SkillsUSA Celebrates its 50th Anniversary

Happy Birthday, SkillsUSA!

Tim Lawrence and Karen Ward stand and cut the first slice of the birthday cake while Brooke Johnson stands in the background

National SkillsUSA Executive Director, Tim Lawrence, and SkillsUSA Massachusetts Director, Karen Ward, cut the birthday cake. President Brooke Johnson looks on.

SkillsUSA celebrated its 50th anniversary on May 8th at its National Leadership Center in Leesburg, Virginia, by celebrating with a Founders Day to recognize the contributions of its members, their instructors, administrators, state association directors, industry partners and alumni.

Some of the event highlights included a dedication of the new entryway of the Leadership Center, designed and constructed by students, memories and testimonies shared among charter members, state directors, and former members, and the opening of the 25th Anniversary Time Capsule.

Brooke Johnson and Ahmad Shawwal stand at a podium

SkillsUSA 2014-15 Presidents Brooke Johnson, NC and Ahmad Shawwal, VA, at the podium during the flag raising ceremony of the 50th Anniversary of SkillUSA celebrations.

Over its 50 years, cumulative membership is more than 11.9 million. The 2014-15 membership of SkillsUSA is 360,404. Its first conference in Nashville, Tennessee 50 years ago brought 200 students, teachers and administrators together. Last year more than 16,000 attended the annual National Leadership and Skills Conference.

SkillsUSA was founded as the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA) with a goal of establishing a nationwide organization to represent trade and industrial education and serve students’ needs. VICA was changed to SkillsUSA in 2004 but what has not changed is the organization’s commitment to help students discover career interests, develop relevant skills to compete globally, and value their own self-worth. SkillsUSA continues to reach toward the founders’ vision, whether it’s fulfilling the 1965 motto of “Preparing for Leadership in the World of Work” or helping to develop today’s “Champions at Work”.

SkillsUSA and is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA helps each student excel by providing educational programs, events and competitions that support career and technical education (CTE) in the nation’s classrooms.

You can find more information about SkillsUSA on their website at SkillsUSA.org.

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Robin Utz serves as the chief for the College and Career Transitions branch in the Division of Academic and Technical Education (DATE) for Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) at the US Department of Education.

CTE Student celebrated at White House Science Fair

Photo of Eric Koehlmoos standing with his research exhibit

Eric Koehlmoos appears with his Grass to Gas research at the 2015 White House Science Fair

Eric Koehlmoos, a Career and Technical Education student and member of the National FFA Organization was recognized at the 2015 White House Science Fair that was held on March 26 for his “Grass to Gas” project. Eric, 18, is a member of the South O’Brien FFA Chapter in Paulina, Iowa. He was invited to participate in the Fair that celebrates the accomplishments of student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions throughout the United States.

More than 100 of the nation’s brightest young minds were welcomed to the fifth White House Science fair. In the past, innovative inventions, discoveries and science projects have been showcased.

Koehlmoos won first place in the Power, Structural and Technical Systems category at the 2014 National FFA Agriscience Fair, a special project of the National FFA Foundation that was sponsored by Cargill, Bayer CropScience, John Deere, PotashCorp and Syngenta. The fair was held during the National FFA Convention & Expo and featured the research and results of FFA members who plan on pursuing careers in the science and technology of agriculture. This accomplishment earned him the special White House invitation.

Koehlmoos’ project, “Grass to Gas,” consisted of three years of research with prairie cordgrass and switch grass and their potential impact in the cellulosic ethanol industry.
“Because I come from a farm background I was very interested in the biofuel industry and the new cellulosic ethanol plants being built near my house,” Koehlmoos said.

Photo of Eric Koehlmoos standing with the White House in the background

Eric Koehlmoos stands in front of the White House during his visit to Washington, D.C.

During his three years of research, Koehlmoos found that both grasses produce nearly 200 more gallons of ethanol per acre than corn and wheat straw, two mainstream methods for ethanol production. He also discovered that when both grasses are pretreated with calcium hydroxide, ethanol yields are increased by as much as 80 percent and produces a byproduct that has higher protein values than corn distiller grains.

Koehlmoos plans to continue his research in college and would ultimately like to use these grasses to commercially produce ethanol in the Southern Plains, which would provide a sustainable solution to importing foreign oil while also not competing with the food supply.

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Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

Take the FCCLA@TheTable Pledge

one male and one female student are standing and talking with Deputy Assistant Secretary Mark Mitsui

Student leaders of FCCLA talk with Deputy Assistant Secretary of OCTAE, Mark Mitsui

Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) has launched a national campaign – FCCLA@TheTable – by asking youth to take a pledge to plan, prepare, and share healthy meals for their families. The ultimate goal is to engage youth in planning and preparing healthy meals for their family and to increase planned and prepared family meals. Because FCCLA recognizes the frantic pace of 21st century life has taken a huge bite out of a longtime American ritual — the family dinner.

