February is National Career Technical Education (CTE) Month. In celebration of that, the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education consortium (NASDCTEc) talked with adult and student leaders at the National FFA Organization about the impact of CTE. FFA is one of eleven Career Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) recognized by the United States Department of Education. Students enrolled in CTE courses can participate in a CTSO as a way to gain more real work experience in a particular field.
We asked both adult and student leaders at the National FFA Organization to tell us about the impact that CTE has had on their lives. All highlighted the important partnership between CTE and CTSOs.
Dr. Dwight Armstrong, Chief Operating Officer of the National FFA Organization, said his life was changed the day he signed up for an agriculture class and joined FFA. “My agriculture teacher served as the advisor for our FFA chapter, and under his caring hand and watchful eye I began to grow in ways I could never have imagined,” Armstrong said.
While Armstrong’s CTE courses gave him the knowledge he needed, his involvement in a CTSO provided opportunities to become part of a team, express himself as a leader, and develop self-confidence. “There is no doubt that I owe the success I’ve enjoyed in my career to the training, opportunities and life skills acquired by being part of a CTSO,” Armstrong said.
Ryan Best, 21, was elected to serve as National FFA President this past October. Best’s experiences mirror those Armstrong described. Best said that being in a CTSO enhanced his experience in CTE, not only by providing real-world career experiences, but also by helping him to develop his soft skills. “I thrived in the agriculture education courses I took in high school, but my experiences in FFA taught me about service and gave me a sense of right and wrong while also helping me develop premier leadership skills, experience personal growth and strive for career success,” Best said.
Rob Cooper, Executive Director of the National FFA Foundation, said businesses tell him that the partnership between CTE coursework and involvement in FFA results in young people who are more prepared for their careers. Cooper said, “During my visits with those who support FFA, one resounding thing I hear is how amazed employers are by their employees who were once FFA members. Through CTE coursework and involvement in FFA, our members are developing the skills that are coveted in today’s workforce.”
Everyone we spoke with at FFA was clear about the important role that CTSOs play. Armstrong said, “Because I realize how important organizations such as FFA can be—and just how much students need them—I’ve devoted the remainder of my career to extending these opportunities to every school system in the nation. Today’s students are our future, and CTE and CTSOs are developing leaders who will build healthy local communities, a strong nation and a sustainable world.”
The Friends of CTE Guest Blog Series provides advocates – from business and industry, researchers and organizations – an opportunity to articulate their support for Career Technical Education. The monthly series features a guest blogger who provides their perspective on and experience with CTE as it relates to policy, the economy and education.
The FFA blog entry is one of two that are being featured this month on the Friends of CTE Blog Series. In celebration of February’s National CTE Month, NASDCTEc is also including a blog entry from Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) in which he discusses the Education for Tomorrow’s Jobs Act and the need to fully fund and support CTE.
Are you interested in being a guest blogger and expressing your support for CTE? Contact Melinda Findley Lloyd, Communications Consultant, at [email protected].
 The National FFA Organization’s 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.” Today there are 540,379 FFA members, aged 12‒21, in 7,489 chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.ffa.org.