Over 200 Iowa students and educators last week made their way to Des Moines to meet up with legislators and state officials for a fast-paced day highlighting career and technical education (CTE).

Sponsored by the Iowa Association of Career and Technical Education, CTE Day at the Capitol is an annual event held during February’s CTE Month celebration and is an opportunity to promote the importance of CTE programming for education in Iowa. Students involved with CTE programs such as agriculture, business, family and consumer science, health science and industrial technology joined in this year’s event to highlight their individual CTE program and its benefits.

View highlights from CTE Day at the Capitol on Flickr

“It’s great to see so many students from across the state travel to the State Capitol for CTE Day,” said Cale Hutchings, CTE consultant for the Iowa Department of Education. “The event provides the opportunity to show everyone how strong CTE programming is in Iowa.”

Several chapters from Iowa’s eight career and technical student organizations (CTSO) – FFA, SkillsUSA, Technology Student Association (TSA), Business Professionals of America (BPA), DECA, Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), HOSA and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) – participated in the day’s activities and gained valuable experience in government relations. Unlike an extracurricular activity, CTSOs are integrated into instruction with members participating in opportunities like CTE Day at the Capitol to develop professional skills and enhance classroom work through group projects, competitions and community service.

“All CTE programs require a CTSO chapter, so these two things go hand-in-hand,” said Chris Dzurick, CTSO consultant at the Iowa Department of Education. “CTE Day at the Capitol has been an excellent way for CTSOs to hone in on their civic and community engagement involvement while continuing to work on articulating their CTE experience.”

CTSO members were certainly ready for CTE Day and were eager to meet with state legislators and officials to promote their work in CTE.

“We’ve already met with one of our district representatives this morning,” said Gavin Kruse, 18-year-old senior from West Lyon Community High School and state officer for SkillsUSA. “We want to talk to as many legislators as we can to bring more recognition to SkillsUSA and how it can help you prepare for the real world.”

For Gavin and the other state officers for SkillsUSA, CTE Day at the Capitol provided an occasion to see other CTE programs and CTSOs and continue their career exploration and skill development in real time.

“We’re learning more about how to advocate today,” said Alyson Ball, 17-year-old junior from MMCRU Community High School and state officer for SkillsUSA. “Teamwork, communication and leadership are also important things we’ve learned through this.”

Sherry Vogel, FCCLA adviser
Sherry Vogel, FCCLA adviser

Educators and advisers also saw the benefit of spending a day at the State Capitol for CTE Day. Southeast Valley High School educator and FCCLA adviser Sherry Vogel attended the event with her student members and found it a great opportunity to get the word out about what they do.

“This gives more publicity to CTSOs,” she said. “We can let the community, especially state legislators, know that we’re a force within our school districts, and we make a difference and are teaching lifelong skills.”

CTE Day at the Capitol was capped off with a visit from Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg and a presentation of the official proclamation declaring February as CTE Month in Iowa. Gregg posed for the annual group photo with students and visited several CTSO exhibits, where they continued to highlight the importance of CTE.

“CTE and CTSOs really help you prepare for the real world and your future,” said Brooklyn Van Beek, 17-year-old senior from West Lyon Community High School and state officer for SkillsUSA. “And it’s all within your high school.”