Over 500 Rally on Capitol Hill Before Congressional Visits
Leesburg, Va. — Students representing career and technical education (CTE) programs in 29 states met with congressional representatives Sept. 26 after hearing the Secretary of Education call SkillsUSA “an integral part of their educational experience.”
The students were attending the annual Washington Leadership Training Institute (WLTI) to learn to be better advocates for public career education. During the Sept. 23-27 event, they visited their congressional representatives and paid respects at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns as well as the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial. The annual WLTI, with 506 attendees, was the largest in SkillsUSA’s 52-year history.
“SkillsUSA represents America’s future skilled workforce,” explained Tim Lawrence, executive director of SkillsUSA. “Nations rise on the success of their workforce. Skilled, capable and flexible workers are the backbone of our economy, and this event allows us to rally support for our SkillsUSA students and training programs nationwide.”
The SkillsUSA group met at Upper Senate Park near the U.S. Capitol for a briefing with Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Education. Also meeting the students from the Education department were Kim R. Ford, acting assistant secretary for Career, Technical and Adult Education; and Sharon Miller, director of the Division of Academic and Technical Education.
Secretary DeVos had a powerful message for SkillsUSA members. “You know CTE shares overwhelming bipartisan support … as well as very strong support from our president,” she said. “This administration believes students need a full menu of options, whether you choose to pursue a rigorous technical training program leading to a well-paying job in a high-demand field or a two-year or four-year college degree program. You must know that there are multiple pathways to pursue your education after your high school diploma.
“We believe students — and their parents — need to better understand what all of those options are, and how to connect with them, including technical schools, community colleges and earn-and-learn programs such as apprenticeships,” DeVos continued. “This is one of the many areas where high-quality CTE can play a vital role. We believe that career and technical student organizations, especially SkillsUSA, are an important option for students as an integral part of their educational experience. Through CTSOs, students receive unparalleled opportunities to gain not only technical skills, but employability skills such as teamwork, problem solving and communication — skills that our nation’s employers need and demand.
“So, I’m confident that you are on the right path to college and career readiness. I am confident you will make important contributions as members of our nation’s workforce. And, I am confident that you are our next generation of leaders.”
The five-day Washington Leadership Training Institute is sponsored each year by SkillsUSA to help CTE students learn how to effectively communicate with their legislative representatives; to understand SkillsUSA’s framework of personal, workplace and technical skills grounded in academics; and to become familiar with the nation’s capital.
Congressional visits are an important part of WLTI. This year’s delegations discussed the value of public career and technical education to their respective states, the quality of their education and training, their occupational plans and the benefits of their participation in SkillsUSA. Students explained that today’s workplace requires people to participate in high-quality training systems. SkillsUSA has been successful in developing these skills in students of all ages and backgrounds.
SkillsUSA is a vital solution to the growing U.S. skills gap. This nonprofit partnership of students, instructors and industry ensures America has the skilled workforce it needs to stay competitive. Founded in 1965 and endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education, the association serves more than 300,000 member students and instructors each year in middle schools, high schools and colleges. This diverse talent pipeline covers 130 trade, technical and skilled service occupations, the majority STEM-related. More than 600 corporations, trade associations, businesses and labor unions actively support SkillsUSA at the national level. SkillsUSA programs are integrated into career and technical education through a framework of personal, workplace and technical skills grounded in academics. Local, state and national championships designed and judged by industry, set relevant standards for career and technical education and provide needed recognition to its students. SkillsUSA also offers technical skill assessments and other workplace credentials. For more information, go to: www.SkillsUSA.org.