innovation in the system, including the Oakland Education Advisory Group, which develops partnerships to support the unified system of transitioning students from school to careers, and the Regional Advisory Committee, consisting of representatives from business/industry, education, the community and county government. We know the practical input and guidance from these stakeholders helps us to continuously develop and establish the appropriate industry-driven career cluster curriculum for our students.

Our partnerships include multiple options for post-secondary education. One of our leading partners, Don Hutchison, the associate dean of engineering technology at Macomb Community College stated, "As many of us are aware, it is imperative for our state that we train more of our young people in fields like mechatronics, robotics, information technology and computer-aided design.  Technology is changing so quickly that our old models of training and education are failing us.  Fortunately for high school students in Oakland County, the OSTC programs prepare them for the high-tech fields of tomorrow, today."  

Several focused outcomes will drive our work over the next few years, including aligning industry access; changing the regional perception; engaging the community; focusing on real-world application of skill sets; developing a sustainable implementation plan for education and training; and importantly, the continued development of partnerships. 

For more information on how you and your business may connect with the future through collaboration with OSTC, contact Cynthia Scherphorn at 248.209.2054 or Cynthia.Scherphorn@oakland.k12.mi.us.


OSTC website
Oakland Schools blog
OSTC CareerTechEd Scoop.it Magazine
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Oakland County Government Workforce & Education Committee
Workforce Intelligence Network (WIN)
Pure Michigan Talent Connect
Automation Alley
Oakland University OUInc
Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

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