FCCLA Celebrates 70 Years

The Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) held its 2015 National Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. from July 6th– 9th  at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

The Opening General Session featured an introduction by Mark Mitsui, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges at OCTAE. He recognized three FCCLA initiatives: “FCCLA at the Table,” through which members pledged to share a sit-down meal with their families, and more than 70,000 such meals were pledged; participation in the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign; and their involvement with food bank volunteering efforts, demonstrated by the more than 1,100 pounds of non-perishable food items collected at the conference and donated to local charity, Food For Others.

To promote the conference theme, Together We are Healthy, FCCLA members danced on the Capitol lawn.

To promote the conference theme, Together We are Healthy, FCCLA members danced on the Capitol lawn.

FCCLA also practiced the “Gimme 5 Dance”–made famous by the First Lady’s appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show– in preparation for their visit to the Capitol Building on Wednesday morning. Gimme 5 is the latest initiative in the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” program to fight childhood obesity, which coincides with the FCCLA National Leadership Conference’s theme of “Together We Are Healthy.”

The conference drew more than 7,700 students, advisers, and alumni from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, in their signature red jackets to celebrate and connect with each other.

After the singing the national anthem and cheering for the presentation of state flags, students were addressed by their National Officers, the FCCLA Executive Director Sandy Spavone, and Muriel Bowser, Mayor of the District of Columbia, among others.

FCCLA student members rally in Washington, DC to celebrate FCCLA 70th year.

FCCLA student members rally in Washington, DC to celebrate FCCLA’s 70th year as an organization.

FCCLA dates back to 1945 when it operated as the Future Homemakers of America before merging with the New Homemakers of America (NHA) and Home Economics Related Occupations (HERO). Student members participate in CTE programs at their high schools and have the opportunity to compete in a wide variety of events at regional meetings.

On July 8th, Laura Taylor, 2014-15 National President, announced through Twitter that #2015NLC is the number 3 trending hashtag on Instagram. Another student member tweeted, “I love FCCLA Conferences. It’s like a 7,500 family reunion.” For more information about FCCLA, please visit its website here.

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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 wh.gov/live


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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 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

Celebrating Digital Learning Day


Every day is a good dayView image on Twitter for digital learning! One of OCTAE’s top-line priorities is to ensure that teachers and students have access to high-quality learning opportunities on demand. To meet this priority, we have been working on several efforts. To celebrate Digital Learning Day 2015, here is a round-up:

LINCS.ed.gov has an established Community of Practice that is home to lively peer-to-peer and expert-led discussions among nearly 10,000 adult educators. Seventeen self-access courses on topics such as establishing career pathways, accommodating learners with learning disabilities, teaching science,  serving English language learners, and integrating technology provide on-demand professional development for thousands of practitioners. All of this is available to teachers 24/7 and on the go.

Teacher User Groups in two projects have supported adult education teachers to find, evaluate, and review high-quality Open Education Resources (OER) in the areas of science, math, and English language learning for use in adult education classrooms. Their reviews are posted in OER Commons where there is a growing category of reviewed OER tagged as “adult education” and “adult ESL” so other teachers can easily find them and incorporate these resources into the classroom or assign as supplemental learning.  The Open CTE Resources: Educator’s Guide Roadmap to help teachers use, build, and share their own OER is also freely available on the site.

To facilitate more students, teachers, and programs going digital and bringing more digital resources to learning, OCTAE is an enrollment partner with EveryoneOn.org, a broker of low-cost Internet and refurbished high-end devices. Learn how to help students get connected through Everyoneon.org/adulted and learn more about this program here.

OCTAE has also teamed up with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to promote local library-adult education partnerships focused on digital learning and digital literacy. Libraries are a natural source of hands-on assistance with digital and print literacy in the community and can be a productive outreach and recruitment partner. To assist literacy tutors and library volunteers, OCTAE and IMLS co-sponsored development of the Tutor Ready Learning Plans, available online at . Read more about these resources and access an archived webinar presentation.

The Employability Skills Framework is an interactive, one-stop resource for information and tools to inform the instruction and assessment of employability skills for teachers in adult education and career and technical education. The Framework aligns resources around nine key skills, organized in three broad categories: applied knowledge, effective relationships, and workplace skills.

Keep an eye on the horizon for two challenges to be launched by OCTAE. The Reach Higher Career App Challenge seeks to spur innovation in career exploration by empowering students with individualized career and education information at their fingertips. The EdSim Challenge will encourage developers of cutting edge 3D simulations and games to develop the next generation of immersive, interoperable, open platform simulations. More details will be provided soon.

Career Pathways On the Move!

The Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Labor (DOL) continue our exciting work together around career pathways – both systems building and programs.  In April of 2014, we issued a joint Request for Information (RFI) to get information and recommendations about career pathways from stakeholders in the public and private sectors.

A diverse group of 141 respondents from across the nation commented.  We received information about existing career pathways systems, roles and responsibilities of career pathways partners, connections to economic development strategies, how pathways systems are funded, how participant outcomes are measured, and how providers ensure that pathways stay current with labor market trends.

CP RFI report image

Career Pathways Summary of Responses to a Request for Information

An interagency team has been reviewing and analyzing the responses and is pleased to share a summary report with overarching themes from the RFI.  The report includes facilitators and barriers to career pathway(s) development and implementation.  It also includes promising practices and recommendations for what federal, state, tribal, and local agencies can do to support the successful development of career pathways systems in light of recent developments such as the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).  The report concludes with an overview of key opportunities, including:

  • Service to Diverse Populations
  • Increased Funding
  • Technical Assistance
  • Greater Flexibility
  • Support for Research

Career pathways are a required activity for state and local workforce development boards, and WIOA encourages their implementation throughout the new law.  This increased support for career pathways is guiding a comprehensive update and enhancement to the existing career pathways framework and Career Pathways Toolkit.

Yesterday, as part of the enhancement process, DOL, in partnership with the interagency team, hosted a Champions meeting, with those recognized as a champion in the implementation of a Career Pathways System in their state, locality, or tribe, to get valuable input on draft revisions to the Career Pathways Toolkit.  The champions provided their feedback as well as any innovations, creative approaches, and evidence-based practices they have developed since the publication of the last version of the Toolkit in 2011.

Please know that the information shared through the RFI and yesterday’s Champions meeting will be used to inform technical assistance efforts, funding opportunities, policy discussions, and other activities to support the development of career pathways systems.   So, stay tuned by staying engaged with the Moving Forward with Career Pathways project.

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

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.

Chinese CTE Delegation Visits OCTAE

Grace Solares, Dr. Jack Xiaogang Zhang, & Ms. Yan Shi

Grace Solares, exchanges greetings and information with Dr. Jack Xiaogang Zhang, & Ms. Yan Shi from the Chinese Delegation

I recently had an opportunity to meet with a delegation of CTE providers, and university and employer representatives from China. Upon returning to China from the Association for Career and Technical Education’s (ACTE) CareerTech VISION 2014 Conference in Nashville, Tenn., the delegation stopped by our Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) to learn more about the career and technical education system in the United States. OCTAE’s Deputy Assistant Secretary Mark Mitsui, and OCTAE staff, Grace Solares and Margaret Romer, provided the delegates with an overview of our CTE system, as well as, the Department of Education’s priorities for CTE reform.

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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 Transitions Branch Chief, OCTAE
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