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Goodwill Tour in Cleveland

December 31st, 2011

We took the SkillsUSA Goodwill Tour to Cleveland on December 6 to visit two of our long-time corporate partners and with two new ones. The SkillsUSA national officers who handled much of the presentations were Diego Carvallo of Georgia, high school Region II vice president and Wade Persson of South Dakota, college/postsecondary parliamentarian. Each did a tremendous job of representing the organization. We were joined on all four visits by Mike Cowles, state association director of SkillsUSA Ohio.

First stop was at Thomas & Betts Corporation, a manufacturer of electrical equipment. The introduction to Thomas & Betts was made by Lincoln Electric. We met with seven executives including the director of HR and five regional HR managers. Our presentation for all four visits – prepared by Eric Gearhart – centered on how SkillsUSA addresses skilled workforce issues. By the end of the meeting, the director expressed interest in opening internships and hiring alumni. We’ve scheduled a presentation in January to meet with the corporation’s executive team at their headquarters in Tennessee.

Next stop was at Sherwin-Williams, a SkillsUSA partner for 15 years with four people on our automotive refinishing technology contest. This was a thank you visit for Sherwin-Williams’ continuing support. We met with managers in refinish and in marketing to discuss expansion of the partnership and support for the SkillsUSA WorldTeam in 2013.

The third visit was another big thank you for Lincoln Electric, a corporate partner for 31 years. Lincoln Electric not only supports our national welding contest, but 43 state association welding contests as well. Lincoln Electric is also a platinum sponsor of the WorldSkills Competition. We met with 50 executives in sales and marketing and with Chris Mapes, COO. Chris told the group: “Lincoln Electric has certain strategic partnerships. SkillsUSA is one of our most important.” Both Diego and Wade made masterful presentations and both were presented with brand new MIG welding machines to take back to their schools.

And, fourth, we met with Kenneth Henderson, principal at Dealer Tire and 12 of his senior executives. The introduction here came through Youth Development Foundation member Dave Camden of Toyota. The introduction was facilitated by the Champion of the Year dinner.

And, we did visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The students were thrilled. Cleveland Rocks!

CBS Radio Interview

December 31st, 2011

On December 4, CBS Radio (KFWB News Talk 980-AM in Los Angeles) aired an hour-long interview with Jim Lentz of Toyota, Victoria Holbert, our high school national president and me on a program entitled “Unfinished Business.” The subject revolved around training, CTE and what Toyota is doing with SkillsUSA to prepare America’s skilled workforce. The invitation was a direct result of the Champion of the Year dinner attended by Renee Fraser, president and CEO of a communications firm that does a lot of work with Toyota.

Renee and her partner conducted the interview and commented that they were surprised they’d never heard of SkillsUSA. Jim Lentz, who had many wonderful things to say about Toyota’s support of SkillsUSA said something to the effect: “If you look at how SkillsUSA is spending its budget, 93 percent is going back to support their members at the local level not into marketing and PR. It’s up to corporations like Toyota to get SkillsUSA exposure. That’s one of the reasons we’re here talking now.” He also stressed that auto service technicians at Toyota are in good middle-class jobs and some technicians are making “in the six figures.” The link to the interview is on SkillsUSA’s website at:


December 30th, 2011
  • SkillsUSA high school and postsecondary membership as of December 27 was up 6,028 over the same date last year at 188,535 members.
  • Staff and I went into Washington on December 7 to meet with executives from Rebuild Together, a non-profit organization that remodels homes for families and communities in need. Another meeting is scheduled for January 5 to see how we can connect their local affiliates and our chapters.
  • Staff members were in Kansas City during the first week of December to work on planning the 24-hour disappearing act for the 2012 SkillsUSA Championships with the Teamsters and others. It normally takes SkillsUSA 48 hours to move out of Bartle Hall but, because the Hall is needed for the Baseball Hall of Fame event, we’ll only have half that time in June. It is a challenge.
  • The staff had its holiday celebration luncheon on December 9. It was like Thanksgiving all over again. It was a fun day.
  • We’re looking forward to a great 2012. Thank you for your leadership and all that you do through SkillsUSA to change lives throughout the year. Happy New Year!