The case for gathering around the dinner table is compelling: Family meals promote healthy lifestyles, strengthen family ties, and lessen the likelihood of youth engaging in negative behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, and drug use. And, according to research, family dinners also can improve students’ academic performance.

“FCCLA@TheTable is an exciting initiative, and I already have seen the positive impact participating has had on my own family,” said Connor Jones, Vice-President of Public Relations for FCCLA’s National Executive Council of student leaders. “When we eat together, we grow closer. Cooking as a family also helps us make informed decisions about what we eat. I know FCCLA@TheTable can help other families just as it has helped mine.”

Taking the pledge is quick and easy. Just click on this link: http://bit.ly/1CFje3N. To make @TheTable even more special, FCCLA is challenging youth to pledge 70,000 meals — in honor of FCCLA’s 70th anniversary — before the July 2015 National Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. FCCLA also is encouraging those who take the pledge to help spread the word by taking a picture of their family meal, posting it on Facebook or Instagram and tagging #FCCLAatTheTable!

Photo of a group of students and OCTAE staff standing in front of US and Department of Education Flags

Student Leaders from FCCLA stand for a photo following their visit with OCTAE staff in Washington, D.C.

FCCLA is a national Career and Technical Student Organization that provides personal growth, leadership development, and career preparation opportunities for students in Family and Consumer Sciences education. The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education recently met with the FCCLA National Executive Council of student leaders during FCCLA week which was February 8 -14.

The Council shared how being enrolled in Family and Consumer Sciences courses and being members of FCCLA has prepared them with practical skills and advanced knowledge to further their career preparation, including how STEM is an integral part of their Family and Consumer Sciences programs; actually helping them to put this knowledge in to practice.

For more information, visit the FCCLA@TheTable website. The resource list provides lots of inspiration, including meal time conversation starters – the secret ingredient to a memorable family dinner.

College and Career Transitions Branch Chief, OCTAE
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College and Careers Transitions Branch Chief, OCTAE

DECA Hosts Idea Challenge

Can you think of an innovative use for a household item? That is the objective in the DECA Idea Challenge that launches at midnight tonight, November 12. The competition challenges students from elementary school to college to submit their idea for a new use for a common household item. DECA will announce the item at midnight and competitors have eight days to submit their entry via YouTube. Students do not have to be in Career and Technical Education (CTE) or be a DECA member to participate, and you can find a challenge toolkit and contest rules on the DECA.org website.

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Education Program Specialist, OCTAE

CTSOs Foster Growth

My life did not begin in what most would consider ideal circumstances. At the age of two I was separated from my biological family and made a ward of the State of Texas. At the age of six, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) terminated all parental rights, assumed permanent managing guardianship of my care and well-being, and selected adoption as my permanent planning goal.

Only a small percentage of the numerous children placed in foster care are actually adopted. Tragically, few children in the foster care system emerge as a graduate from high school, let alone consider continuing into higher education. The students who do manage to graduate from high school are more likely than their peers to have only completed the minimum requirements and are at higher risk of requiring remediation in college.

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Photo of Isabel Soto
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Confidential Assistant Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education U.S. Department of Education

Smithsonian Welcomes FFA Jackets

Photo of five FFA jackets

Five FFA jackets were dedicated at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

During a special presentation on July 25, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History welcomed the jackets of five former FFA members to its collection. The familiar blue and gold jackets will be featured at the American Enterprise exhibit, opening July 2015. The exhibit will tell the nation’s business story, centered on the themes of opportunity, innovation, competition and the search for common good in the American marketplace.

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Educated and Skilled to Lead America! SkillsUSA: Champions at Work!

Two student competitors sit at a table programming computers while a third student configures a computerized milling machine.

Students test their skills in an advanced manufacturing competition at the SkillsUSA NLSC.

Thank you dedicated students, advisors, state directors, alumni, and business partners for showing the world that SkillsUSA members are true Champions at Work! SkillsUSA returned to Kansas City June 23-27, 2014, for its 50th annual National Leadership and Skills Conference (NLSC). I am honored to have witnessed the largest national conference it has ever held with the most participants in its history. It was the premiere showcase of career and technical education students. More than 15,000 students, teachers, education leaders, and representatives from more than 600 national corporations, trade associations, business and labor unions participated in the event. In addition, the 2014 NLSC marked the beginning of a year-long celebration as SkillsUSA turns 50 in May 2015! I have already marked my calendar to be in Leesburg, VA on May 8th for the birthday celebrations.

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TSA Rocks DC

Over 6,800 students, parents, and advisors attended the 36th Annual National Technology Student Association (TSA) Conference in Washington, DC last week. I was privileged to be one of those. TSA is committed to students studying in Technology Education and those interested in a STEM career. Middle and high school TSA students traveled to DC from across the nation to network, compete, and share new ideas and skills that could be used in the future.

Photo of Elisabeth Stansbury, Robin Utz, and Caleb Gum standing in front of a banner at the National TSA Conference in Washington, DC.

Elisabeth Stansbury, left, and Caleb Gum, right, pause for a quick photo at the 36th Annual National TSA Conference in Washington, DC.

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