Officially formed in 1966 as the Office Education Association (OEA), Business Professionals of America (BPA) has a strong history as a student organization that contributes to the preparation of global professionals through the advancement of leadership, citizenship, academic and technological skills for students at the Middle, Secondary and Post-secondary levels.
For the past 50-years, BPA has worked to serve as an innovator in Career and Technical Education, providing its members with opportunities for growth through education, competition, community service and personal development.
The Early YearsWith technical and trade education for youth identified as a national necessity, the rise of the vocational education movement can be traced as far back as the Progressive Era where workers were concerned about making education more useful to their jobs, and business and industry desired better trained workers. Over the years, individual (short-term) bills were passed that provided support and funds for different trades, but it wasn’t until 1963 and the passing of the Vocational Education Act that grants to states to maintain, improve and develop vocational-technical education programs helped pave the way for organizations such as Business Professionals of America, then the Office Education Association to be formed.
The funds from the Vocational Education Act were earmarked for occupations in demand. Funds were also provided for constructing area schools for vocational education as well as provisions for vocational office education, occupational training and work-study programs thus recognizing the need for a student organization for students enrolled in career/technical office/business programs.
1964 – 1979 In 1964 the American Vocational Association conducted a study of 43 states indicating that 67% of the state vocational education supervisors wanted a career/technical youth group for students in office/business programs. The following year, a second study confirmed the original findings and state supervisors met to develop guidelines.
In July of 1966 the Vocational Office Education Clubs of America (VOECA) was formed by the states of Iowa, Kansas, and Wisconsin and that August, VOECA convened a meeting of youth group representatives to decide the most effective means to implement the office occupations youth group. After an intensive effort, articles of incorporation were filed for the Office Education Association (OEA) with the first three states to affiliate being Iowa, Kansas, and Wisconsin.
By 1971 a national office had been established for the Office Education Association (OEA) in Columbus, OH and the Board of Trustees approved the Alumni Division. The first full-time Executive Director of OEA was employed in 1973.
Also in 1973, The Governor's Conference on Technical Vocational Education concluded that education should be redirected with equal emphasis on education for living and education for making a living. As such, the council recommended that the educational experiences of every individual should develop occupational awareness and the dignity of work; provide career information, orientation and exploration; and prepare for a job and further education.
The 1980s Education reforms focusing on secondary education began in the early 1980s, prompted by concern about the nation's declining competitiveness in the international market, the relatively poor performance of American students on tests of educational achievement, and complaints from the business community about the low level of skills and abilities found in high school graduates entering the workforce. Reform came in two waves; academic reform and restructuring.
As OEA continued to grow, so did the need for a national headquarters, a market study and a strategic and long range plan. In 1982 the present National Center located at 5454 Cleveland Avenue, Columbus, OH was purchased and the following year, a dedication ceremony was held. In 1984, as the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education (Perkins Act) was first authorized, with the purpose to increase the quality of technical education in the United States.
Also in 1984, the OEA Board of Trustees commissioned the Market One firm of Columbus, OH to conduct a market study of OEA which, in 1988 resulted in the OEA becoming Business Professionals of America.
Three Decades of Growth By 1992, the National Center in Columbus, OH is paid off and the mortgage is burned during a commemorative ceremony at the National Leadership Conference held in Cincinnati, Ohio.
In the late 1990s, Business Professionals of America recognized an opportunity to address the growing need for educational advancement and career awareness in advance of high school. Answering the call to address this need, the states of Delaware, Florida, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas piloted a new BPA Middle Level Program. After preliminary success of the pilot program a motion was made, and approved by the organization’s Board of Trustees in 2002 to continue the program. In 2003, the Middle Level program was approved by BPA Corporate, making it an official division of the organization. The following year, Middle Level Division members participated in the National Leadership Conference for the first time.
The Golden Years and BeyondFor the last five decades, Business Professionals of America has left its mark on those who have been affiliated with the organization whether through membership or partnership. What started as a recommendation has evolved into a community of student, academic and business leaders committed to the preparation of a world-class workforce through the advancement of leadership, citizenship, academic and technological skills. Over the years, the organization has found itself continually adapting to the ever-changing world it faces. Whether it be rescheduling its National Leadership Conference in Dallas, TX for the first time ever in 2009 due to the H1N1 Influenza, or keeping current with technological advancements by introducing virtual contests in 2013, BPA regularly examines how to best serve its members.
Many in the organization will pause to focus on the footsteps taken by BPA and its members over the years. Yet, the primary mission and vision of Business Professionals of America has always been one of future interests. Adapting to change, updating the BPA Pledge in 2010 and the organization’s Mission and Vision Statement in 2016, the Board of Trustees and BPA Corporate continue to look toward the future and what the next 50-years will hold for the organization and its members.
To learn more about the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education act of 2006 visit: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/sectech/leg/perkins/index.htmlFor more information on the History of CTE visit: http://cte.unt.edu/about/cte-history-of-legislation