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State Directors of Career and Technical Education Convene in Baltimore, Md.

November 15th, 2013

I was privileged to spend three days in Baltimore at the Fall Meeting of the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc). This meeting brings together the state agency CTE chiefs from across the nation to discuss strategy, standards and policy. In addition, government officials and business leaders join together to discuss CTE issues and trends. It was great to spend some time with board member Scott Stump (Colo.), and CTE directors and former board members Wayne Kutzer (N.D.) and Mike Raponi (Nev.). I was also very pleased to see Russ Weikle, one of our former SkillsUSA state directors in California, who is now the state’s CTE director. All in all, the meeting was an excellent opportunity to network with the state leaders who endorse SkillsUSA as an integral component of CTE instruction in schools and colleges across the USA.

The meeting kicked off with U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary, Brenda Dann Messier, with a federal update and an expression of gratitude for the work of the national leaders of CTE. Brenda’s comments were followed by a strong and supportive speech from Maryland’s Chief Academic Officer, Jack. R. Smith. During the conference, I was able to meet briefly with the Assistant Secretary and other U.S. Department of Education officials, including Robyn Utz, Chief of College and Career Transitions and Sharon Miller, Director of Academic and Technical Education.

The conference included several major reports on CTE. The first was from The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and their “A Skills Beyond School” review of postsecondary career and technical education in the United States. The report found many of the basic features of the U.S. approach to CTE as strong, but also reported that our decentralized system of education creates several challenges. There were other strengths and several recommendations cited in the OECD report. You can view the OECD the report here.

On Wednesday, the official release of “The State of Career and Technical Education: An Analysis of State CTE Standards” was presented to the directors. I was honored to be selected to serve on a panel that responded to the release. The panel included Douglas Major, ACTE’s President and Superintendent and CEO of Meridian Technology Center in Stillwater, Okla., Marie Berry, State CTE Director from New Jersey and Maura Banta, Director of Citizenship Initiatives in Education from IBM. My contribution to the discussion was mainly focused on the states’ alignment to the “Career Ready Practices” in the standards, and I cited Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) like SkillsUSA as the delivery method to formalize career-ready instruction. It was very well received and Jim Stone from the National Center for Research in Career and Technical Education stood as part of the Q&A portion and really did a great job reinforcing what I had said about the need for all states to be sure they are utilizing the CTSOs to add credibility to this component of CTE instruction. You can read a news article from the “Sacramento Bee” concerning the release of the report here. You can visit this site to download the report and the new “Common Career and Technical Core.”

Other topics covered at the meeting included: (1) Updates on the Perkins legislation, Workforce Investment Act, Higher Education Act and Elementary and Secondary Education Act and NASDCTEc’s advocacy efforts; (2) An analysis of the Office of Management and Budget’s proposed new guidelines on state financial reporting practices; (3) Common Core State Standards; and, (4) Career Ready Assessments. As always, it was a very positive experience to network and learn from our state CTE leaders and policymakers.

I was also privileged to be a part of another panel with my peers from DECA and TSA to present a report from the National Coordinating Council for Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO). As a joint effort, the NCC-CTSO has developed a new website and also developed Congressional District Profiles for every state and every Congressional District within each state. These profiles will be great advocacy tools for our students and teachers as they visit legislators in D.C. and in their home states. Each profile shows the aggregated membership of the student organization in each state and district. You can visit the new website and view the profiles here:

ACTE CareerTech Vision 2013 Conference

November 15th, 2013

SkillsUSA will be participating at ACTE’s CareerTech Vision 2013 Conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev. and the booth (#319) will be open on December 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on December 6 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition, we have three sessions scheduled, and we hope if you’re there, you’ll stop by.

  • Enhance Your SkillsUSA Chapter on Dec. 6 from 1-2:30 p.m. in Room N229
  • Why SkillsUSA? on Dec. 6 from 2:45-4:15 p.m. in Room N224
  • Your “Easy Button” Teaching and Assessing Workforce Ready Skills and Career-ready Practices in the CCTC Standards on December 7 from 8:30-10 a.m. in Room N224

Jen Polz, our State Association Director Chairperson and Minnesota director, has been named as a finalist for the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) National Outstanding Educator Award. Our congratulations go to Jen, and we look forward to seeing her on the stage in Las Vegas during the ACTE CareerTech Vision 2013 Convention.

