ArmyEdSpace Spotlight

Stephen DeWitt, Deputy Executive Director, Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE)

Stephen DeWitt
Washington, DC
Deputy Executive Director, Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE)

Please tell us a little about yourself, your background and your position.
I've been working in the greater Washington, DC area since 1986. Much of my work has centered on education policy and advocacy, which includes working with congressional offices as laws are developed, building coalitions in support of ideas and issues and communicating what is happening in Washington related to those activities. Education is an issue that I believe to be extremely important to both individual success and the national welfare, and it’s been a privilege to represent the interests of students and educators throughout my career.

I am currently deputy executive director with the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). Our organization is the nation’s largest not-for-profit association committed to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for successful careers, and our members are primarily educators and career counselors. My current role is focused on a wide range of activities that support the CTE field including building stronger partnerships with organizations such as the Army.

How did you become involved with the Army?
The Army was an existing partner with ACTE when I joined the organization eight years ago, but in my current role I have worked more closely with the Army and have gained greater understanding and appreciation for its work and connection with CTE. Our collaboration has allowed me to visit Army installations, hear from enlisted men and women about their Army careers and learn about the resources and support offered by the Army that personnel use to build on their skills and education.

There are some very important connections and similarities between ACTE and the Army. Many of the students we are educating today in career and technical education will eventually choose, or are currently pursuing, a career in the Army. CTE courses focus on employability and technical skills development which are the same skill sets the Army seeks and builds upon.

What are the top three things for people to understand about the U.S. Army?
1) The Army offers some very good education and career development resources…for free! I don’t know that many people realize this. In fact, many of our teacher and counselor members who have participated in Army education days are surprised to learn about these resources, including items such as the Army ASVAB assessment and the website.

2) The Army not only leads to a fulfilling career; it is a career for many people. I knew this before my work with the Army; in fact, I have several friends who recently retired with good benefits. While an Army career is not the right fit for everyone, it is a career pathway that should be explained to and explored by students. Today’s Army is much more diverse than most people’s perception.

3) The Army is much more selective today than it has been in the past. Because of downsizing and the changing nature of what is needed in the Army, it must be more selective. This means you need to have the right skills and attributes to enter. I think some people think of the Army as a “last hope” option, but that is not the case.

How has your partnership with the Army made a difference to your organization?
The programs and services that the Army has provided support our educators and counselors. The direct support of free resources is terrific but just as important is the work focused on alignment and how we can collaborate to better connect and provide more seamless transitions for students. For instance, we’re currently discussing how to better align the CTE Career Clusters and career pathways systems with the Army’s MOS system, so students pursuing an Army career pathway will have a better understanding of where that choice will lead them in an Army career. This work will help clarify for parents and students where these choices lead and what is needed to enter and exit related to an Army career.

What has been your most interesting or memorable experience or interaction with the U.S. Army?
This would have to be my participation in an event called “Military Career Pathways 101” (MCP 101). The event took place at Fort Jackson in Columbia, SC and provided an opportunity to learn about Army educational resources, hear from enlisted men and women regarding their career experiences with the Army, and experience some of the education and training that Soldiers receive in Basic Training. I left with a much better sense of the specific career pathways that individual Soldiers were pursuing and the support that was made available to them via the Army. Of course, participating in Basic Training exercises and eating the Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) was something I don’t do every day and was fun too!

Why do you feel it is important to support the Army as a leader in your community?
The Army is a huge employer and is a direct source of careers for many individuals. The Federal Perkins Act includes student placement in military as one of a few performance indicators by which CTE programs are measured. For these reasons, it is important for educators to learn about and work closely with the Army. Part of that work includes communicating what the Army offers to students, so they can consider it along with the other career pathway options.

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