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Executive Director’s Report: April 1, 2014

April 1st, 2014

Connecting STEM, Manufacturing and Technician Service
On March 7, I spent the day with our good friends at STEMconnector in Washington DC. The day-long meeting was held at KPMG, just blocks from The White House. STEMconnector continues to gain momentum and build powerful connections with top leaders from business, government and education. Just two days prior, the organization held an event for Women in STEM at the U.S. Capitol, and it was attended by 67 Congressmen, Congresswomen and Senators. Edie Fraser, STEMconnector CEO, absolutely loves SkillsUSA, and she made sure I had a speaking opportunity and was able to inform the 200-member organization about SkillsUSA. We also agreed to host a meeting of STEMconnector at the 2015 NLSC. STEMconnector has published a book “Top 100 CEOs in STEM” and has now published the “Top 100 Women in STEM.” It is a very young organization, but it has become very powerful within corporate America in a short period of time. I am excited that SkillsUSA is a partner, and we are in the middle of the conversation.

Another result of the meetings with STEMconnector has been a connection with their “Life Skills Committee.” Al Bundshaft from Dassault Systems (USA headquarters in Waltham, Massachusetts) leads this committee, and they are seeking best practices in integrating life skills (what we call employability skills) into STEM education classrooms. Al and I connected and the Dassault team, met with Karen Ward, state association director from Massachusetts and me, and we visited SkillsUSA Chapters last week in the Boston area. Our PDP and leadership program is heavily integrated in these schools, and I know they came away with a solid knowledge of how our program and curriculum fits the bill as one of the best practices they were searching for.

On March 8, National High School Vice President Laura Gouillon from California joined me in Peoria, Illinois for a whirlwind round of presentations to a variety of manufacturing and community groups. SkillsUSA Foundation member and former Board president Cameron Ferguson of Caterpillar arranged for the visit, and it was a great opportunity to inform a very diverse group of organizations about SkillsUSA. On Sunday, Laura and I spoke to the Osher Institute of Lifelong Learning (OLLI) at a gathering at Bradley University. OLLI is made up of retired executives from area business and industry, and community organizations are very supportive of the group. I provided a 20-minute overview of SkillsUSA from a national perspective, and Laura delivered an incredible presentation about her experience in “SkillsUSA, STEM and CTE.” Laura used powerful examples of how her academics have been enhanced through real-world learning and how SkillsUSA has helped her grow to the point where she now has aspirations of becoming an electrical engineer. She has applied to several top universities and has already been accepted at USC with a full-tuition scholarship. She is a great example of a SkillsUSA leader and a wonderful role model for youth.

On Monday, we had a full day with several groups at CAT. We spoke first with the global dealer support group, providing some of the same information from the previous day’s presentation. We then had a great meeting with all the CAT volunteers from the Peoria corporate offices who support SkillsUSA at the national and state levels. Our next stop was at the CAT Visitors Center where we spoke to the Specialized Manufacturing Group and several area school administrators and teachers, including the Chairman of the Peoria District 150 School Board. This was a 90-minute presentation with several questions and lots of interaction. We also had the advisor and several student leaders from our college chapter at Illinois Central College participate in the meetings. Following lunch, we traveled to another CAT facility and had a one-on-one conversation with Gwenne Henricks, CAT’s Vice President of Product Development and Global Technology. Gwenne is also CAT’s Chief Technology Officer and an electrical engineer, so she and Laura had a great conversation.

We then traveled to Illinois Central College in East Peoria where we met the SkillsUSA chapter officers and toured the campus, including the CAT “Think Big” dealer technician training program. It’s always great to see our students in action, especially when one of our key partners is supporting the school in a “Big” way. And, finally, Cameron made sure that Laura had a chance to experience the “Big Iron” as we ended our visit at the CAT equipment demonstration and training center. Laura got to see and climb aboard some of CAT’s large trucks and loaders. She was very excited to get an up close and personal view of what heavy equipment looks like. What a thrill for any teenager! You can see some of the photos of this experience on our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153892007000591.1073741901.22208255590&type=1.

A BIG thank you goes out to Cameron Ferguson and the CAT team for such a great opportunity and experience for both one of our student leaders and for me personally!

Applying Skills Internationally in Pursuit of Access to Clean Water
The Business Partnerships and Development office is working on a project for SkillsUSA to collaborate with the World Plumbing Council to field a multi-disciplined team of three students (plumbers and engineers under the age of 26) to compete at the Water Innovation Challenge in Singapore, June 3 – 5, 2014. The theme of this pilot competition sponsored by WorldSkills Foundation is “new water–ways in which to create and control water supplies in specific international community environments.”

