On Wednesday, March 31, Kelly Persons of Lowe’s hosted a lunch for select Lowe’s vendor partners to become more familiar with SkillsUSA and find opportunities to support our students and mission. The event was held at Time Warner Arena, the home of the NBA Charlotte Bobcats, in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. The impressive list of attendees included representatives from Georgia-Pacific, Werner Ladder, Jimmie Johnson Foundation, Ettain Group, Presbyterian Healthcare, Hitachi Power Tools, Valspar and Compass Group.
The group convened in a concourse of the arena. A section of an interior arena wall included a photographic mural dedicated to the community service activities of Lowe’s. Across from the mural, in one of the food galleries, stand pillars wrapped in pictures of the major programs Lowe’s supports, and sure enough, there was the column highlighting SkillsUSA.
National officers Stephen Lupton and Zia Green did a wonderful job presenting the mission and current activities of the organization illustrated by their own experiences. They stressed to the executives that the connection with business and industry often begins at the local level. After a question and answer session, national staff members and I met with the guest companies to explore specific opportunities to get involved. There was a lot of positive feedback and interest in supporting our students and attending state conferences, in addition to some bigger plans to attend NLSC. The event was a success, and I believe Lowe’s just created a new best practice for future Goodwill Tours.
All this came about because of YDF member Kelly Persons opening doors as an ambassador for SkillsUSA. Thanks to Kelly and the Lowe’s team for their dedication and support of our mission.
The spring meeting of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium was in Washington, D.C. from March 28-31. This year’s theme was “Career Technical Education: A Defining Moment for Excellence and Innovation,” and staff reported that in part due to tough economic times, the CTE community sees this as a defining moment for CTE in education reform and work force preparation. More than one speaker said: “This is the best chance CTE has had in a long time to put itself forward because the benefits of CTE are so clear.”
Overriding themes of the conference were career pathways, articulation from secondary to postsecondary programs, national core education standards, employability skills and assessments, assessments, assessments. There was also a great deal of discussion around NASDCTEc’s new vision for CTE entitled “Reflect, Transform, Lead.” It lays out five inter-related principles on the role and future of CTE. One of them specifically references career and technical student organizations.
Staff also reported seeing many of SkillsUSA’s friends including Board Member Wayne Kutzer. The consortium board announced during it’s business meeting on Wednesday that another old friend, Milt Ericksen, Arizona’s Deputy Associate Superintendent of Career Technical Education, will become the new ex officio SkillsUSA board member from NASDCTEc next August.
Unlike the recent past, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education was much in evidence throughout the conference including Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier, Deputy Assistant Secretary Glenn Cummings and several staff members. The conference was a joint initiative between NASDCTEc and OVAE and in her closing remarks, Brenda Dann-Messier said: “This is a permanent partnership. As a community we need to be assertive and insert ourselves [into education reform] because what we have to offer is so important. The work of CTE is central to the work of all of the administration departments.” She assured the directors that she is and will be persistent in getting CTE written into the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The final membership report will be coming out today, and it looks like it will be above 304,000 and alumni membership is over 9,000. This is a remarkable year.
Staff reports that orders and preview requests for the Skill Connect Assessments have been pouring in steadily this month and last. They say that previews result in orders. There’s interest in all of the assessments currently available. According to staff, orders are from across the country with some concentration on the eastern seaboard and the central states, but no particular pattern except “everywhere.” Staff also visited North Dakota recently to present to high school and college administrators. The college administrators were doubtful at first, but became very enthusiastic as the day progressed. The high school administrators were enthusiastic all along.
Online news clippings from September through March have gone to all of the state associations for their use. Staff reports that most of the recent stories are about local and state conferences and competitions – of course – but there are also a lot of nice features including reports on State Farm grant projects such as an energy-independent portable classroom including photovoltaic solar panels and geothermal heating in Maryland.
And, Engineering Alliance continues to pick up momentum. We’ve been getting questions on how to sign up entire school districts. That’s a nice challenge to have. Staff will be part of the Project Lead The Way train-the-trainer conference later this month.
Two of our fellow career and technical student organizations (CTSOs) are competing for awards in the Pepsi Refresh Program this month and both have asked for SkillsUSA member support. DECA is a finalist in this month’s Pepsi Refresh Program for a $250,000 award and FCCLA (Family Career and Community Leaders of America) is a finalist for a $50,000 award. Grants are awarded by popular vote and you can vote up to once each day. Since no other CTSO is competing for an award this month, we encourage our members and friends to vote for both of these organizations.
There is also a variety of state and local CTSO projects competing at different grant levels. You can vote for up to 10 projects each day, so we also encourage you to look at those projects and cast your vote in support. The last day you can vote this month will be April 30.
The Alumni & Friends Association will be offering Alumni Training on June 20-21, 2010 at the National Leadership and Skills Conference (NLSC) in Kansas City, Mo. The training will cover how to start a state alumni association, how to plan alumni activities, volunteer training, inclusion and diversity training and professional development. The training will cost $30 and includes a training T-shirt and resource materials. The registration deadline for the training is June 1.
We are also seeking dedicated volunteers to assist with the NLSC. Alumni volunteers, who volunteer daily at the conference, can have their conference registration fee waived. Alumni help is needed on the Booth Team, Leadership Team, Championships Team and Special Services Team. While at conference, alumni volunteers will also have the opportunity to network with partners, members, staff and other alumni, will have some meals provided and will get to participate in conference events. This is a great way for alumni members to stay involved and continue the SkillsUSA journey. The registration deadline to be an alumni volunteer is June 1.
