Reach Higher Career App Challenge Launches Today

The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education is excited to launch the App Challenge in collaboration with the First Lady’s Reach Higher Initiative.

We are eager to see the innovative solutions that developers, educators, and anyone interested in helping students map their futures, submit to the challenge and compete for a share of the $225,000 prize pool.
You can find all the information about the Reach Higher Career App Challenge on and enter the challenge at

You can also view the complete Federal Register Notice here.

Manufacturing Day Gains Momentum

Manufacturers across the country are opening their doors on October 2nd, to welcome students, teachers, parents, and neighbors to provide a better understanding of the manufacturing that is thriving in their local communities. Visit the MFG Day website to find events in your area and post your own event.

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Strengthening Transportation Career Pathways

The article is cross-posted on the Department of Transportation Fast Lane Blog

The U.S. Departments of Transportation, Education, and Labor kicked off the week with some good news today, releasing a joint report, “Strengthening Skills Training and Career Pathways across the Transportation Industry.”

The new report details future employment hot spots in transportation by industry subsectors, occupations, career areas, and geographic areas. It also identifies good-paying, high-demand transportation jobs and analyzes patterns in the education and work experience required for entry –as well as on-the-job training requirements to help new entrants gain greater competency.

The report concludes that there will be more job opportunities in the near future due to expected growth, retirements, and turnover in the transportation industry. Each year, the U.S. Department of Transportation provides over $51 billion in surface transportation construction funding to build and maintain our Nation’s highways, bridges, and public transportation systems. For every $1 billion in transportation infrastructure investments, 13,000 jobs are projected to be created over the next decade.

But those opportunities won’t fill themselves. Employers will need to hire and train a total of 4.6 million new workers; that’s 1.2 times the current transportation workforce. As U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said, “Industry and government must increase recruitment and help young people get the skills, training, and apprenticeships they need to gain entry into these careers.”

Recruiting and training new and current workers responsible for the operation, maintenance, and construction of America’s transportation infrastructure will be critical to maintaining a system that meets the economic and security needs of a growing American population.

“Ensuring that America continues to lead the way in the global economy means not only investing in the physical infrastructure that allows us to move goods and keep up with global demand, but also the skills infrastructure to support this growing workforce,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Through smart investments in apprenticeships and other work-based training programs, transportation jobs are helping millions of Americans punch their tickets to the middle class.”

While demand for transportation workers will vary by region, subsector, and occupation, these workforce changes will result in increased job opportunities for skilled and semi-skilled workers across the transportation sector.

“In today’s society, it is important that all of our students are well-equipped with the knowledge and skills to compete in a global economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “There are incredible opportunities for Americans in the transportation industry and the Department is fully committed to working with leaders in the industry to promote partnerships between education and workforce institutions in order to support training programs that will help our country succeed.”

OCTAE presents at the Automotive Instructor Training Conference

As an automotive technology instructor, how did you spend your time outside of the classroom this summer? Over 275 instructors received intensive professional development during the 2nd annual Instructor Training Conference provided by The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Industry Education Alliance.

Chuck Roberts, Justin Morgan, and Trish Serratore standing with an ASE backdrop

Chuck Roberts, VP NATEF/AYES, Justin Morgan, Instructor at Sinclair Community College and Trish Serratore, NATEF/AYES President

The ASE Industry Education Alliance Instructor Training Conference offered not only numerous technical training sessions from manufacturers involved in all aspects of the automotive industry, but also education development sessions focusing on the teaching and learning process.

These instructors understand the importance of high academic standards and strong technical skills needed by students enrolled in their NATEF-accredited programs. They also understand, first hand, the shortage of qualified teachers entering the education profession, specifically, in career and technical education areas.

In conversations with the attendees, I observed one of the most valued aspects conferences can provide. That is, the value of informal mentoring that occurs between experienced teachers and beginning teachers.

Photo of man examining an engine belt in the audience of a learning session

Joe Gravino, Teacher at Passaic County Technical Institute, examines an engine belt during the annual conference. Kris Killam, left and Jennifer Andronas, right are seated behind Gravino

With business partners of ASE, ATech, Bosch, Bridgestone, Carquest, CDX, Cengage, Garage Gurus, Gates, Lexus, Navistar, Nissan, Snap On, Subaru, and Toyota, these automotive technology teachers and administrators are committed that their programs maintain accreditation in this fast-changing technological industry.

