The First Lady Speaks on Career and Technical Education (CTE)
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The First Lady Speaks on Career and Technical Education (CTE)

(applause) Mrs. Obama: Hello, everyone! How are you all doing? Please rest yourselves. Let me start by thanking
Jacob for that wonderful introduction and for
sharing your story. It is amazing. It’s inspiring. It is the reason why
we do what we do. Just hearing how you
persevered and now you’ve gone on to great life lessons like
hollandaise sauce and béarnaise sauce. (laughter) And I thought I was happy
to have Malia make some scrambled eggs. (laughter) But we’re so proud of you
and we’re so glad that you’re the leader
that you are. So let’s give Jacob
another round of applause. (applause) I also want to thank
the educators, the philanthropists, the public
and private sector leaders that are here today. Hello to all of you. Welcome. But most of all, I want to
thank all the students that are here. Let me see our students
— where are you? I can sort of tell. (applause) And the young man who stood
up, I like that in you. (laughter) It’s like, here I am. Audience Member: Can
we get a picture later? Mrs. Obama: A picture later. (laughter) Now, that’s leadership. (laughter) But not just the students
in this room, but there are thousands of young people
who are joining us remotely from national conferences
for the Technology Students Association as well as the
Future Business Leaders of America. So hi out there to
all of you as well. (applause) And really it’s the students
across the country who are studying and learning and
dreaming big — you all are really the reason
why we’re here today. We’re here because
we believe in you. We do. Absolutely we
believe in you. We’re here because we want
to make sure that you get all the skills and the tools
that you need to reach your dreams. And those dreams are amazing
and they’re big and they’re huge, so you need all
the support you can get. We’re here because we know
that one of the best ways to do that is through career
and technical education — CTE. And I don’t know how many
people know about CTE, but more people should, because
in today’s world, a high school diploma
just isn’t enough. I can’t say that enough. A high school diploma is not
enough to be able to compete in today’s
globalizing economy. If you want to learn
cutting-edge skills, if you want to prepare yourself for
college and a good career, if you want to go into the
culinary arts like Jacob, or start your own business, or
work in a hospital, or go into 3D printing — whatever
it is, it’s important for students to realize that a
four-year university is not your only option. It is not your only option. We talk about four-year
universities all the time, but when we talk about
Reach Higher, we talk about completing high school and
going beyond in whatever way, shape or form, and
it’s not always a four-year university. In fact, for many young
people and their families, CTE can be the best option
because you can get all the professional skills you
need for a good job in a high-demand field and you
can do it at a fraction of the time and, more
importantly, a fraction of the cost as compared to
a four-year university. More importantly, these are
high-quality programs that push students academically
and challenge students to sharpen their critical
thinking, their problem-solving, their
communication skills — as we can see with Jacob, who
had all that going on all at once. And increasingly — and this
is very important — there’s often a job at the end of
it, a paycheck waiting for you right there
when you graduate. And not a lot of college
graduates can often say that. So Career and Tech programs
make a whole lot of sense. And that’s why across
the country, schools and businesses are working
together to develop curricula, which is
exciting, so that students can get tailor-made courses
for the positions that companies actually
need to fill. This is why high schools are
partnering up with community colleges so that young
people can earn college credit and sometimes even
leave high school with professional
credentials in hand. And I speak at high school
graduations all around the country, and I’m always
impressed when students come up and say that they’re
already ready to launch into their field. It’s quite impressive. And every day, students are
getting hands-on experience through these opportunities
at hospitals and businesses, schools and just about
everywhere else. My staff tells me that
somebody is getting experience on a 65-foot
research vessel out in the ocean — that’s
happening somewhere. You guys know about this? It’s pretty cool,
pretty cool. And these kinds of
opportunities are leading to a wave of innovation
from our young people. Here at the Innovation Fair
today, I understand that we’re going to see a
four-inch cube satellite that will be launched into
orbit to help us study and analyze our
atmosphere and soil. Pretty cool. Yes, wow. I agree. (laughter) There’s a system of laser
sensors that detect a baseball strike zone — for
all you baseball fans, I’m sure that’s very exciting. (laughter) And a 3D printer that
creates chocolate sculptures — yes, everybody
likes that one. (laughter) Everybody can
connect with that. So CTE programs like these
are good for students because they can learn
new skills and find their passion. They’re good for businesses
because they can tap into a pipeline of skilled talent. And they’re good for our