This year’s ACTE CareerTech Vision 2013 awards banquet will feature U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Also scheduled to be in attendance is the Assistant Secretary of Education from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, Brenda Dann Messier. More information can be found on their webpage at:


November 14th, 2013
  • The SkillsUSA Foundation, Inc. met October 16-17 at the National Leadership Center in Leesburg. In brief, the group discussed the name change from the Youth Development Foundation to the SkillsUSA Foundation, Inc.; discussed opportunities for their involvement to obtain support for the transition to Louisville; and, discussed collaborating efforts on a SkillsUSA/Skilled Trade Awareness Month to bring greater attention to both SkillsUSA and skilled trade issues. A big thank you goes to the Foundation members for their dedication and commitment to the SkillsUSA mission. We are grateful for their service. We also look forward to working with Kaye Morgan-Curtis from Newell Rubbermaid as a new Foundation member.
  • We finished counting the number of congressional visits made by during WLTI. This year, students and advisors visited with 37 Senators, 72 Representatives and 1 Resident Commissioner, for a total of 110; and, we received excellent feedback from the visits. We also heard some nice comments from the attendees this year too, some of which include … “It was a great and awesome experience, truly transforming; All activities were definitely an experience of growth and learning; Thank you, it was a great conference!; This was my first SkillsUSA conference and it had a dynamic effect on my students. Thank you for all you do; I am an alumni and it was wonderful to see the wonderful things SkillsUSA still does for students; and, I so appreciated the opportunity to meet staff and to be able to interact with others throughout the nation.” A big thank you to the board of director members who accompanied students on their Capitol Hill visits.
  • And, on October 18, we held our annual staff outing with a lovely autumn lunch and wine tasting at a local winery. We honored years of service at the luncheon for six of our staff members: Stephanie Bland, five years; Jim Kregiel, 10 years; Jane Short and Missy Wilson, 20 years; Kim Graham, 25 years; and, Judy Garrison, 35 years. Of course, each and everyone on our staff is an amazing resource for SkillsUSA. We have such a great staff.

National Youth Safety Video Contest Reminder

November 14th, 2013

CareerSafe, Safety Education for America’s Future, is sponsoring the 2013-14 National Youth Safety Video Contest. Students across the country are challenged to create a two-minute video demonstrating safety in the workplace. The contest kicked off on October 15, and all submissions should be sent into CareerSafe by March 1, 2014. The winning students will receive a SkillsUSA Prize Pack as well as a scholarship up to $2,500 and the winning school will receive a prize up to $5,000. For more information on the contest, please visit the CareerSafe website at:

Call for Talent Reminder

November 14th, 2013

Do you have a talented singer in your state who would enjoy a special performance opportunity? SkillsUSA seeks talented singers for the Opening Ceremony or Awards Ceremony during the 2014 SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference. We are looking for a SkillsUSA student or professional member to sing the national anthem or another patriotic song appropriate for opening special sessions. Singers may sing a capella or to a pre-recorded instrumental track. Audition tapes must be the singing of the national anthem.

Send in all audition videotapes of the national anthem only on CD or DVD, postmarked by February 1, 2014 to: Heidi Walsh, SkillsUSA, 14001 SkillsUSA Way, Leesburg, VA 20176.Questions may be directed to Heidi at 703-737-0615 or

Win money for your school: Verizon Innovative App Challenge

November 14th, 2013

Verizon Innovative App ChallengeThe Technology Student Association (TSA), in cooperation with the Verizon Foundation, Samsung and the MIT Center for Mobile Learning, is offering a competition for students from any middle or high school (they don’t have to be members of TSA). Teams just need a faculty advisor to submit the entry.

To begin, gather a team of 5-7 students who wish to creatively solve a problem in your school or community by developing a mobile app that incorporates STEM principles and content. Bonus points will be given for apps that address education, healthcare, or energy conservation. More than one team is permitted from a school. Register by December 17 at:

Then prepare a 3-minute video describing the app and how it will function. Submit an essay that demonstrates the team’s understanding of the design process, the app’s functionality, and its potential impact or outcome. And, submit a form signed by the school’s principal or administrator agreeing to the Challenge’s rules and use of the prize money.

