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.

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.

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.

High School Students Receive CDA Credential

The 2015 graduating cohort from Tuba City High School in Arizona gathers for a photo with their Child Development Associate Certificates.

The 2015 graduating cohort from Tuba City High School in Arizona gathers for a photo with their Child Development Associate Certificates.

This year, eight students at Tuba City High School graduated with their Childhood Development Associate (CDA) credentials as part of a dual enrollment program with Coconino Community College.

Tuba City, Arizona, the Navajo Nation’s largest community, received funding for this program through the U.S. Department of Education’s “Promoting Rigorous Career and Technical Education Programs of Study” program. Tuba City High School is the third school in the nation to award this credential to high school students.

Arizona is one of six states that participated in the “Promoting Rigorous Career and Technical Education Programs of Study” initiative, a four-year project that sought to design, implement, and study the effects of rigorous CTE programs that incorporate the 10 key components of OCTAE’s Program of Study Design Framework and compare the results across urban, suburban, and rural settings.

Over the course of the Tuba City program, students are required to complete almost 500 hours of fieldwork, a professional portfolio, an online national assessment, and 24 credit hours of college-level coursework in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) field. Finally, students are observed in the classroom for 3.5 hours by a trained CDA development specialist.

Maria Goatcher–Tuba City High School’s CDA program coordinator–says, “CDA Certification prepares ECE students for college or employment after high school graduation. The program provides students with career choices in postsecondary education and the workplace.”

Jazmin Greyeyes, Sydney Tsinigine, Raini Daw, Sydney Holiday, Ambrielle Begay, Michel Yazzie, Cheynaea Curtis, and Audre Humetewa are the second cohort to graduate from Tuba City High School’s Early Childhood Education Program with their CDA. The CDA is a nationally-recognized credential in the Early Childhood Education field and provides these students with college credit, experience with elevated academic rigor, and the first step in pursuing other credentials, such as a four-year degree and/or teaching licensure.

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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.

National FFA Awards $2.7 Million to Students

In 1984, sixteen FFA members received the first awards given through the newly established collegiate scholarship program. In the 31 years since then, National FFA has given more than $41 million in scholarships.  These scholarships are provided by businesses and individuals through the National FFA Foundation to reward and encourage excellence and enable students to pursue their educational goals.

This year, National FFA awarded more than $2.7 million in scholarships to 2,158 students. Over 80% of these students are attending four-year universities in the fall, and 63% of the scholarship winners are female. The winners included 313 high school valedictorians.

The infographic below provides an overview of the 2015 scholarship recipients. You can also download a PDF of the graphic here.

FFA Infographic

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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.

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.

Changing the Narrative for Youth

“A zip code should not determine someone’s fate.” Those words echoed as Leticia James, New York City Public Advocate provided remarks at the New York City Young Men’s Initiative’s (YMI) My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Community Convening. “It’s the power of government and education to transform, and that’s what our work is about,” she added. And that’s why President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative last year, to help bridge gaps and expand opportunity for young people, particularly boys and young men of color – regardless of who they are, where they come from or the circumstances into which they are born.

Held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem on February 27, the convening brought together representatives from the community – as well as public and private sector leaders in the areas of philanthropy, education, mentoring, community development and others – who are all unified in their commitment to advancing life outcomes and opportunities for young men of color.

After a dynamic youth discussion between Urban Ambassador and YMI Youth Advisor Lionel Kiki and David Banks, President and CEO of the Eagle Academy Foundation,  the first panel focused on education. Among the many ideas that were shared during the education panel, three themes set the tone – including the need for every young person to have access to a mentor, whether that is a caring adult or peer mentor. And particularly for young men of color, male mentors are crucial. “A student without a mentor is like an explorer without a map,” said a participant. The second theme was about changing the narrative about young men of color. “We should start talking about assets, as opposed to deficiencies,” was a key point made by various participants. Third, was the emphasis on culturally appropriate education, including programs and staff.

Sheena Wright, President and CEO of the United Way of New York City, moderated and panelists included Deputy Mayor of New York Richard Buery, Grace Bonilla, President and CEO of the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc., Paul Forbes, Director of the Expanded Success Initiative, and U.S. Department of Education Acting Assistant Secretary Johan Uvin.

Since the launch of MBK, cities, counties, and tribal nations were called on to implement “cradle to college and career” strategies for improving the outcomes for young people – known as the MBK Community Challenge. Since then, cities, businesses, and foundations are taking steps to connect young to the mentorship, networks, and the skills they need to find a good job, or go to college. During our trip to New York, we saw first-hand what several neighborhoods in New York are doing to improve the outcomes of youth and young men of color in particular. We visited three programs that are part of the Young Men’s Initiative. We had the opportunity to meet with several inspiring youth and adults participating in the Expanded Success Initiative (ESI), Jobs-Plus and Young Adult Internship Program, initiatives of YMI’s efforts to address disparities faced by young men of color. While on a tour of EPIC North High School – a part of ESI – the students shared inspiring and deeply personal testimonies about how EPIC has provided leadership and life skills while enabling them to earn their high school diploma and get ready for college.

