When students enroll in a career training program at Meridian Technology Center, they graduate with the skills needed for a career.
For Mackenzie Morris, Natalie Kenny, Mary Martin and Victoria Heyvaert their career started where they were once students.
Their paths to Meridian couldn’t have been more different. Heyvaert enrolled as a high school student, and Morris attended as a recent high school graduate. Martin had just turned 30 and was searching for her next step. Kenny was a college graduate who decided to pursue a different interest. The only common thread was that they wanted to sharpen their technical skills to work in an office setting.
To do this, they enrolled in the Business Technology program at Meridian. As part of their coursework, they had the opportunity to take part in work-based learning in the form of an internship in the Career Planning Center, the central hub of the school’s student services. Meridian happened to have vacancies in their department right around the time each of their internships was scheduled to end. They each applied, interviewed and accepted full-time positions as Administrative Professionals that would begin when they completed their career training.
Jeanie Zagar, Executive Director of Career Planning/Career Development, noted the uniqueness of the situation.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time we’ve had the entire administrative support team consist of recent graduates,” she said. “It’s been a great experience for everyone. In addition to having the advanced technical skills required for the job, they also have firsthand experience needing assistance as a student. I think that brings a different perspective to the impact of their day-to-day activities.”
Where Passion Meets Purpose
Business Technology instructor Melody Johnston played a critical role in connecting students with Zagar for this work-based learning opportunity.
“Nothing teaches like experience,” Johnston said. “The Business Technology program teaches both technical and soft skills needed for the workplace, but much richer learning takes place through internships and work-based learning.”
Martin, who also had an internship at CareerTech, was only an intern in the Career Planning Center for two days before being hired for the full-time position.
“I loved going to school here, so I thought, ‘Why not get a job here?” she said.
More than three years into her career, she’s even more certain she made the right choice.
“We get to play to our strengths,” she explained. “In a lot of ways, we’re like a family.”
The program’s self-paced framework allowed Kenny to move through the curriculum quickly. Her internship helped her see how what she was learning in the classroom transitioned to the real world. It has also helped her find joy in her work.
“It was one thing to learn how to do something in the classroom,” she said. “But it’s different and so rewarding when you are actually applying your knowledge on the job.”
Heyvaert, the newest member of the team, completed her internship in December and began her employment in January. She credits her instructor’s holistic approach to teaching with successfully making the transition.
“The Business program is much more than the technical skills,” she explained. “Mrs. Johnston also focused on the everyday, practical skills that everyone needs. It’s written and verbal communication; it’s how to be a good team member and understand what employers expect from you in a professional setting. This job requires all of that.”
As one of the first Business Technology students to transition from an intern to an employee, Martin said she could quickly put her skills to work.
“There are a lot of moving parts in this department, and I was able to use everything that we learned in class to help students,” Morris said.
While she is no longer a full-time employee at Tech, Morris frequently serves as a substitute in classrooms and assists as needed in the Career Planning Center.
The Business Technology program served as a foundation for Martin, Kenny, and Heyvaert, but it’s just their beginning. In addition to working at Meridian, they are college students. Martin is a student at Northern Oklahoma College. Kenny is a graduate student at the University of Central Oklahoma, and Heyvaert is a student at Cowley College.
“My mom always told me I was going to Tech so that I could learn a trade and work through college,” Heyvaert said. “Now, look at me. Here I am with a trade, working through college.”
To learn more about the Business Technology program or any of the school’s other career training areas, visit meridiantech.edu/programs. Self-guided tours of the program areas can be found at Meridiantech.edu.visit.