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CTE Month and the State of the Union

January 26th, 2012

CTE Month and SkillsUSA Week, February 5 – 11 are coming up. The news stories are already coming in. I’m seeing stories about school open houses, community service events conducted by our chapters like Fairfield Career Center in Ohio working to help homeless teenagers and examples of how CTE and SkillsUSA change lives.

Of course, CTE is even more than that. It keeps students in school. Ninety percent of CTE concentrators graduate from high school. That’s in comparison to the average national freshman graduation rate of 74.9 percent.

And, those students are preparing for the careers America desperately needs.

During his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday, President Obama spoke of the need for training and the need for education. I hope federal and state policymakers wake up to the fact they’ve got the answer on their doorstep. It’s called CTE. It needs their support through the Perkins Act and appropriations in Washington and in statehouses across this country.

CTE Month and SkillsUSA Week are great opportunities to tell your community and policymakers that CTE is learning that works for America. I’ll be sending more on that soon. Happy CTE Month.

SkillsUSA Planning

January 15th, 2012

Every year in January, SkillsUSA staff takes a week for strategic planning and staff worked diligently this week focusing on the FY13 strategic plan. We will be making our first report on new objectives to the state association director executive committee at their meeting later this month.


January 15th, 2012
  • On January 4, I traveled to the offices of the Manufacturing Institute in Washington, D.C. to meet with Vince Bertram, the new executive director of Project Lead the Way (PLTW), and with the executive director and staff from the Technology Student Association (TSA). Vince is interested in revitalizing the Engineering Alliance (EA), the online joint venture between TSA and SkillsUSA for students in PLTW. He said he likes the concept for leadership and competitive events, and he wants us to prepare a proposal to seek a sustained commitment to EA.
  • On January 5, I met with executives from Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to rehabilitating housing in poor communities. Every year, they hold what they call “Big Builds” and some involve well-known personalities and big events. (They’re even tied into the Super Bowl this year.) Americorps is also involved. Their proposal is that we initiate a pilot project pairing 10 of our best chapters with 10 of their best affiliates to work on community service projects together. We’ll be reaching out to select state directors to pair local chapters with the strong affiliates that Rebuilding Together identifies as the preferred pilot sites. This initiative certainly helps SkillsUSA meet the request in recent student polls to make available more local service opportunities. Representatives from Rebuilding Together will attend our national conference, have an exhibit booth and make a SkillsUSA University presentation.
  • Congratulations to the following state associations for exceeding last year’s overall membership. They are California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In the next few weeks, we’ll be announcing more states as they exceed last year’s overall numbers. A reminder – professional membership and alumni membership counts. Individuals like industry partners and other friends not affiliated with a local chapter can join too online at the following link:

SkillsUSA Champions Magazine Wins National Award

January 14th, 2012

SkillsUSA Champions magazineOur magazine, SkillsUSA Champions, has been honored with a silver medal in the Association TRENDS’ All-Media Contest.The annual competition is held exclusively for associations, recognizing the most creative and effective communication vehicles developed during the prior year. The 2011 competition included more than 450 entries in 22 categories of association communications.

The magazine will be on display at the program’s 33rd Annual Salute to Association Excellence, February 12, at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C., as well as featured in the January issue of TRENDS, a national newspaper for association executives and suppliers. SkillsUSA Champions last earned this honor in 2008. SkillsUSA is proud of the great work our staff has put into media and communicating with our members. Check out the latest issue here.

National Conference Pin and T-shirt Design Contest

January 13th, 2012

February 1 is the deadline for the entries to the SkillsUSA National Conference Pin and T-shirt competitions. This event is open to all paid student members of SkillsUSA. This is a great way to have a student and advisor from your state recognized in front of a national audience. A plaque for the teacher and student, plus a school grant to the advisor of the winning student will be announced at a later date.

Rules are in the membership kit and are also posted on the SkillsUSA website at: Questions may be directed to Heidi Ambrose at 703-737-0615 or to

ACTE National Policy Seminar: March 5-7

January 13th, 2012

Stand with ACTE and your CTE colleagues from around the nation to help Washington understand that CTE works! Register to attend the ACTE National Policy Seminar (NPS), March 5-7, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va. A special student rate is available and students are welcome to join. CTE faces many challenges during the coming year, and during the 2012 NPS, you will have the opportunity to connect with legislators who need to see us, understand us—and remember us! At this year’s National Policy Seminar, there is something for everyone:

  • Strengthen your knowledge of federal policies affecting CTE.
  • Learn more about how national assessments and the career-readiness conversation will affect your students.
  • Explore overarching issues affecting federal spending for education and workforce development.
  • Preview the next reauthorization of the Perkins Act and begin planning ahead.
  • Gain new advocacy skills to help you effectively promote your programs.

Check out the tentative agenda for more details and visit: for the latest updates.

A call for talented singers

January 12th, 2012

Are you a talented singer? Would you enjoy a special performance opportunity?

SkillsUSA seeks talented singers for the opening ceremony or awards ceremony during the 2012 SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference. We would like to have a SkillsUSA student member to sing the national anthem or another patriotic song appropriate for the Opening Ceremony.

Singers may sing a capella or to a pre-recorded instrumental track. Send in all audition videos on DVD, postmarked by February 1 to Heidi Ambrose, SkillsUSA, 14001 SkillsUSA Way, Leesburg, VA 20176. Questions may be directed to Heidi at 703-737-0610 or by email to

Please share this with anyone you might think is interested.

You Do Change Lives

January 1st, 2012

The reminders of how SkillsUSA changes lives are all around us this time of the year. They show up in the news stories of community service events conducted by SkillsUSA chapters such as nearly 2,000 food items donated to a food bank in Utica, N.Y., rocking horses and building blocks built and donated to Toys for Tots in Lewiston, Idaho and – after months of work by 50 students – the restoration and remodeling of the Salvation Army emergency disaster canteen truck in Painesville, Ohio so the Salvation Army can help others in need.

Sometimes the news comes in more directly. On December 21, I received an email from Mary Bell of Caterpillar and a former SkillsUSA board member to tell me about her meeting a new hire at CAT who is a SkillsUSA alumna “and totally poised just as you’d expect.” I received word on December 22 from Dan Young, a long-time supporter of SkillsUSA and formerly with the FBI, that the contractor who is building his retirement home is a SkillsUSA alumnus and state medalist in brick masonry. And, board member Marlys Bucher wrote on December 22 that the person who will be hosting the Minnesota welding contest at the state pipe fitters apprenticeship training center was a gold medal winner in 1987 in the VICA Skill Olympics. He told her that as an older, nontraditional student “it was a life-changing event . . . and I’m thrilled to be giving back to SkillsUSA.”

Of course, this tradition continues. I recently sent Jim Lentz, COO of Toyota and 2011 Champion of the Year a testimonial from Victoria Holbert, national high school president, and from other Massachusetts state officers who participated in the Champion of the Year dinner ceremonies. All of the students remarked on the positive impact they’d experienced meeting person-to-person with business leaders and how important that is for them. Victoria wrote: “This opportunity along with every other that has been offered to me through this organization has humbled me and helped me grow.” Here’s the link to see the report:

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