SkillsUSA Travels to Brazil for World Skills Competition

On August 11, 2015, eighteen SkillsUSA members will attend the opening ceremony of the 43rd biennial World Skills Competition in São Paulo, Brazil. The Ceremony will take place from 6:00-8:30 p.m. EDT and will feature a grand Parade of Nations (composed of more than 50 participating countries and regions), and entertainment which highlights typical Brazilian cultural dances and more.

SkillsUSA is a national organization serving teachers and high school and college students who are preparing for careers in technical, skilled and service occupations, including health occupations and for further education.  SkillsUSA is a Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) whose members are enrolled in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs representing multiple industry sectors. It is also a World Skills member organization, hence its participation in this week’s competition.

SkillsUSA World Team

SkillsUSA World Team

The competition will last five days, and features 62 different WorldSkills Member countries and regions from around the globe, 1,150 Competitors competing in 50 different skills, and opportunities for all participants to learn and experiment with new skills while they are in Brazil.

This is the first WorldSkills Competition ever held in Latin America, and 200,000 spectators are expected to attend the event.

The Closing Ceremony, one of the most exciting moments of the event, will be held on Sunday, August 16, 2015 from 5:00-8:00 p.m. EDT, and will present to the public the winners of the Competition.

For more information and livestream links at which you may watch the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, please visit the links below.

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Olivia Wood is a summer intern for the College and Career Transitions branch of the Division of Academic and Technical Education in the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.
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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.

College and Career Readiness: Using ELS:2002 to Study Important Educational Outcomes

Did you know the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has a NCES blog? Launched in April 2015, the blog is designed to provide a forum for news about the latest developments in NCES surveys, exciting new research opportunities, commonly misunderstood education measures, important new findings, and innovative data tools. 

This article by Elise Christopher and Lauren Musu-Gillette is cross-posted from the NCES blog.

Researchers, educators, and policy makers are interested in knowing what makes students ready for college and careers, and the Department of Education has identified college and career readiness as a priority. In 2011, the Department announced that it would allow for Elementary/Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility for states that developed plans for reforms in certain key areas of education, including college and career readiness.  In order to investigate what factors may be associated with college and career outcomes, several important questions arise. For example:

  • How do students’ high school experiences relate to whether or not they have to enroll in remedial courses in college?
  • How do these same experiences relate to whether or not they successfully complete college?
  • What high school and college experiences are associated with successful career choices?

Questions like these are best answered with longitudinal surveys, which track the paths of students as they transition from school to college and the work force.  The longitudinal surveys conducted by NCES contain a wide variety of survey components that enable researchers to address policy-related topics across disciplines.  Such longitudinal data can be expensive and time consuming to collect, particularly if they are nationally representative with sufficient sample sizes to analyze barriers faced by disadvantaged young adults. Building a sound statistical foundation for these important analyses is one of the key contributions NCES makes when producing datasets such as the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002) for the education and research community. 

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Integrating Employability Skills: A Framework for All Educators

On Thursday, July 16, 2015, the College and Career Readiness and Success (CCRS) Center, in partnership with the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders (GTL) and RTI International, released Integrating Employability Skills: A Framework for All Educators. This professional learning module—a collection of customizable, train-the-trainer materials—is designed to support regional comprehensive centers, state educational agency staff, adult education programs, and state regional centers in building their knowledge and capacity to integrate and prioritize employability skills at the state and local levels.

The module includes PowerPoint slides, handouts, a sample agenda, a workbook, tools for individuals or state work groups, and a facilitator’s guide designed to accomplish the following:

  • Introduce participants to the Employability Skills Framework and its importance
  • Connect employability skills with other education initiatives
  • Provide tools and strategies to prioritize employability skills at all levels

For more information about the module and to view the CCRS Center’s guidelines for use, please visit their website here.

To learn more about the Employability Skills Framework itself, please visit its homepage.

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Olivia Wood is a summer intern for the College and Career Transitions branch of the Division of Academic and Technical Education in the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.

White House Hosts “Celebrating Innovations in Career and Technical Education”

As part of her Reach Higher initiative, the First Lady will deliver remarks at the Celebrating Innovations in Career and Technical Education (CTE) event, hosted by the White House in partnership with the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education. In her remarks, Mrs.Obama will celebrate students and educators for their work connecting the classroom to real-life career opportunities.

Students and educators selected through a competitive process run by the Association for Career and Technical Education, as well as schools selected by the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education, will attend this event in South Court Auditorium. Together, these individuals and programs represent a wide range of accomplishment in the field that is preparing students for success in school and beyond. Over the course of the day, the White House will showcase student projects and lead discussions with education leaders, business and industry representatives, and policy makers on how the best CTE programs can be replicated and expanded.

This event follows the release of an Executive Order expanding the United States Presidential Scholars program to establish a new category of outstanding scholars in CTE. In case you missed it, additional information about the E.O. can be found here.

This event is open press and will be livestreamed at


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Olivia Wood is a summer intern for the College and Career Transitions branch of the Division of Academic and Technical Education in the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.

Executive Order Elevates Career and Technical Education

Tens of thousands of practitioners and policymakers across our country have worked tirelessly over the last few years to ensure that “vocational” education–as our parents knew it–is over. Catalyzed by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, the Administration’s 2012 Blueprint for Transforming Career and Technical Education, and the work of major national organizations such as National Association for State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), there has been tremendous growth in availability of high-quality “career and technical” education (CTE) programs to equip students for success in postsecondary education and careers in our global economy.