Webinars Coming in 2012

December 29th, 2011

Three national web conferences are scheduled for 2012. It’s your chance to hear from and communicate with national staff. We’ll provide some training and information on professional development, some updating and motivating advice and tips on being a national leader.

Please join us for one or all of these events. Invite students, officer teams, key advisors, fellow instructors, alumni and others.

Value of Professional Development – January 18, 2012, 1 p.m. (EST)
No matter who you are or what you do, professional skills can make or break you. Business and industry look for quality employability skills, not just technical skills. Find out why this set of skills is important to your future success.

Telephone: 888-222-0475
Attendee code: 5692952

SkillsUSA Week: Skilled and Motivated – February 7, 2012, 1 p.m (EST)
Use this webinar to help kick off SkillsUSA Week celebrations. Hear from your SkillsUSA leaders on the state of the organization. Listen to a special guest speaker on what it means to be “Skilled and Motivated” which is this year’s theme. You will also have the opportunity to ask questions.

Telephone: 888-222-0475
Attendee code: 5692952

So You Want to Be a National Officer? – March 14, 2012, 1 p.m (EST)
Have a student you think would make a good national leader? Have they wanted to run for a national SkillsUSA office but weren’t sure how? Then this webinar is for those advisors or students! Our experts will provide an overview of the national officer candidate procedures and national officer responsibilities. They will also get to hear first-hand experience from a current national officer.

Telephone: 888-222-0475
Attendee code: 5692952

SkillsUSA at the ACTE Conference

December 15th, 2011

SkillsUSA had a productive ACTE (Association for Career and Technical Education) Conference in St. Louis, November 17-19. We had three national officers with us in the trade show booth – C.J. DeHart, Veronica Senkowski and Jeremy Ballentine – and each did a sensational job of visiting with people who stopped by. Actually, they were pulling people in to visit. The booth was always busy, and according to staff, the handout materials “disappeared.”

SkillsUSA conducted three presentations during the conference. SkillsUSA staff spoke on how to energize a chapter. Chip Harris from Tennessee State University did a workshop that was an introduction to the SkillsUSA Program of Work, and I did a well-attended presentation on the Skill Connect Assessments. We were pleased that the assessments were featured in an article on credentialing in the November/December issue of ACTE’s Techniques magazine. That probably helped build attendance. I also received some great reactions from teachers who are already using the assessments, and those were nice to hear.

Board Committee Meetings on the Ground and Online

December 15th, 2011

On November 16, we held our three board of director committee meetings on governance, finance and programs. The home base was Clyde Miller Academy, an inner-city charter school in St. Louis where they are doing a fantastic job for students. Two of Missouri’s SkillsUSA state officers this year are from the academy, and there were SkillsUSA materials in all the classrooms, in the entry way, everywhere. The culinary and food and beverage service students took care of our every need.


December 15th, 2011
  • On November 11, I attended the NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research) board of trustees meeting in Phoenix. We have some great partners in the group, and they’re still talking about how much they enjoyed their board meeting during our national conference last June.
  • After NCCER, I was off to Chicago for the FABTECH show, November 14 and 15, sponsored by the American Welding Society, Precision Metalforming Association, Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association (AWS, PMA, SME and FMA). SkillsUSA WorldTeam medalists from 2009 Calgary and 2011 London, Joe Young and Brad Clink, were formally recognized during the conference with scholarships and awards. And, I was given the Plummer Memorial Education Lecture Award which was quite an honor. The annual award has been presented since 1986 and is in the name of the AWS president from ’52-’54 and later AWS executive director. The title of my presentation was “Welding Education: Changing Lives and Building the 21st Century Workforce.”
  • Staff reported during our recent staff meeting that Toyota was pleased with the Champion of the Year dinner. The event raised close to $300,000. Radiator Specialty Company has awarded $25,000 in scholarships to students from five SkillsUSA postsecondary chapters. During the same meeting that donations have come in from 45 companies since September, of which 19 are new or are doing more than in the past as a result of the dinner.
  • TECHSPO already has booked 58 indoor booths and 11 outdoor booths for next year’s conference.


