The Central Technology Center (www.centraltech.edu) serves more than 27,000 students and provides customized business and industry training to more than 500 area businesses in Oklahoma. Central Tech uses a combination of online and hands on lab curriculum to serve both secondary and adult students. The Network Security & Administration (NSA) class prepares students for careers in computer networking, administration and cyber security.
Central Tech aims to teach students the technology and applications skills they need to enter the workforce, and is constantly striving to keep up with the latest industry advances. They train students with no prior experience in the field, so instructors are starting from scratch to get students up to speed on current network skills.
“The biggest gap we see in our program is students can learn theory or study a textbook, but they cannot actually apply those skills in real world situations,” says Phil Waul, Superintendent of Central Tech. “We needed a way to help them apply the new technologies they are learning in real world situations to prepare them for the workforce.”
One of Central Tech’s main goals is placement, so the reason they sought to fill the gap from knowledge to real-world application is to improve the job placement opportunities for students.
Budget is another concern. “As an education institution we are constrained by our budget, and we can’t just go out and buy enterprise level equipment to train our students on,” said Clint Webb, NSA Instructor.
Central Tech had previously offered technology certification to give students a boost on their resume and to help them walk out of the school with a validation of their competency. In addition to validating real world skills, certification keeps up with the fast pace of technology, unlike textbooks.
Central Tech heard about the HP Accredited Technical Associate program and decided to pilot the architect-level exam since it would be a good fit for their students and would help them to fill the gaps they were seeing in their curriculum. The program would also be affordable for the school if they decided to adopt it in the long run.
“The beauty of the HP ATA program is it allows our students to access enterprise equipment and software in a simulation environment, which makes this technology available to them when before there was no feasible way to get that kind of training,” said Webb.
Another NSA Instructor at Central Tech, Nick Gaunt, explains why they chose the HP ATA program. “One of the things I love about the HP ATA certification is that it is very relevant to today’s industry. I have trained a lot of different certifications before, and many of them are covering outdated technology that is not relevant in today’s society. The HP ATA covers topics like tablets and smart phones and things that are very real to IT today.”
Central Tech decided to become a Certiport Testing Center, which would allow their students to take the exams in a comfortable environment at their own school and without driving long distances due to their rural location.
Certiport provided Central Tech with the training materials, practice exams and vouchers to allow their students to take the HP ATA exams. The school embraced the pilot program and cut their development time in half from the usual four months it takes to get a new program up and running.
During the pilot phase, Central Tech had 70 students earn HP ATA certification. “Once a few students took the exam, they all wanted to have it and it grew like wildfire,” said Gaunt. “It has really changed the outlook of the classroom as more people want to feel that success and they can see themselves going into and succeeding in this field.”
Kaleb Powell was one Central Tech student who took the HP ATA exam. “I honestly feel honored taking the HP ATA since it is a brand new program,” says Powell. “I feel like I have the edge because other students are taking old tests and I have a new, up-to-date test. Now I am confident in my skills and can apply for a job because I have one step over other candidates.”
The school credits the HP ATA preparation materials from Certiport with a very high pass rate for their students. The curriculum was challenging and prepared the students for a pass rate of 93 percent.
Gaunt says the HP ATA will benefit his students greatly as they enter the workforce. “Nationally recognized certifications like the HP ATA help students get that first job when their resume is lacking work experience. This is my 12th year teaching in the IT field and helping students get out into the market and I’ve found that being able to get the students an industry-recognized certification is always a benefit.”
Webb adds, “What I like about the program is it combines both the business concerns of IT and the hands on skill required by industry.”