Plans are being made for the 2016 ASE Industry Education Alliance Instructor Training Conference in Concord, North Carolina, and I hope to see you there.

The ASE Industry Education Alliance is a group of organizations under the ASE umbrella providing a career resource from entry-level to retirement for automotive industry personnel and serves as a model for other industries. The ASE Industry Education Alliance consists of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF), Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES), and the Automotive Training Managers Council (ATMC).

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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.

The Challenge and Opportunity Ahead for our Criminal Justice System

In 2014, the National Research Council, the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences, released “The Growth of Incarceration in the United States, Exploring Causes and Consequences,” which pointed out that U.S. incarceration rates are 5-10 times higher than rates in Western Europe and other major democracies. It noted the staggering racial disparities in incarceration, and called for a significant reduction in rates of imprisonment saying that the rise in the U.S. prison population is “not serving the country well.”

This report didn’t make a huge splash in the press, but it cemented an emerging recognition that our criminal justice policies – our school discipline, “war on drugs,” “truth in sentencing,” and “three strikes and you’re out” policies – of recent decades resulted in unprecedented and costly U.S. incarceration rates that are both ineffective as a crime reduction strategy and harmful to our social fabric. It is safe to say that this is not how we want to be known in the world community. Instead, we should be known for how we engage at-risk populations, how we reinvest in people who deserve a second chance, and how we support the successful transition of justice-involved individuals back into our communities.

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Educators Rising Elevates Teacher Recruitment

This week has been a big week in the world of Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs).  In addition to SkillsUSA sending a team of competitors to the World Skills Competition in São Paulo, Brazil, we also saw the launch of Educators Rising, a CTSO on a mission to expand and support high quality Education and Training career pathways.  As America seeks to meet the demand for qualified teachers, Career and Technical Education is ready to be part of the solution.

Educators Rising, a member of the National Coordinating Council of Career and Technical Student Organizations, is the evolution of the Future Educators Association (FEA).  Educators Rising will continue to provide a national student leadership program, an online library of resources for students and teacher leaders, networking opportunities, and pathways to careers in education. Over the next year, Educators Rising will be preparing for its national conference where students will demonstrate their skills through competitive events.

Educators Rising membership is free for all students with an interest in teaching and teacher leaders who wish to serve as mentors for the next generation of highly skilled educators. For a 3-minute tour of Educators Rising’s new virtual campus, please watch the video below. For more information about what’s new in Educators Rising, click here.

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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.

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.

Intern Perspectives: Richard Miller

I am glad that I chose to intern at OCTAE this summer. It was a rewarding experience. OCTAE welcomed me into their office  with open arms, and I was privileged to work with great people fighting for an important cause. I believe in the work that OCTAE does to assist and  promote career, technical, and adult education programs, and I am inspired by all of the dedicated public servants at OCTAE who work to expand access to education in our nation.   I wish I never had to leave!

I also learned a lot in my work at OCTAE. I improved my knowledge of education policy, worked on interesting projects, and gained important employability skills. Coincidentally, my primary project at OCTAE focused on employability skills. The project was to conduct  an environmental scan of educational technology tools whose curricula focused on the employability skills defined in the Employability Skills Framework. I was particularly interested in tools targeted toward disconnected youth. I am glad that OCTAE worked with me to create this meaningful project, and I am happy that I was able to contribute to OCTAE’s efforts during my short time in DC.

My experience with OCTAE helped me to grow professionally and inspired me to make a difference. I would strongly recommend this internship to anybody who is both passionate about education and driven to fight for change. You would be in good company at OCTAE.

Richard Miller is an undergraduate student at Davidson College in North Carolina. This summer, he interned with Strategic Partnerships in OCTAE. Prospective interns apply during the semester preceding their internship term and are encouraged to select three offices within the Department in which they would prefer to work. The Department of Education accepts applications from all students 16 and older enrolled in classes at least half-time at an accredited educational institution. For more information about internships at the Department of Education, please click here.