Good Neighbor Scholarships

December 15th, 2011

Online applications are available  for the State Farm Good Neighbor Scholarships at:

Interested students should take action as soon as possible, as there is a 360 application limit. High school seniors with a GPA of 2.5-3.2 can apply for the 26, two-year, $2,500 per year, scholarships to be used for higher education or technical school attendance. The scholarships are provided by the State Farm Companies Foundation.

American Airlines Group Travel Discounts

December 15th, 2011

SkillsUSA has partnered with American Airlines for five percent off published fares, even sale prices, to attend the following 2012 national conferences:

  • National Leadership and Skills Conference (NLSC) in Kansas City, Mo. (June 23-27)
  • Washington Leadership Training Institute in Herndon, Va. (September 14-18) (Information available on 2012 WLTI Web page.)

Procedures for booking airline tickets for the 2012 National Leadership & Skills Conference are as follows

  • Visit From top menu bar, choose reservations followed by select flight; complete appropriate fields (i.e., travel dates, number of passengers departure and destination city.) At bottom of select flight screen, the last field (field #9) will be promotion code. Enter this code: 6662DA followed by selecting Go. The next screen will contain all flight times for departure and return. Complete reservation as instructed.
  • Call American Airlines Meeting Services Desk at 800-433-1790 and provide agent with code: 6662DA, or purchase tickets through a travel agent and mention 6662DA

Terms and Conditions
Discount is valid June 10-30, 2012 from any destination served by American Airlines to Kansas City (MCI). Discount is available to anyone attending the event. Save a booking fee by using Name change is allowed with 15OUSD/CAD GMT ticketing change charge. Name must be changed and re-ticketed prior to arrival at the airport. Allowed only on flights operated by American Airlines.All travelers are eligible for accrued flight miles.

Toyota’s Jim Lentz Becomes Champion of the Year

December 1st, 2011

We had an incredible evening in New York City in the Waldorf-Astoria’s Grand Ballroom on Friday, November 4, for the SkillsUSA 2011 Champion of the Year dinner and awards ceremony. More than 260 people attended – including many students and teachers in their red blazers – and 36 corporations and organizations were represented.

The ceremony began with a procession leading Jim Lentz and his wife, Barbara, to the head table preceded by the New York City Fire Department Emerald Society Pipes and Drums. Jim told me later it was probably the most dramatic entrance he’s ever made, and he might consider doing it again for a Toyota dealers’ meeting. National officers Victoria Holbert and Emad Madha did a beautiful job during the student section of the program introducing SkillsUSA to the guests, and there was a special video presentation from John McGlade, the 2010 Champion of the Year, quickly reprising some of his achievements and commending Jim Lentz.

Jim’s own remarks were nicely done with thoughtful stories about what makes people successful. He clearly put a lot of thought into what to say to the students in the audience. “My hope for all SkillsUSA students is that you find that higher purpose in your work and that all of you in this room tonight be proud of the fact that you’re part of a great organization that improves lives and is indeed creating a better world,” Lentz said. He also joked as he put on the SkillsUSA blazer, “I love playing golf, and I’ve always dreamed of winning the Master’s and getting that green jacket. This one’s much better and much more important.”

Jim received congratulatory letters from: Senator Tom Harkin, chairman, U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee; Senator Mike Enzi, ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee; and Representative Jim Langevin, co-chair of the House of Representatives CTE Caucus in addition to letters from governors and other organizations. Photos from the event and a news release are available online here. A six minute wrap-up video is also available at that link.

I owe a big thank you to the state association directors from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York and to their students and teachers for attending. It makes such a difference when people being introduced to SkillsUSA get to talk to the students. And, thanks, too, to all of the Youth Development Foundation members who attended and supported the evening. As I said, it was incredible.

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