Eight winning schools will receive a $20,000 cash grant. Plus, the students retain intellectual property rights to the app, which can be brought to the open market. And, each student on a winning team gets a Samsung Galaxy tablet and is invited to attend the 2014 National TSA Conference in Washington, D.C. in June to present their app to more than 5,000 attendees.

“Start Something Today” Challenge: Final Reminder

November 14th, 2013, the organization that heads up the national Web Design contest, would like to remind students and teachers that there is still time to participate in the “Start Something Today” challenge. This new competition, conducted completely over the Web, provides students with an award-winning start to launching a business idea, plan and pitch to business and industry professionals and win recognition and prizes.

Sponsored by, the challenge is designed to inspire student entrepreneurs to actualize their business initiatives while sparking business creation and workforce development. The “Start Something Today” challenge is open to current student entrepreneurs, regardless of where they are in their education and career journeys.

For additional information and to participate, go to: The deadline for contest entries is December 1, 2013. For more information, contact Bill Cullifer at:

WorldSkills Forum in Korea

November 1st, 2013

I recently returned from Seoul, Korea, where I participated in a WorldSkills Forum, addressing an audience with representatives from Columbia, France, the United Kingdom, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and, of course, Korea. I spent a full day at the Global Institute for Transferring Skills (GIFTS) on October 4 and worked with HRD Korea – Korea’s government human resources agency – and presented an overview of the SkillsUSA program. A discussion ensued about how our different organizations might cooperate and assist one another on a global platform. The GIFTS Center is a beautiful five-story facility that contains a museum displaying the history of skills training and the “Master Hands Artisans” of Korea. And, it contains a museum section that documents Korea’s WorldSkills participation since 1966. Competitors and medalists are held in high esteem in Korea, and they are honored in the museum.

The GIFTS Center is used for training the Skills Korea World Team. The facility is equipped with nearly 100 sleeping rooms, a cafeteria, gym and indoor garden – and multiple training labs with the latest in technology and equipment – for training competitors as well as exposing youth to technical skills. The GIFTS Center and Korean World Team is fully funded and supported by the Korean government.

The following day, the delegation went to Gangwon Province for the 48th Korean National Skills Competition. The four-day competition involved 48 skill areas. There were 1,884 total competitors. The competition is moved to a different province each year.

The competition was intense and aligned closely with the WorldSkills schedule and standards. There were lots of differences between the Korean competition and the SkillsUSA Championships. All competitions were trade/skill related – there were no leadership contests -every competitor received a cash reward, and winners receive substantial cash prizes with full government support. But, there were also similarities to our contests. The contest floor looked a lot like our Championships and, of course, the joy of seeing young people with passion demonstrating their skills is universal.

On my fourth and final day in Korea, the other nations’ representatives and I were given a “cultural tour.” It was amazing to see the ancient gates to the city alongside the giant high rise buildings which are now a trademark of Seoul and to tour the King’s palace from the 12th century. Our final leg of the tour was a gondola ride to the Seoul Tower atop a mountain overlooking the city. Seoul stretches in all directions, as far as the eye can see.

Attending the forum was a great learning experience – both personally and professionally. I owe a big thank you to HRD Korea for its hospitality – and for covering the cost of all expenses from my arrival to my departure.

Making Plans for our Conferences in Louisville

November 1st, 2013

On October 8, a staffer and I attended a meeting in Louisville, Ky.,  to discuss the creation of a greater-Louisville industry council. Chris Powell joined us by conference call. Attending the meeting were Mayor Fischer’s special assistant, two representatives from Greater Louisville Inc. (the combined Economic Development Council and Chamber of Commerce), Joe Morgan and Fran Dundon from the Kentucky Department of Education, a representative from the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, the councilman from the Fourth District and five members of the Louisville Convention and Visitors Board. Following my NLSC overview presentation, all of them expressed keen interest in helping us to recruit Louisville’s key business players to serve on the SkillsUSA industry council. We’ll begin with an industry engagement event in early 2014. There are lots of details to be worked out and more to come from Louisville for our plan; but, we’re glad to have this important initiative underway.

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