On April 2, large crowds are expected at the Omni Mount Washington Resort for the 90th annual convention of the Granite State Association of FFA, an event that serves multiple purposes.
“It is the culmination of the FFA year for our students, a chance for them to come together and test their skills against others with similar interests and abilities,” said Executive Director Maria VanderWoude.
At the convention, students will also be recognized for their work throughout the year in both agriculture and FFA. Prior to the convention, applications are submitted for judging in more than 40 skill areas, including everything from various leadership areas to veterinary science, specialty animal production, wildlife management, agricultural mechanics, vegetable production, floriculture and others
“We also award scholarships and recognize students for things like community service, personal growth and outstanding leadership,” said VanderWoude.
Five general sessions are held at the convention, which are run by student state officers.
“Awards are given, guests speak and the energy is high,” she said.
In addition to competitions and awards, the convention features leadership development workshops and a careers symposium in which folks from industry come in to talk with students.
“Last year, both Commissioner Jasper and Commissioner Edelblut were in attendance, so hopefully they’ll both be back this year,” VanderWoude said.
The convention also features a chance for students to unwind.
“Social activities in the evenings give teens a chance to put away their phones and interact with their peers,” she said.
According toVanderWoude, one of the things she likes best about the FFA convention is that it is run by students.
“No adult is on stage unless invited there by the FFA members,” she said.
As for FFA itself, it officially morphed in 1988 from “The Future Farmers of America” to “The National FFA Organization” to reflect the science, technology and business of agriculture. Today, FFA currently serves about 500 students in 12 schools across NH.
“I want folks to understand that FFA is primarily a leadership development organization,” said VanderWoude. “Students must be enrolled in agricultural education classes in order to join FFA, but agriculture is a very wide field with over 300 careers.”
Most schools in NH, she noted, focus on small animal science, horticulture and natural resources along with a variety of other topics.
“FFA is a fantastic vehicle for developing leaders,” she said.
For VanderWoude, the convention best captures the essence of FFA.
“There is so much positive energy and excitement at the convention,” she said. “Each session opens with the state officers running on stage, usually through a human tunnel made by their peers in the audience. The energy is high and the atmosphere is wholesome and accepting. It restores one’s faith in youth.”
To learn more about the convention or Granite State Association of FFA, visit https://www.nhffa.org.
On April 2 at Nashua Community College, high school juniors and seniors are invited to Industry & Transportation/Manufacturing Career Discovery Day, an opportunity to learn about their various transportation and manufacturing programs.
Transportation programs include Automotive Technology, Aviation Technology, Collision Repair Technology and Honda Automotive Technology, while manufacturing programs feature Precision Manufacturing, CNC and Mechanical Design Technology.
“We have invited many of our industry partners from both the transportation and manufacturing industries,” said Samantha Belcourt, CTE Coordinator of Continuing Education, Nashua Community College. “Many of our partners also serve on program advisory boards, which help inform curriculum and ensures that our graduates are career ready.”
These relationships, she said, are crucial.
“They keep our programs current and relevant to the needs of industry,” she added.
Belcourt said the event is not just geared toward students with experiences in these fields.
“Seniors at the high school level who have not had exposure to these type industries are under the misconception that they cannot pursue a degree in these fields,” she said. “These programs, however, welcome students with all backgrounds and experiences.”
According to Karl Wunderlich, Department Chair of Transportation, Nashua Community College, the event also underscores the educational value available with the Community College System of New Hampshire.
“Why spend $100,000.00 or more on a four year education and not be able to earn that back within 5 years?” he rhetorically noted. “Our 2-year degree, for example, costing about $25,000.00 including tools, can help a student earn higher wages and more job security. A graduate working in this industry for 5 years can earn $100,000 annually or more.”
He said job placement in these fields for graduates is nearly “instant.”
“The rate of new people coming into this field is not keeping pace with those reaching retirement age,” he added. “All types of jobs available.”
Belcourt agreed and said community college education relies on partnerships with both educational leaders and industry partners.
“We depend on our industry partners to help align our programs with industry standards,” she said. “We can not only set the right expectations for out students, but create career pathways.”
Any educator interested in bringing their students to campus for Career Discovery Day can RSVP to NCC Admissions Director Laura Tremblay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Career and Technical Education is often at the forefront when it comes to experiential, hands-on education, which is demonstrated in a recently announced collaboration between Seacoast School of Technology (SST) and Volvo Car University.
Spearheaded by Dan Enxing of Volvo Cars Exeter, SST is one of six schools in the nation–and the only high school–to receive a new Volvo s60.
“The goal is to get students working on relevant cars with new technology so they will be better prepared for the work place,” said Enxing, member of the Exeter Area New Car Dealers Association.
He said Volvo Corporate is putting “a lot into this program.”
“They will watch to see what effect it has on the schools and quality of student that graduates and enter the workforce,” he said.
Noting he advocated for SST to receive a pre-production car upon learning about the program, Enxing said he will donate all of the special tools the students will need to work on it.
“This program is where my future technicians will come from,” he explained. “If we can help get them working on cars with modern technology, it will benefit the students and dealers…There is a shortage of new technicians, and I see this [program] as one way to help students get excited about becoming a technician.”
According to SST Principal Sharon Wilson, this kind of collaboration with industry partners represents “the heart and soul of CTE.”
“It takes great learning opportunities and gives them a weight that can only be achieved by making it ‘real,’” she said.
This reality, she said, could could refer to earning college credits, obtaining industry certifications, or gaining work-based experience.
“We serve six different sending schools and are fortunate to be part of a local community that embraces our school and our mission,” she said.
Regarding the impact she envisions this collaboration will have for Automotive students at SST, it has for student learning
Noting the degree of sophistication for automotive repairs has increased exponentially, Wilson said this opportunity will help their students “be truly competitive and marketable.”
“We need to give them the most rich and diverse opportunities to hone their skills and challenge them,” she said. “This donation of a pre-production vehicle will open up new pathways for our students, making them more competitive candidates in regards to employability.”
In reflecting on the importance of CTE itself, Wilson said it is important the general public understand its role in today’s economic landscape.
“CTE programs allow students to earn credits while in high school at a significant financial savings while allowing them to better commit to a major down the road,” she said.
11 out of 12 SST programs have dual enrollment opportunities.
Last year, SST students earned 1,667 college credits while enrolled here,” she said. “The financial savings available to students from this is a game changer.”
Wilson said students in CTE are also more likely to graduate from high school.
“Nationwide, they have a 93% graduation rate, which is 13% higher than those who do not take CTE programs,” she said. “91% of students who take 2 to 3 courses in a CTE program also go on to enroll in college…These are important stats and paint a different picture than I think people generally have of CTE.”
To learn more about the SST, or its collaboration with Volvo, visit seacoasttech.com.