Congratulations to Amanda Thaxton, the 2010 winner of the SkillsUSA National Pin Design Competition and to Ashley Thompson, the 2010 winner of the SkillsUSA National T-Shirt Competition. Amanda and Ashley are graphic design and production students at South Effingham High School in Guyton, Ga. They will each be recognized along with their advisor, Craig Owens, at the opening session of the National Leadership and Skills Conference in Kansas City this June. Their high school will receive $10,000 from Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation for classroom and equipment improvements. Each participant at NLSC will receive a conference t-shirt and conference pin showcasing the designs through the Lowe’s sponsorship.
The SkillsUSA Alumni & Friends Association is offering two annual merit-based $500 scholarships to qualifying students. The scholarships will recognize the qualities in SkillsUSA students for whom the SkillsUSA Alumni & Friends Association support, including leadership, commitment to community service, improving the image of career and technical education and improving the image of his/her chosen occupation. The deadline to apply is May 15, 2010. If you have questions, please contact Niki Clausen at or call 703-737-0639.
Today, April 13, I was honored to participate in a special press conference at the corporate headquarters of Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. in Allentown, Pa. Local dignitaries attending included representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, the Lehigh Valley SkillsUSA Industry Council and a select group of Air Products employees. I was honored to introduce two students from the Lehigh Career and Technical Institute, Brittany Kistler, a Small Engines student and Smanatha Cancro, a Culinary Arts student. Brittany and Samantha spoke to the group and talked about the positive difference SkillsUSA had made in their lives. Laurie Gostly- Hackett and Youth Development Foundation member Lynn Scheitrum were key in organizing the event.
At the press conference, I announced that SkillsUSA has chosen John E. McGlade, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Air Products, to be the recipient of the inaugural SkillsUSA CEO Champion of the Year award. The CEO Champion award will be given each year to recognize the leadership of the chief executive of an organization doing exemplary work in the creation and support of America’s highly skilled workforce. The award will also recognize CEOs for their corporation’s involvement in promoting and supporting career and technical education.
Under McGlade’s leadership, Air Products has integrated support for SkillsUSA in a number of ways with employees from around the country serving on technical committees for the SkillsUSA Championships, and on task forces and boards of state and local SkillsUSA chapters in California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Texas. Air Products’ employees are active in judging local, state and national student competitions, and with the SkillsUSA Youth Development Foundation. The company provides financial support for SkillsUSA initiatives such as the Professional Development Program, and is helping SkillsUSA build its national network through support of the Alumni & Friends Association. Yet another form of support from Air Products has been a best practice guidebook developed by employees to help the organization better forge business/education partnerships with career and technical schools around the country.
Two television stations covered the press conference and you can see a sample of the TV coverage of the event here: www.wfmz.com/news/23141916/detail.html
The SkillsUSA Board of Directors and the Youth Development Foundation Committee met March 17 and 18 at the National Leadership Center. During my flight to Wyoming after the meeting, I sat back for a few minutes to reflect on how much the Board of Directors and the YDF Committee mean to this organization. That particularly hit home as the 24 members of the Board and YDF introduced themselves during our joint meeting on March 18. I just thought to myself: “Wow. Look at the breadth and depth of experience we have here in this room. We are extremely fortunate to have such an engaged, committed and high-powered group of individuals governing and guiding our work.” Here is a brief report on the highlights of the meetings.
The board approved the FY11 strategic plan and budget. This is the first strategic plan to be directed by the new Vision 2020 goal statements. The joint meeting of the YDF and board expressed a consensus to move forward with the WorldTeam for London in 2011, support for the Alumni & Friends Association initiative and for SkillsUSA’s Vision 2020.
In addition, the board revised the SkillsUSA mission statement. It now reads: “SkillsUSA empowers its members to become world-class workers, leaders and responsible American citizens.” The revision is the addition of the word “leaders.” Board members believed that SkillsUSA’s focus on teaching leadership should be manifest in the mission statement. And, the board revised the core statement to read: “SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled work force. SkillsUSA helps each student excel.” The sole change was the substitution of “SkillsUSA” for “It” at the beginning of the second sentence. These changes will be made to the SkillsUSA publications and online.
The board also established an ad hoc subcommittee to work on state association governance and financial standards. The board wants to be sure our state associations are and continue to be healthy. That includes having features such as industry support. The subcommittee will be looking for gaps where states need assistance and crafting recommendations on how the national organization might help. The state association directors currently serving on the board – Curtis Barnett and Larry Rabalais – are members of the subcommittee.
The board meeting highlighted something else: Four of the five regional representatives will be leaving the board of directors in June. We will have vacancies in Regions I, II, III and V. We’re asking the board and state association directors to nominate corporate members from their regions soon so we’re ready for elections come June.
We received word on March 15 that Daniel Lehmkuhl of San Luis Obispo, California earned a silver medal in automotive service technology and Chase Trayal of Meridian, Mississippi earned a silver medal in cabinetmaking following the four-day WorldSkills Americas Competition in Rio de Janeiro. News releases went out last week. The entire team has returned safely. The U.S. was the only nation in North America to send student contestants. Canada and Mexico sent observers as we did to test the waters before sending the WorldTeam to London in 2011. Additional information on the WorldSkills Americas Competition and our U.S. delegation may be found at www.skillsusa.org/compete/worldskillsamerica.shtml. By the way, I’ve been told that our students were treated like “rock stars” throughout the competition. That’s nice to hear.