Sweetening the Deal.
Teens like to hang out with their friends and have a good time. They go to movies or visit the mall--pretty normal stuff.
How about flying to New Orleans and giving a speech to more than 8,000 people at last December's Association for Career and Technical Association's convention? Sound like fun? It was to Derek Heim.
"The experience and opportunity to speak and get my point across to educators was a great feeling," says Heim, the national treasurer for the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA) and a senior at Norristown High School's Center for Technical Studies in Norristown, Pa. Heim, who will study culinary arts and business management this fall at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I., says VICA helped shape his future.
Many VSOs are in their seventh decade of offering students an educational bonus. While some VSO activities are an inherent part of technical curricula, they also provide opportunities beyond the classroom. Skills competitions, field-specific career exploration activities and the chance to meet peers who have shared interests make VSOs--and therefore career and technical programs--attractive to students.
How do VSOs set themselves up for success? And how can these strategies boost career and technical education enrollment? According to VSO leaders, the students themselves are the groups' best marketing tool. And as for career and technical education enrollment, VSOs can only help sweeten the deal.
Not a typical club
There are 10 VSOs recognized by the Education Department serving more than 1.5 million students in career and technical courses and programs. Each one has different requirements for membership beyond paying annual dues. These may include enrollment in at least one course in the VSO field or maintaining an entire sequence of related career and technical education courses. National VSO staff agree that although VSOs offer many opportunities for fun extracurricular activities, these are not your typical after-school clubs.
Take the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), for example. Click on "What is HOSA?" on its Web site and you'll get a very clear message: "HOSA is not a club to which a few students in school join. Rather, HOSA is a powerful instructional tool that works best when it is integrated into the health occupations education (HOE) curriculum and classroom. It is essential that HOSA maintain its momentum and encourage all HOE instructors to integrate HOSA into their curriculum and classrooms."
Most VSOs are co-curricular, which means the national office provides curriculum materials and resources for the classroom. Becoming a HOSA member, for example, is an integral part of a student's HOE program. And it is through the VSO that teachers are able to add spice to their programs with the curriculum materials, community service experiences and leadership conferences provided or organized by the national office.
Carol Lund of the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) national office agrees. "DECA is an integral part of the classroom," she says. "The organization provides teachers and members with educational and leadership development activities to merge with their classroom instructional program."
Participating in VSO activities, such as leadership conferences, skills competitions or holding national office, also can boost a student's resume or college application. So how do VSOs make students aware of all those opportunities?
The strategies break down into two camps--traditional methods like promotional posters, brochures and videos (provided by the national offices) and pure teen talk.
Let students talk it up
Carlos Smith, a high school senior and three-year member of DECA, is one of many students spreading the good word on VSO membership. President of the 93-member chapter at Spanish River High School in Boca Raton, Fla., Smith visited seven neighboring high schools last year promoting DECA during National DECA Week in February.
"DECA has given me the most memorable three years of my life," Smith says. "When I entered high school, I knew I wanted to go to college but had no direction. My sister introduced me to DECA and DECA introduced me to my future career--public relations and marketing."
This is the message Smith shares with his peers when he's promoting DECA. Jennifer Seavey, membership director for the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), says the "enthusiasm and excitement of student leaders is contagious and is the most effective way to get the word into the classroom."
VICA takes this strategy a step further through a short-term mentoring program, "Volunteers in Career Awareness," which pairs VICA members with middle school students. The VICA members make presentations at the middle schools, then invite teachers and students to visit their shops and labs. The younger students are assigned a mentor who demonstrates some of the hands-on activities and projects in high school trades programs. The mentors also can talk more with them about how VICA played a role in their own career plans.
VICA Executive Director Steve Denby says the mentoring program is effective because the students form a bond, making it easy for the younger students to see the benefits enjoyed by a student just their senior. "At the middle school age, the kids just above you in school are your heroes," he notes. "They look up to them and [the mentoring program] helps to put a face and name on their job training."
On top of technology
Each VSO has a Web site that allows members, advisers and prospective members to peruse program descriptions, competitive events and conferences and workshops. Web sites also provide quick access to contact and membership information.
