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More than a trade: Tech students take on the real world

Oxford-Lafayette School of Applied Technology, also known as “The Tech,” is preparing students from Oxford and Lafayette County school districts for the real world.

With programs ranging from automotive service technology to the teacher academy, school director Joey Carpenter said The Tech is committed to making sure students who’ve gone through its programs are equipped with skills to make them successful in the workforce or in post-secondary education.

“We want these students to flourish, to be career-minded and get these certifications so they can get a job, if they want to, right out of here,” Carpenter said. “This type of learning is valuable in the career-technical field and in the academic field.”

Career and technical training is often thought of as an alternative to a college education, or a career route for those who aren’t college material, but Carpenter said that stereotype couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The Tech offers several hands-on courses that allow students to not only choose a degree path, but also gain hands-on experience before they step into a university lecture hall. The teacher academy, for example, is designed to appeal to students who want to go into the field of education and learn critical thinking skills they can apply in a classroom of their own. Programming Fundamentals, The Tech’s newest program, teaches coding and computer programming.

The Health Science program, taught by Sandi Allen for the past 21 years, allows students to not only gain experience in a working lab on campus, but also shadow professionals in nearly every branch of the medical field.

“I’ve started seeing the rewards of this program – I’ve got my first pediatrician, a veterinarian, a couple of nurse practitioners,” Allen said. “The second year of our two-year program, we go into dental care, veterinary work, oncology, pharmacy, eye clinics. It’s not just for students who want to be nurses.”  

One product of The Tech’s Health Science program is Lindsey Hemphill, a nurse practitioner who serves the LOU Community. Hemphill, a graduate of Northwest Mississippi Community College and the University of Memphis, currently works at the Oxford Treatment Center.

One of the biggest benefits of completing the Health Science program at The Tech, Hemphill said, is that she was able to find out which aspect of healthcare interested her the most while also getting a head start in nursing school.

“Ms. Allen runs her class very similar to a nursing school. On first day of nursing school, I realized how much I knew that other people didn’t,” Hemphill said. “I knew medical terminology, had skills that were taught in her room, especially time management skills. I knew what to expect.”

Carpenter acknowledged that, for students who aren’t on a college track, or those who are and still want the job security a trade certification can provide, The Tech can be a wealth of knowledge. In a college town, he said, it’s a common misconception that only way to be successful is to have a college degree.

However, certified welders can earn as much as $20 per hour, and CNC machinists can earn more than that, for example. Students interested in trying their hand at these trades can do so through The Tech’s two-year programs in metal fabrication and machinery, and those who complete the program are able to either go straight into the workforce or continue their education by taking classes such as those offered at Northwest.

Will Nicolas, a 2011 Lafayette High School Graduate who currently works at Davis Tool & Die in Abbeville, said learning how to operate manual mills in The Tech’s metal fabrication program helped lay a strong foundation for his career as a CNC mill operator. After high school, Nicolas went on to complete the Tool and Die program at Northwest.

“I’ve always liked working with metal, being able to manipulate it and make different things out of it, and The Tech’s program allowed me to do that,” Nicolas said. “For those that are interested in this field, if it’s something you like, stick with it. Especially in the metal trade, if you stick with it, there will always be a job out there for you.”

To learn more about The Tech, visit https://thetechms.org.