Recently, Steve Rothenberg, NHCTA/NH-CTE President, joined a diverse group of leaders from across the nation in California to discuss ways to better advance the skilled trades in the automotive, construction, manufacturing, welding and HVAC sectors.

The trip was sponsored by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, whose guiding principle is grounded in a deep respect for the skilled trades and desire to create real opportunity for kids who love to build, fix and create. Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is a philanthropic programs of The Smidt Foundation, founded by Eric Smidt, owner of Harbor Freight Tools.

“Harbor Freight Tools for Schools brought us in to advise them on their funding priorities,” said Rothenberg.

Noting there were some “highlight influential people” in attendance, including several state commissioners of education, United Way worldwide executives, LA public transportation system architects, CTE professionals and others, Rothenberg expressed enthusiasm for their collective recommendations.

“The group felt that a pipeline for skilled trade teachers and overcoming the ‘stigma’ of the trades are the two top issues for the foundation to address moving forward,” he said. “It was a very well organized event, and I was pleased to be able to represent the interests of NH and CTE.”

In addition to receiving recommendations from the group regarding funding priorities, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools sought advice on the merits behind getting involved in policy work at the federal, state, local and/or grassroots levels.

According to Rothenberg, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools has already become deeply involved in CTE, as he noted their first foray in this arena was last year.

“They awarded $500,000 worth of prize money to ten top CTE trade teachers in 2017,” he said. “Teachers actually received $10 to $30K directly, while their programs got the rest. This year, the total was raised to $1 million…The application process has some interesting reflective elements that I think could be used for professional development.”

In reflecting on his experience at the national conference, Rothenberg said he cannot help but look ahead at other issues that could be pursued by NH-CTE. These issues, he said, cover broad areas, some of which include:

How to

  1. Overcome some age limits for trade-based pre-apprenticeships.
  2. Connect employment security, postsecondary and secondary databases to test the impact of interventions/learning, such as CTE completion.
  3. Establish career-related competencies for school counselors.
  4. Establish career credential recognition model for high school graduates.
  5. Create CTE teacher-leader pipelines to enhance succession planning.
  6. Refine and further establish ESSA career-related metrics.
  7. Establish statewide WBL models.
  8. Advocate for years of service credit for industry experience on the teacher scale for new CTE teachers.

“There is a lot for us to think about in NH and nationwide when it comes to CTE,” he added. “The conference got me thinking about an even bigger picture and the possibilities that could exist through Harbor Freight Tools for Schools.”

To learn more about Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, visit