Patty Hopkins, communications coordinator for the Future Homemakers of America (FHA/HERO), says the FHA/HERO Web site has increased the VSO's visibility. "We are really able to use our Web site as an effective recruiting tool," Hopkins says. "Since the site went up, we have had a noticeable increase in requests for membership information and new memberships."
National FFA also uses its Web site as a recruitment tool, but a bit more directly. The site features a detailed recruitment and presentation guide for teachers and FFA advisers. The guide's purpose is to increase enrollment in agricultural education programs and to sell students on FFA membership and careers in agriculture. There's a detailed presentation script that uses props and handouts to entertain students. In one example, teachers put on a "game show" about agricultural education and hold a question-and-answer session about careers in agriculture and the benefits of joining FFA.
Don't forget industry ties
Industry changes can affect VSOs just as they affect the career and technical education programs they represent. For example, the recent boom in the health occupations industry has been HOSA's biggest membership draw.
"The health care industry is our best marketing tool," says Karen Koeninger, HOSA's associate director. "With such expansion and the creation of so many new jobs, we have enjoyed 13 years with significant increases in our membership," she says. "This allows us to spend more time and money on adviser training and member services and less on fundraising and recruitment."
Career and technical education programs inevitably benefit from the prosperity of VSOs. But both also have seen recruitment obstacles--budget cuts and teacher shortages, for example, make it difficult to build enrollment. Several national VSO officials agree that as more career and technical education teachers retire and fewer new teachers replace them, it becomes more difficult to replace and recruit advisers.
"We are just as concerned with recruiting advisers as we are students," says Hopkins from FHA/HERO. "One surprising discovery that we've made in tracking and recruiting new members [and advisers] is that several of our past national officers have decided to go into family and consumer sciences education. This is the most rewarding result we could have imagined."
VOCATIONAL STUDENT CONTACT INFORMATION ORGANIZATIONS DECA--DISTRIBUTIVE 1908 Association Drive EDUCATION CLUBS OF AMERICA Reston, VA 20191 Phone: (703) 860-5000 Ed Davis, Executive Director Web site: www.deca.org E-mail: email@example.com FBLA--FUTURE BUSINESS 1912 Association Drive LEADERS OF AMERICA Reston, VA 20191-1591 Phone: (800) 325-2946 Fax: (703) 758-0749 Jean Buckley, President and CEO Web site: www.fbla-pbl.org E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org NATIONAL FFA 6060 FFA Drive, P.O. Box 68960 Indianapolis, IN 46268-0960 Larry Case, CEO Phone: (317) 802-6060 Bernie Staller, COO Fax: (317) 802-6061 Web site: www.ffa.org FHA/HERO--FUTURE 1910 Association Drive HOMEMAKERS OF AMERICA Reston, VA 20191-1584 Phone: (703) 476-4900 Fax-on-demand: (800) 636-8646 Alan Rains, Executive Director Web site: www.fhahero.org E-mail: email@example.com HOSA--HEALTH 6021 Morriss Road., Suite 111 OCCUPATIONS STUDENTS OF Flower Mound, TX 75028 AMERICA Phone: (800) 321-HOSA Fax: (972) 874-0063 Web site: wvvw.hosa.org Jim Koeninger, Executive Director E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org TSA--TECHNOLOGY STUDENT 1914 Association Drive ASSOCIATION Reston, VA 20191-1540 Phone: (703) 860-9000 Fax: (703) 758-7852 Rosanne White, Executive Director Web site: www.tsawww.org E-mail: email@example.com VICA--VOCATIONAL P.O. Box 3000 INDUSTRIAL CLUBS OF Leesburg, VA 20177-0300 AMERICA Phone: (703) 777-8810 Fax: (703) 777-8999 Web site: www.vica.org Steve Denby, Executive Director E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org BPA--BUSINESS 5454 Cleveland Avenue PROFESSIONALS OF AMERICA Columbus, OH 43231-4021 Phone: (614) 895-7277 Fax: (614) 895-1165 Gary Hannah, President and CEO Web site: www.bpa.org E-mail: email@example.com