Nominations Open for CTE U.S. Presidential Scholars

On June 22, 2015, President Obama signed an expansion of the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program to include students with outstanding scholarship and achievement in career and technical education (CTE).

Dr. Marina McCarthy, Chair of the Commission of Presidential Scholars and Ms. Simone Olson, Executive Director of the Presidential Scholar Program issued a letter to Chief State School Officers announcing the nomination process for the 2016 U. S. Presidential Scholars that will include five (5) students from each jurisdiction who demonstrate excellence in CTE.

Eligible high school seniors are those who are participants in a CTE program, are graduating between January and June of 2016, are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, and who attend public, parochial, or independent schools, or are home-schooled.  The CTE selection process will evolve after this initial year, but for this inaugural class of scholars, candidates who are nominated and submit complete applications will automatically become semifinalists.  All 2016 U.S. Presidential Scholars will be selected by the Commission on Presidential Scholars and will receive the Presidential Scholars Medallion at a ceremony in their honor in Washington, DC.

The guiding principles for nominating students in the CTE category include academic rigor, technical competence, employability skills, and ingenuity and creativity.  It is hoped that the application pool reflects the diversity of our nation’s CTE students and the economic sectors of U.S. economy.

For the 2016 class of U.S. Presidential Scholars in CTE, Chief State School Officers must submit their nominations by October 15, 2015. The nominees will be announced and invited to apply to the program in mid-January 2016 by the U.S. Presidential Scholars program office.  Completed applications will be due in February 2016, and Scholars will be announced at the beginning of May 2016.

To facilitate involvement in the process of nominating outstanding CTE students, Sharon Lee Miller, the Director of the Division of Academic and Technical Education, OCTAE, encourages CTE State Directors to reach out to their Chief State School Officer for more information.

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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.

Food Insecurity: Everyone’s Issue

More than 2,100 FFA members throughout the country converged for a week during the summer months of June and July in Washington, DC to analyze their personal skills and interests, develop leadership skills, and create a meaningful community-service plan that promises to make a difference in their home communities. Career and Technical Education (CTE) students who are members of FFA, through a hands-on service partnership with Meals of Hope, packed over 420,000 highly palatable meals this summer. Learning about civic engagement, FFA student members packaged meals that were delivered to various areas in and around Washington, D.C. that are food insecure.

FFA student members package meals to send to the food insecure.

FFA student members package meals to send to the food insecure.

FFA members attending the Washington Leadership Conference (WLC) analyze the needs of their local communities, develop a wide-ranging and high-impact community-service initiative, and implement their plan with the help of their FFA chapter upon returning home.

“FFA members attending the WLC develop a personal mission, learn the value of people and the importance of living to serve,” said National FFA Advisor and Board Chair Dr. Steve A. Brown.  “They develop their knowledge and the confidence to help others in their local schools, communities and the nation.”

Agricultural education teachers attend the Washington Leadership Conference as well, learning how to motivate and help develop their students’ personal growth and leadership potential. The teachers also learn how they can maximize their local FFA chapters’ community-service initiatives throughout the year. Upon returning to their local communities, students in recent years have created food and clothing drives, volunteer campaigns, educational outreach initiatives, and more.

The Washington Leadership Conference was created in 1969 and is held annually in Washington, D.C. The 2015 National FFA Organization’s Washington Leadership Conference is sponsored through the National FFA Foundation by title sponsors Monsanto and CSX and by weekly sponsors TransCanada, Crop Production Services, Farm Credit and BNSF.

To learn more about FFA’s Learning-to-Serve program click here.

About the National FFA Organization

The National FFA is a Career and Technical Education Student Organization (CTSO) of 610,240 student members as part of 7,665 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The National FFA Organization operates under a federal charter granted by the 81st United States Congress and it is an integral part of public instruction in agriculture. The U.S. Department of Education provides leadership and helps set direction for FFA as a service to state and local agricultural education programs. For more information, visit the National FFA Organization online at, on Facebook, Twitter and the official National FFA Organization blog.

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Dr. Steve A. Brown is an Educational Program Specialist at ED with a background in Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources Sciences (AFNRS). Brown serves as the National Adviser of the National FFA Organization and Board Chair of the National FFA Board of Directors.