Last Tuesday, the energy in the Capitol Rotunda was lively as approximately 280 students from across the state traveled to Des Moines to participate in CTE Day at the Capitol.
Held during February’s CTE Month, this annual event highlights the importance of career and technical education in Iowa schools and community colleges and celebrates the growth and successes of the field during the past year. The Iowa Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) welcomed students, educators and advisers to CTE Day and encouraged them to share their recent projects and activities with their local legislators. Students involved in CTE programs, such as agriculture, business, family and consumer science, health science information technology and industrial technology, joined in the day’s events to meet with state officials, network with other schools and further develop professional skills.
“Participating in CTE Day at the Capitol provides students with opportunities to strengthen various skills,” said Kristen Bandy, executive director for Iowa ACTE. “Students can reinforce their skills in advocacy, networking and relationship-building, civic engagement and awareness, professionalism and etiquette during the day.”
CTE programs link Iowa classrooms to emerging and high-demand career fields and help equip students with the knowledge and skills to pursue further education, industry-recognized credentials and careers. Iowa CTE educators and advisers highly value events like CTE Day to help reinforce what they have taught within their classes during the past few months.
“This helps bring the engagement level up with students – because this is their interest and what they want to do,” said Kyle Kuhlers, computer science and cybersecurity educator at the Waterloo Career Center. “This gives them an opportunity to work on their professional skills, too. They have to interact, give a presentation and work on public speaking. It gives them a chance to demonstrate their learning.”
Additionally, CTE Day highlighted Iowa’s eight career and technical student organizations, including 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). State CTSO student leaders and individual school chapters took advantage of the day to spread the word about their CTSO and how it connects to CTE programs.
“We wanted to come with our school to represent West Lyon and have our FFA chapter join in,” said Ellen Roeman, West Lyon Community High School student and FFA chapter president. “We get to build on skills that we can take into our everyday life, like public speaking and communication skills.”
Roeman’s fellow West Lyon classmate and FFA member Sophia Niemeyer also believed CTE Day was a great opportunity to hone their government relations and advocacy skills.
“We had a chance to meet with our legislators,” she said. “Advocating helps us to have a personal connection with those legislators, so they know what’s happening with us in FFA and CTE.”
Other CTSOs also had opportunities to share their goals with state officials and how CTE is helping prepare them for the workforce.
“Our DECA officer team wanted to participate today to show how we prepare our students to become emerging leaders and entrepreneurs,” said Fatimah Naraghi, Ames Community High School student and DECA state officer. “CTE and DECA help bridge the gap between students and the business world.”
Postsecondary students were also represented at CTE Day at the Capitol. Kirkwood Community College’s restaurant and hospitality group offered attendees not only an assortment of freshly-made cookies but also their experiences in their CTE program.
“We want others to understand the importance of the hospitality field,” said Max Herman, second year hospitality management student at Kirkwood. “Hospitality is a big hiring field, and we will always need students for it. Kirkwood has offered a lot of hands-on, front-line experiences through their program, which I really enjoy.”
The excitement of CTE Day at the Capitol was captured during a short photo session on the Rotunda stairwell with Director McKenzie Snow and the entire group of CTE students. Many students enjoyed their time at the Capitol and the opportunity to share about their CTE programs. Several are already planning to return next year.
“It’s important for schools to get involved in CTE Day,” said Autumn Jones-Popp, Southeast Valley Community High School student and FCCLA state officer. “It’s a good way to get the word out about your CTSO and CTE in Iowa and how they’re important for students and careers.”