A delegation of Career and Technical Education (CTE) students -- including Aurora High School's Brianna Vanderlaan -- and instructors from Missouri met with Senator Roy Blunt’s and Senator Claire McCaskill’s representatives on September 26. Congressional visits are an important part of SkillsUSA’s Washington Leadership Training Institute (WLTI). The delegation also paid respects at the Tomb of the Unknowns and the Pentagon 9-11 Memorial.

The five-day Washington Leadership Training Institute is sponsored each year by SkillsUSA to provide students an opportunity to learn about Washington and the democratic process. This year’s delegations discussed the value of their education; 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. They explained that today’s workplace requires people with leadership, teamwork and communication skills to participate in high-quality systems. SkillsUSA has been successful in developing these skills in students of all ages and backgrounds.

The Washington Leadership Training Institute is a “capstone” leadership and citizenship training event to which students must apply for admission. WLTI concentrates on advanced communications skills, including sharing their personal stories with the media and elected officials. This year, 426 students and instructors from 29 states attended the workforce development conference.

SkillsUSA is an integral part of public career and technical education (CTE) and CTE is learning that works for America. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is 90.18% compared to an average national freshman graduation rate of 80%. CTE is also about jobs -- good middle-class jobs -- that are essential for the American economy and global competitiveness. Experts project 47 million job openings in the decade ending 2018. One-third will require an associate's degree or certificate and nearly all will require real-world skills that can be mastered through CTE.

Vanderlaan is currently enrolled in Early Childhood Careers at Scott Tech. She was joined by SkillsUSA advisor and culinary arts instructor Betsy Anderson as those attending the delegation from Missouri.