AXIS Powered by Francis Tuttle and its entrepreneurial center serve as incubators for entrepreneurs and small business owners and collaborative workspaces with an entrepreneurship program to encourage and increase startups.
Interview with Adam Troxtell, Francis Tuttle content developer.
What is the AXIS program?
AXIS Powered by Francis Tuttle is our small-business services program housed at the Danforth Campus. Its primary function is a state-certified small business incubator. Entrepreneurs and small business owners bring their ventures here, where they are connected to resources that help them grow. It offers business coaching, training opportunities, and networking opportunities. Many of its clients take up residence in on-site offices and workspaces. Business services and office and conference room spaces are also available for self-employed or remote workers. By hosting AXIS at Danforth, the business owners, and entrepreneurs have access to everything on campus that encourages creative thinking and facilitates those connections that lead to the next big idea.
What is the Entrepreneurial Center?
The Danforth Campus opened in August 2021. Like all our campuses, Danforth hosts Career Training Programs that provide students and customers with the tools they need to be successful in the workplace. What makes Danforth unique is it was designed with entrepreneurship in mind. In addition to classrooms, the campus has collaborative workspaces such as the Herman Meinders and Mary Golda Ross Design Thinking Studios and the Product Realization Lab. The furniture, desks and classroom spaces were selected and designed to promote collaboration and creativity. And Danforth is the only campus that hosts our Entrepreneurship Program, where students spend their year brainstorming, developing and building their business idea. Their ultimate goal is to pitch their idea to business professionals and potential investors, so it’s possible some of these ideas will turn into real businesses that help drive the Oklahoma economy forward.
How do both of these programs push innovation forward in the area of workforce development?
Overall, we believe that Francis Tuttle Technology Center and all of the CareerTech centers in Oklahoma are crucial to workforce development; because this is where that workforce develops. People who come to Francis Tuttle learn skills that lead directly to a job, and the CareerTech model allows us to respond directly to the economic needs of our community. By encouraging entrepreneurship, we’re taking that next step to provide job training and think about what that job or business will look like five years down the road. Customers get to think about what they want that industry to look like or what society needs it to look like, and they then develop ideas of how to make it so.
Why was this an important focus for Francis Tuttle?
There’s a quote on the wall at the Danforth Campus from President Abraham Lincoln, he said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Technology is constantly changing the jobs and industries that employ our program graduates. Our industry-trained instructors do a phenomenal job of instilling the job skills students will need to be successful in today’s economy. And by adding entrepreneurship into the equation alongside that education and job training, we are encouraging students to look beyond today. The future of their industries will be based on their work and ideas. We’re encouraging them to think big now.
What kind of success have you seen with these programs?
All of our Career Training programs are consistently full, and some have wait lists. AXIS is also full, with a business preparing to graduate and another coming in right after. And the Entrepreneurship Program just hosted its second annual Pitch Night. Students presented their business ideas to judges, who then selected a winner. It’s a way for students to get real-world experience pitching their business idea to would-be investors.
What kind of growth do you expect for the future of these programs?
Our programs are structured to grow and adapt over time as new technology changes the industry. For example, the Automotive Service Technician program at the Danforth Campus was recently given a Nissan Leaf donated by Bob Moore Auto Group. This donation was possible thanks to the program’s Advisory Committee, a group of professionals that advises us on how to keep job training relevant. Thanks to this donation, our students will gain unrivaled insight into how to service an electric vehicle. Just as entrepreneurship changes the way an industry works, the way we instruct students and train our workforce must also change and grow. We’re prepared for those changes and eager to adopt new practices to ensure our students are successful in the workplace.
Why is focusing on workforce development important for Oklahoma?
We see a shift going on in education. The rising costs associated with education have caused people to have a second look at what a high school degree, a college degree and an industry certification can get them in the job market. The new economy driven by technological advancement is also changing the way people think about work and the jobs they want. So for Oklahoma to get ahead, we have to think proactively about what that future workforce will look like and how to prepare Oklahomans today for the jobs they will get tomorrow. Francis Tuttle, and CareerTech, as a whole, are prepared for that challenge because of how we already do business. Our programs are responsive to the needs of our community, our training is kept up with modern times thanks to our industry connections, and we are focusing on what the future of those important industries — aerospace, healthcare, and manufacturing to name a few — will look like.