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Firing on All Cylinders at Daytona 500

March 15th, 2013

We had an amazing opportunity to talk about SkillsUSA, skilled trades and welding from February 20-24 during a week of racing at Daytona Beach, Florida. This was the SkillsUSA WorldTeam final Weld-Off  -  a competition taking 22 hours over four days – to select the final member of the WorldTeam. We had three finalists, Andrew Cardin of Massachusetts, Tanner Tipsword of Wyoming and Alex Pazkowski of Michigan. All of them did fantastic work, and Alex was named the winner on Sunday evening.

The other big winner was SkillsUSA. Thanks to an outdoor booth valued at $58,000 and donated by Larsen Motorsports, we had tens of thousands of people come by to talk, meet the students and examine their welding projects. Larsen Motorsports is owned by Chris and Elaine Larsen, and she’s one of only four female jet fuel dragster drivers in the world. She was in the booth signing autographs right along with the students when they were on break. The SkillsUSA flag was flying and the SkillsUSA and AWS logos were prominently displayed on a racing trailer in the booth. Crowds got progressively larger through the week. By Sunday, the crowds were four and five deep. See the photos at: www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152585499225591.959256.22208255590&type=1.

The connection to Larsen was made through Youth Development Foundation Committee member Paul Cleveland of Miller Electric Mfg. Co., Inc., and members of the Welding contest technical committee. The American Welding Society (AWS) was the main sponsor and, on awards night had a beautiful white tent with lights and a sound system right down on Daytona Beach. It was a beautiful setting and event to announce the winner and recognize each of our contestants. Thanks go to Brandon Muehlbrandt of Lincoln Electric Co., Nick Peterson of Miller and all the other participants for pulling this whole event together. I know Alex will do a wonderful job of representing the United States in Germany this July.

Spring Conference in Mississippi

March 15th, 2013

On February 26-27, I attended the Mississippi spring conference in Jackson. There were 200 more registrants this year with 1,500 attending overall. Competitions were held in several locations around town, but one of the most impressive venues was the Trademart where the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation (MCEF) administered all of the construction contests. The MCEF used the event as a centerpiece for a full-day seminar called “Pathways to Success” conducted for 130 administrators and guidance counselors from around the state. The audience heard a lot about the importance of CTE and construction careers, and I had the opportunity to tell them about SkillsUSA. State Senator Philip Moran also attended, and I received considerable interest from the regional sales manager of Makita, U.S.A.

Congratulations to Andy Sims, Mississippi state association director for a successful conference and thanks to Jean Massey, state CTE director, for her strong support of SkillsUSA.

On Thursday, February 28, I flew to St. Louis to meet with executives of Enterprise Holdings, parent company of Enterprise, Alamo and National car rental companies. This was another corporate connection made by board member Russ Hoffbauer. Russ, national officer Sergio Cavazos and I met with the head of the foundation, two vice presidents, three assistant vice presidents and a director. When the CEO met with us at one point, he said “I see you’ve got the Enterprise A team.” That was nice to hear.

Russ covered the reasons why business is involved with SkillsUSA, and Sergio did a beautiful job talking about the effect SkillsUSA has had on him, his school and his community. It was easy to see the executives were thoroughly impressed, and they said they want Enterprise to get involved as a partner at the local level and, perhaps, at national conference. They also expressed interest in our customer service competition and assessments.

Highlights

March 15th, 2013
  • A staff member attended a meeting at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) on February 28 called by the Alcoa Foundation, who wanted to put SkillsUSA, Project Lead the Way, The Manufacturing Institute and Junior Achievement officials together to brainstorm on challenges in developing the manufacturing workforce and in combating negative public and educational perceptions of manufacturing. Later that day, staff engaged The Manufacturing Institute and PLTW officials in discussions on administration of and criteria for awarding digital manufacturing “badges.”
  • And, looking ahead a little bit, the SkillsUSA WorldTeam has an appointment to visit the German Embassy during the team’s Washington, D.C. training program, April 26-29.

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