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Air Products Applauds President Obama’s Expansion of the “Skills for America’s Future Program”

June 15th, 2011

Joe Pietrantonio, SkillsUSA board member and vice president, Global Operations for Air Products and I were front and center for an announcement by President Obama on June 8 at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Va. of the expansion of the “Skills for America’s Future Program.”

Obama Announces Skills for America's Future Program

The partnership between Air Products and SkillsUSA is specifically referenced in the White House Press Release among six public-private partnerships to bolster the nation’s manufacturing workforce. Thanks to YDF member and former assistant secretary of labor, Emily DeRocco of the Manufacturing Institute, for her help in making the event a reality.

Tim Lawrence said he particularly appreciated the president’s statement that in America we have an “honorable tradition of folks working with their hands, creating value. That’s part of what built the American dream.” It’s also what builds the middle class. The president also spoke of a student who told him that the automotive training program he’d taken in community college was “the spark I needed to get my career started” and the president said we need to do much more to “light those sparks.” Along similar lines, the president said it was important for high school students to see the relevance of what they’re learning to their future careers.

President Obama commended SkillsUSA and the work it’s doing when he spoke with Tim after the speech.

President Obama shaking hands with the crowd

The speech by President Obama is available at

The White House announcement is available at


June 15th, 2011
  • At the recommendation of Frank Carroll, former SkillsUSA board member, president, Bosch Power Tools North America and full-time SkillsUSA champion, we held a meeting here in Leesburg on May 26 with Larry Teverbaugh, CEO of K2Share and Robert Wagner, senior VP, Lowe’s and SkillsUSA board member. The agenda revolved around Vision 2020 and how we can employ the talent and influence of top corporate executives to reach those goals by tapping into their business acumen for strategic guidance – such as developing appropriate and responsive business models for SkillsUSA – and using their leverage appropriately for financial development. It was an excellent half-day meeting and gave the invited staff plenty to think about.
  • Here’s the latest national conference by the numbers. Conference registration – even in these tough financial times – is up over last year to 9,647. A good sign is that state associations are asking for more hotel rooms. And, we have 5,745 contestants registered That’s more than last year even though we have two fewer contests. We have 79 SkillsUSA University seminars scheduled (74 last year) and there are 144 TECHSPO exhibitors, 30 of them are new. The 101 and 201 State Officer and Advisor Training registration is way up (over 70 more participants) this year to 269 participants from 25 states. SkillsUSA’s partners are giving away $100,000 in travel scholarships related to students attending conference.
  • Stephen Gold, CEO of the Manufacturing Alliance, came by for a visit on the morning of May 16. Staff and I provided an overview of SkillsUSA and Gold oriented us to the Alliance. Several of our partners serve on the Manufacturing Alliance board of directors, including CAT, Air Products and Snap-on. Emily DeRocco and I presented to the Manufacturing Alliance board in Washington, D.C. on June 9. Gold sees SkillsUSA as part of the solution for the manufacturing pipeline issue facing the nation’s manufacturers. The Alliance has over 300 manufacturing companies as members. He will also be attending the NLSC.
  • On May 18, I participated in the inaugural meeting of the National Youth Safety Advisory Council. Led by CareerSafe and supported by federal OSHA, the council is comprised of leaders from industry and education. Friends of SkillsUSA on the Council include CAT, FFA, Chad Maclin of Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools, Dr. Chip Harris from Tennessee State University and Mike Raponi, former SkillsUSA board member and CTE director from Nevada. The Council will be sponsoring the first National Young Worker Safety Day in conjunction with our NLSC on Tuesday, June 21. The goal of NYSAC is to review current and future safety regulations and policies set forth by OSHA and to help determine the best ways to train and educate young workers including methods and data collection processes.
  • Membership in the Alumni & Friends Association is close to 20,000.
  • Lowe’s will have 13 vendor companies attending conference this year.
  • There were 49 signatures on the “Dear Colleague” letter to support Perkins funding when it was sent to the chairman and ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Service and Education in mid-May. It will probably be one of many letters in the months ahead.

Great Finalists for WorldSkills Welding

June 15th, 2011

SkillsUSA has three super finalists for the Welding contestant spot on the SkillsUSA WorldTeam. In my estimation, any one of these students would be a great representative for the United States. On May 22-24, I attended an American Welding Society (AWS) Pre Weld-Off event in Mobile, Alabama. AWS is the primary sponsor of the SkillsUSA WorldTeam selection process, and the 2011 quadruple elimination process has been going on for several months now. The field has narrowed to: Alex Pazkowsk and Brad Clink from Michigan and Zack Brown from Mississippi.

Monday morning started with the introduction of the finalists followed by guest presenters, John Mendoza, AWS president and Lee Hammett and Mr. Hopper of Alabama Industrial Development Training – Maritime Training Center in Mobile. Mendoza presented on the image of welding and the opportunities for individuals to obtain a career in welding with the help of AWS and the scholarships that are awarded each year. Mr. Hopper presented on behalf of the AIDT program at the training center and talked about the facilities, training and career options the facility provides for the Gulf Coast region. Of course, I got in a few words too about SkillsUSA and how we help young men and women prepare for the workforce.

Following the opening event, there was an excellent professional development seminar conducted by David Hernandez that covered topics including professional development, stress management and public speaking. The seminar was designed specifically for the three finalists to help them mentally prepare for world-level competition. David will attend the national conference so he can do the same thing for all the members of the WorldTeam. Several advisors, industry partners and SkillsUSA students from the Gulf Region also participated in all the professional development training on Monday.

From Tuesday through Thursday, the three finalists worked in competition mode and were required to perform an assortment of weldments similar to those they’ll face in London during the 41st WorldSkills Competition. On Friday, all projects were turned in, inspected, and critiqued by three former world competitors and SkillsUSA alumni: Branden Muehlbrandt, Lincoln Electric, Nick Peterson, Miller Electric and Ray Connely, USA Welding Expert. The final AWS Weld-Off to select the WorldTeam Welding contestant will be held during national conference in Kansas City.

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