Her father was a machinist; her mother, a graphic designer. Annette Parker embodies the best of both professions. She’s forged a career ranging from industrial drafting to designing workforce development programs.
She attended Parkside High School in Jackson, Mich., and worked for General Motors in Lansing for 11 years. During the recession of the early 1980s, Parker left GM to attend Lansing Community College (LCC) and earn a degree in industrial drafting.
With another student, she started the campus’ first VICA chapter (now SkillsUSA). As a member of its Automated Manufacturing team, she competed in the national demonstration contest.
LCC took note. Parker was hired as a student employee, then as a lab technician. Rising from part-time faculty to full-time, she eventually joined the administration.
SkillsUSA was a tool for success. “I was a student, and then my students became advisors, and they have students,” she says.
As a teacher and advisor, Parker fielded medal-winning SkillsUSA competitors. She served as a contest technical committee member and judge. Under her leadership, state competitions were held at the community college for 14 years. “I think since I’ve been a student, I’ve only missed two national conferences,” she adds.
Then Parker was called to Kentucky, where her leadership was needed in training the manufacturing workforce. In six years, her collaborative grew to include 35 colleges and 35 automotive plants in 12 states. After becoming responsible for the state’s postsecondary CTE programs, Parker earned a doctorate in educational leadership. She stayed on with SkillsUSA as a state board member and contest judge.
Now president of Minnesota’s South Central College, with campuses in North Mankato and Faribault, Parker has served on President Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee and testified for the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Subcommittee. As a member of a National Academy of Science panel, she’s providing guidance to reauthorize CTE funding offered by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006.
“She credits much of her success to this organization,” says SkillsUSA Minnesota director Jennifer Polz. “I know it holds a special place in her heart.”
SkillsUSA’s training is important, Parker says. “What we’re looking at as a nation is employability skills. Some employees will say, ‘Just give me those [technical] skills, and I’ll be all set.’ Well, no, both are needed, and SkillsUSA gives you both. That’s why it’s a great organization.” •