country because these programs help us grow our
economy, compete with other countries, and unleash
the next generation of entrepreneurs
and innovators. And that’s why, earlier this
year, my husband expanded the United States
Presidential Scholars program to honor some of our
best and brightest students in Career and
Technical Education. And later this summer, we’re
going to be launching the Reach Higher Career App
Challenge because we want to make it easier for students
across the country to find a CTE program that fits with
their passions and with their goals. So I know we’ve got some
folks here today from our biggest tech companies, and
I want to challenge all of you and people across the
country — educators, career counselors, our business
leaders, everyone out there, I want you to put your heads
together and think about ways to design a new app so
that we’ll help students connect with the programs
and the jobs they need to realize their dreams. I want you to help our
students see which jobs are in high demand in
their communities. I want you to help them see
which programs give them the skills that they need. And I also want you to help
them figure out how much all of this costs and what their
future earning power might be in that given field. I mean, you can imagine
for a kid who may not be motivated, if they see a job
title and a salary, they can understand the purpose of it
all — which we’re always trying to do with
our young people. So imagine if all that could
happen through an app. There are so many things an
app might do for our young people and we want to see
what all of you will come up with. This challenge officially
launches in a couple of weeks, but right now you can
go to to sign up for updates and to
get more information. So I hope you all take up
the challenge and see what we can come up with. But to all of the young
people here, I want you all to know that we’re doing
everything that we can to help you fill your
potential, whether that’s making it easier for you to
find career pathways just by using your smartphone;
whether it’s everything my husband is doing to bring
down the cost of higher education and ultimately
make two-year community colleges free for
responsible students. That’s a hope that we – (applause) We’re also, in addition to
all that we’re doing, we’re depending on you as the
students to do your part as well. And that means for all of
you here, I know you’re already doing it, but I
can’t say it enough — we need you all to just
get it together. To study as hard as you can. To put everything into your
studies that you can do. Reach higher for yourselves
every single day. There has to be a hunger
that you all have that no one can fund for you. There can be no policy
written to make you find your — to prioritize
your education. It’s on you guys. And every day you have to
come in with that hunger. You got to be ready. You got to be studying. You got to be in class. If you’re online,
you got to be there. You got to do those
assignments, make it all happen. So you’ve got to
finish the job. No one can do that for you. Not the President,
not the First Lady. I don’t care how much money
is out there, if you don’t have it here and here —
it’s not going to happen. So we want you to
complete your education. That is a must. There is no alternative. Finish your education. Whether you do it through
one of these fantastic CTE programs, or whether you go
on to a community college, four-year college —
whatever you do, you’ve got to finish your education. But you’ve got
to get something. You’ve got to get a degree,
a certificate — something you’ve got to have. And if you do that, you’ll
have the tools that you’ll need to fulfill your dreams. And as you work to get your
education — I want to close with what I said at the
outset — just know that we believe in you. We do all of this because
we know you have the raw material that it takes to do
whatever is in your heart to do. Barack and I know this
because we stand where we are today because we had a
lot of support and we had something in our hearts and
minds that told us that we could do it. So we believe in
you — all right? If you don’t walk away from
this with any other message, is that you’ve got a whole
lot of folks who think you can be great, and you’ve got
a country who actually needs you to be great. We’re counting on you to be
that next generation to take over all that we’re doing. So you got to be trained,
you got to be ready, you got to be hungry, and you got
to take advantage of every opportunity that
comes your way. So keep up the great work. I hope you have a phenomenal
time here at the White House. Ask a lot of questions. Be impressive. Don’t be shy. (laughter) I don’t have to
tell that to you. (laughter) And just know that we are
going to keep working as hard as we can — not just
here in the White House, but beyond. Mentoring you and raising
the next generation up to be great is something — it’s a
personal goal for me and my husband. So we’re only
getting started. So we’re hoping that you’ll
be ready to partner with us when we get out of here. Okay? (laughter) So I look forward to
everything you all will do in the years ahead. Enjoy the conference. You all, thank you so much
for being here on behalf of our young people. Put your heads together;
let’s figure out what more we can do to keep these
kids moving in the right direction. Thank you all. (applause)

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