Panelists in discussion

Acting Assistant Secretary Johan E. Uvin, Grace Bonilla, Sheena Wright, Deputy Mayor of New York Richard Buery, and Paul Forbes discuss innovative practices and tools that should be considered when planning to increase college access for Black and Latino young men.

New York City is one of the larger cities that responded to the President’s powerful call to action on February 27th last year.  Along with New York City, nearly 200 mayors, tribal leaders, and county executives across 43 states and the District of Columbia have accepted the MBK Community Challenge in partnership with more than 2,000 individual community-based allies. These “MBK Communities” are working with leading experts in youth and community development to design and implement cradle-to-college-and-career action plans. Within six months of accepting the Challenge, MBK Communities commit to review local public policy, host action summits, and start implementing their locally tailored action plans to address opportunity gaps. MBK Communities are provided with technical assistance to develop, implement and track plans of action from both federal agencies and independent organizations with related expertise.

Last week, a report was released that provided an update on three areas of focus based on the goals laid out in the MBK Presidential Memorandum: state and local engagement, private sector action – independent nonprofit, philanthropic and corporate action; and public policy review.

We encourage you to read the report and learn more about the Young Men’s Initiative in New York City. We also encourage you to get involved in your community and join efforts to improve policies and programs to improve the outcomes for all youth but particularly for young men of color.

Johan E. Uvin is the Acting Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education and represents the Department on the Entering the Workforce work team of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. Carmen Drummond is the Policy Advisor to the Assistant Secretary and advises on interagency issues and strategic Administration initiatives.

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: 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

In Case You Missed It: CTE and STEM Conference on Marginalized Girls

Cross-posted from the White House Blog | The recorded webcast may be viewed here.

President Obama believes in the innate curiosity of every child, and our responsibility to ensure that every young woman and girl has the opportunity to achieve her dreams, regardless of what zip code she is born in.

This week, as part of the President’s commitment to equal opportunity for all students, the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Council on Women and Girls, the Department of Education, and the Georgetown University Law Center on Poverty and Inequality highlighted programs that focus on developing the talent of girls of color and low-income girls in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and career technical education (CTE) careers. We heard from the educators, innovators, researchers, scientists, and marginalized girls themselves who are dedicated to increasing the participation of low-income girls and girls of color in post-secondary education and in-demand careers within high-growth industry sectors.  

According to a recent National Science Foundation study, today, more women graduate from college and participate in graduate programs than men. As the White House Council on Women and Girls noted in our November 2014 report, Women and Girls of Color: Addressing Challenges and Expanding Opportunity, since 2009, both fourth- and eighth-grade math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the largest nationwide assessment, have improved for all girls of color, and since 2009 the high school dropout rate has fallen by 16 percent for black girls and 30 percent for Hispanic girls.

From 2009 to 2012, the graduation rate at four-year colleges and universities increased by 0.9 percentage points for black women, 3.1 percentage points for Hispanic women, 2.7 percentage points for American Indian/Alaska Native women, and 2.1 percentage points for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women. Despite this progress, barriers still exist for girls and women in STEM and CTE fields. In 2010, just 10.6 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 7.9 percent of master’s degrees, and 3.9 percent of doctorate degrees in science and engineering were awarded to women of color, and fewer than 1 in 10 employed engineers were women of color.

Many of these girls and young women continue to demonstrate an interest in STEM/CTE education, and we know that they bring new ideas, perspectives, and a passion for innovation and discovery. However, a dearth of resources effectively focused on marginalized girls, inaccurate stereotypes and implicit bias, and a lack of research informing evidence-based programs have combined to discourage many from pursuing and advancing in STEM and CTE careers. We simply cannot afford to allow these unfair and unnecessary barriers to prevent our nation from benefitting from the talents of the best and brightest Americans without regard to race, ethnicity, income, or gender.

We are proud to announce that the Administration is working with non-profit partners to expand access to STEM and CTE for marginalized girls, including low-income and girls of color:

  • Expanding Access to STEM and CTE Programs that Work: With funding support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Girls Collaborative Project, in coordination with non-profits like COMPUGIRLS and educators from around the country, will create a new STEM/CTE portal that will centralize resources on expanding marginalized girls’ access to STEM and CTE, including curriculum, research, and promising practices. The new project will also implement educator professional development at the local level.
  • Guidance to Ensure All Students Have Access to CTE and Non-Traditional Careers: The Department of Education is developing policy guidance designed to ensure that all students have equal access to CTE programs. The guidance to high schools, community colleges, and other CTE providers will underscore that gender bias has no place in American schools and that Title IX prohibits schools from relying on sex stereotypes in directing students towards certain fields. The guidance will also help state education agencies as they think about ways to improve women’s representation in non-traditional fields as part of their Perkins Act obligations.
  • Building Public-Private Partnerships and Strong Mentoring Programs: The Departments of Energy and Education will announce the expansion of a mentoring program that connects federal government employees who are STEM professionals with teachers and middle school students to share their passion, including some of the most marginalized students. This program will expand to additional cities around the country, with a focus on students living in public housing.

To learn more about what the Administration is doing now to expand opportunity for all with respect to STEM and CTE careers, please visit the Office of Science and Technology Policy and previous White House blogs on the topic.

Valerie Jarrett is Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.