These high-quality CTE programs are exactly what we want to support in a reauthorized Perkins bill. Programs that are aligned to labor market demand. Programs that require collaboration among secondary, postsecondary, business/industry, and other key partners. Programs that are accountable for academic, technical, and employability outcomes for students, based on common definitions and clear metrics for performance. Programs that capitalize on innovations in state and local policies and practice. And, programs that assure full access and equity by students regardless of background or circumstances.

Despite our efforts and the availability of high-quality CTE programs, there remains an unfortunate stigma surrounding CTE. Too many students do not know about these rigorous pathways into postsecondary education and a well-paying job or rewarding career. Too many parents think about CTE using their own experiences with “shop class” as a reference. Too many members of the general public who have yet to learn that CTE is not only a viable, rigorous option, but a path into the middle class.

This Administration is committed to doing its part to change the perceptions of CTE. On Monday, June 22, President Obama signed an Executive Order expanding the U. S. Presidential Scholars Program to include students who demonstrate scholarship, ability, and accomplishment in CTE. This Executive Order builds on great collaboration between the executive and legislative branches of government, and reflects the hard work of teams of individuals at the White House, on the Hill, and in the Department. We are extremely grateful for this effort. It moves CTE out of the periphery and raises it to a level of federally-recognized prestige on par with traditional academic pathways and the arts.

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Acting Assistant Secretary, OCTAE

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

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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.

College and Career Readiness Standards-in-Action

“It’s essential to keep rigorous content standards at the heart of instructional planning, delivery, and evaluation.” Christopher Coro, Deputy Director of the Division of Adult Education and Literacy, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE)

That is exactly what 66 adult educators from 12 states did throughout their participation in an intensive, three-day training workshop held in Washington D.C., March 17-19, 2015. The workshop was designed in response to the following question: What do adult educators need to know and be able to do to translate content standards into college and career readiness (CCR) aligned curriculum and instruction?  Participants will tell you they know now! They spent three action-packed days learning the core instructional actions to effectively implement CCR standards in adult education classrooms.

Under the guidance of StandardsWork Inc. staff and coaches/trainers, participants delved into the instructional and institutional implications of CCR standards. Half the participants worked with the CCR standards for English language arts/literacy while others immersed themselves in the math standards.  Now team members know how to:

  • Determine the alignment of an instructional resource to the standards,
  • Revise the resource to improve its alignment, and
  • Create CCR-aligned lessons.

And they know how to implement their training and the tools and lessons with instructors across their states. Participants left the workshop equipped with ready-to-use training material that will enable professional development staff to provide training activities statewide.

Between now and June 2015, the 12 teams will pilot the training in up to two local-programs in their states (AZ, CO, CT, IL, KY, ME, MA, MN, MT, PA, TN, and VA).  Simultaneously, they are engaging in longer-range planning to scale up what they learned regarding translating standards into CCR-aligned curriculum and instruction statewide. Implementation teams will continue to have access to StandardsWork staff and coaches to assist with their sustainable implementation of CCR standards. In September 2015, everyone will return to Washington D.C. for a second training workshop, Improving Student Assignments and Conducting Focused Classroom Observations.

OCTAE is proud to partner with StandardsWork, coaches, and participants in taking these next steps in improving adult education services for our adult learners. See previously released materials from this project and the College and Career Readiness in Adult Education report.

Students Showcase Career and Technical Education and STEM to Congress

Photo of two students in lab coats describe their biomedical program to Mark Mitsui from OCTAE while standing in front of their exhibit table.

Students from Washington County Technical High School, Maryland, explain their biomedical program to OCTAE Deputy Assistant Secretary, Mark Mitsui.

Students from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia demonstrated the role of Career and Technical Education (CTE) and STEM in preparing students for college and careers. The event was co-hosted by the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), Project Lead the Way (PLTW) and the Senate CTE Caucus. OCTAE attended the event which was held in a science fair-style format and provided an opportunity for students to explain their work and how it has prepared them for their future as professionals. Exhibits featured advanced technical skills in biosciences and robotics to engineering and computer programming, as well as employability skills, such as teamwork, critical thinking and creative problem solving that students are obtaining through their programs.

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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.

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

Wisconsin Hosts Program of Study Framework Webinars

The Wisconsin Advanced Manufacturing Pathway Educational Network, or WAMPEN, is hosting a series of three free webinars to help educators and administrators better understand the ten components of the Program of Study framework. Staff from the WAMPEN project will share their experiences implementing the framework to better serve students and manufacturers in Wisconsin.

The first webinar, scheduled for September 25, from 2:00pm to 3:00pm Central Time, will provide an overview of the WAMPEN project and the ten components of the Program of Study Framework.

Upcoming webinars topics include integrating literacy in manufacturing curriculum on October 30, and integrating math instruction in manufacturing curriculum on December 4, 2014.

There is no need to register or RSVP and you can connect to the webinar at and also use the link to test your connection in advance.

WAMPEN is one of six projects funded under OCTAE’s Promoting Rigorous Programs of Study(RPOS) discretionary grant program in 2010. You can find more information about the WAMPEN project on their website and download a flyer with the dates and times of all three webinars.