NYFEA--NATIONAL YOUNG P.O. Box 20326 FARMERS EDUCATIONAL Montgomery, AL 36120 ASSOCIATION Phone: (334) 288-0097 Web site: www.nyfea.org E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Gordon Stone, Executive Vice President PAS--NATIONAL POST- P.O. Box 221897 SECONDARY AGRICULTURAL Sacramento, CA 95822 STUDENT ORGANIZATION Phone: (916) 395-5697 Fax: (916) 395-5699 Web site: www.ffa.org/aero/ pas.index.html Kim Perry, Executive Director E-mail: email@example.com VOCATIONAL STUDENT MEMBERSHIP INFORMATION ORGANIZATIONS DECA--DISTRIBUTIVE * Founded in 1946 EDUCATION CLUBS OF AMERICA * 160,000 student members and faculty advisers Ed Davis, Executive Director * 5,000 affiliated secondary and postsecondary marketing education programs FBLA--FUTURE BUSINESS * Founded in 1940 and first high LEADERS OF AMERICA school chapter by 1942 * 250,000 active members * 13,000 chartered chapters Jean Buckley, President and CEO * Has a postsecondary affiliate affiliate--Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) NATIONAL FFA * Founded in Kansas City in 1928 and granted a federal charter Larry Case, CEO by Congress in 1950 Bernie Staller, COO * 450,000 members * 7,200 chapters, with 90 percent of members in grades 9-12 FHA/HERO--FUTURE * Founded in 1945 HOMEMAKERS OF AMERICA * 230,000 members Alan Rains, Executive Director HOSA--HEALTH * Founded in 1976 OCCUPATIONS STUDENTS OF * 60,000 student members AMERICA * 1,900 chapters and 33 affiliated state associations Jim Koeninger, Executive Director TSA--TECHNOLOGY STUDENT * Founded officially in 1978 as ASSOCIATION AIASA (American Industrial Arts Students Assoc.); the name changed to TSA in 1988 Rosanne White, Executive Director * 100,000 members * 2,000 school chapters VICA--VOCATIONAL * Founded in 1965 INDUSTRIAL CLUBS OF * 239,000 student members AMERICA * 13,000 chapters Steve Denby, Executive Director BPA--BUSINESS * National office founded in PROFESSIONALS OF AMERICA 1971 in Columbus, Ohio, as the Office Education Association (OEA), it became BPA in 1988 Gary Hannah, President and CEO * 40,000 members in three divisions--secondary, postsecondary and professional NYFEA--NATIONAL YOUNG * Founded in 1982 to promote FARMERS EDUCATIONAL leadership in agriculture ASSOCIATION careers * 25,000 members Gordon Stone, Executive Vice President PAS--NATIONAL POST- * Officially founded in 1980 SECONDARY AGRICULTURAL * 1,200 members STUDENT ORGANIZATION Kim Perry, Executive Director
RELATED ARTICLE: In the beginning
"In my opinion, the farm boys of Virginia who are enrolled in vocational agriculture are equal to any other group of boys in the state. But somehow the boys have a feeling of inferiority. This is especially true when the farm boy goes to the city and must compete with his city cousin. I believe that a strong organization will give them a greater opportunity for self-expression and for the development of leadership. In this way they will develop confidence in their own ability and pride in the fact that they are farm boys."
So said the late Walter Newman in 1925. Virginia's Supervisor of Agricultural Education, Newman was among the founders of the Future Farmers of Virginia, which would lead to the Future Farmers of America--the first national VSO, Now the National FFA, the organization got its start in Kansas City, Mo., in 1928, but it wasn't until 1950 that it received an official federal charter from Congress. By that time, several other VSOs had sprouted--Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA)in 1940, Future Homemakers of America (FHA/HERO) in 1945 and Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) in 1946.--J.C.
Julie Cahill is a Techniques contributing editor. Kathleen Brady is the career experience specialist at Edison High School Academy in Fairfax County, Va., and a former staff member at the Association for Career and Technical Education.
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|Title Annotation:||vocational student organizations enhance student opportunities|
|Author:||Cahill, Julie; Brady, Kathleen|
|Date:||Mar 1, 1999|
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