Teams will participate in a series of hands-on design challenges and practical tasks. The competition will take place over three days as the teams develop a series of real and innovative solutions for emerging water and sanitation problems in two developing countries: Nepal and Bangladesh.

The challenge’s impact on developing countries looks promising. Design toolkits created by winning teams during the competition will be made available to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international development organizations to support innovative individual plumbing and sanitation development projects around the world.

 

We look forward to keeping you informed as SkillsUSA college/postsecondary students are confirmed and prepare for the challenge.

Record-setting Membership Year
SkillsUSA is enjoying a record-setting membership year with 309,590 members to date. This number represents the highest level of paid membership in the organization’s history as well as the largest growth in membership since school year 2007-2008. A great deal of work has been completed over the past several years by the entire staff, and the organization as a whole that has lead to this substantial increase in membership over previous years. We believe this record-setting membership year can be attributed to working hard to understand our customers and meet their needs. We have provided a new and improved membership kit, a new hotline dedicated to answer membership questions, membership registration site enhancements, new educational resources, state association director workshops and new advisor toolkits. The following chart shows members served since 2005:

Membership Chart

 

College/Postsecondary Reach on the Rise
The College/Postsecondary Task Force met last November and the action plans developed at that time are now being put into motion. SkillsUSA’s new business partner, CBC, is organizing, filming and producing a video and poster series that will help to raise awareness in the college/postsecondary target market. The theme of the series is how SkillsUSA has been instrumental in preparing members to get jobs, a better job or to make more money. The video production will take place in Nashville, Tennessee the first week of May. Alumni members from the Tennessee college/postsecondary division have stepped up to participate. Several business partners will also be lending their voices to the cause and will appear on camera in support of hiring SkillsUSA members. Special thanks go to CBC for sharing their talents and expertise and to James King, SkillsUSA Board President and Vice Chancellor for the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT) and Chelle Travis, SkillsUSA Tennessee college/postsecondary State Director, for committing their time and energies to this project.

Highlights

  • Air Products has agreed to sponsor the 100% Advisor Session during conference.
  • The updated What is SkillsUSA? video, has been completed and is being duplicated. It will be a sales item.
  • Niki Clausen and Heidi Walsh recently returned from Kansas City where they met with the national officers to practice for the NLSC.

That’s it for now. Thanks for all you do for the great students and teachers we serve.

Board Meeting Brief

October 15th, 2013

The board was pleased to welcome four new members: Dr. Dale Derrickson, Region 1, Delaware; Jen Polz, state director chair, Minnesota; Mike de Castro, and Laurie Hackett from Air Products Corporation.

A big thank you to the board members who participated in the September 23 board meeting and who also made congressional visits with our student leaders. The board reviewed the proposed middle school constitution and asked staff to conduct further research and determine the resources that will be required to move into this market. In other business, the board approved a name change for the YDF. It will now be known as the SkillsUSA Foundation Incorporated.

The board also reviewed the fourth quarter and final FY13 report and it showed several new records being set in programming and participation and outstanding financial performance by the organization.

Highlights

September 13th, 2013
  • Marsha Daves had 26 Washington state teachers and administrators attend her Professional Development Program training session at Puget Sound Skills Center near Seattle on Saturday, August 24. The session was funded by State Farm and state director Bruce McBurney and Denny Wallace also attended.
  •  A SkillsUSA student and teacher have been selected for interviews during the nationwide PBS broadcast entitled “American Graduate Day” on Saturday, September 28. Also scheduled for the broadcast are short videos about CTE and SkillsUSA featuring John McGlade, Air Products, Glenda Bonds, an instructor at Cross Key High School in Atlanta, and Mike Rowe. For more information, go to http://americangraduate.org/grad-day.
  • We have the early results from his survey of 668 SkillsUSA Championships technical committees. He’s heard back from 157 individuals (23.5 percent) and hopes to hear back from as many as a third. Among the interesting responses he’s received (and bearing in mind they’re all preliminary): 80 percent of the respondents say they plan to transition to Louisville; when asked how well students were prepared for the contests, 48 percent said better than last year and 45 percent said the same; and, when asked if contests reflect industry expectations for contests, 45 percent strongly agree and 43 percent somewhat agree.
  • We’re starting to gear up for a new year in advocacy in Washington. Following the lead of ACTE and NASDCTEc, SkillsUSA has posted an alert and a sample letter on the SkillsUSA Advocacy Site so teachers and others can weigh in on the importance of restoring federal funding for CTE. Just visit http://www.capwiz.com/skillsusa/home/.

 

Highlights

July 15th, 2013
  • Michael de Castro, director, GO Strategic Development with Air Products is joining the board of directors. Michael steps into the position held by Joe Pietrantonio. I know all of us appreciate Joe’s service, his business acumen, wisdom and spirit. He’s been a tremendous asset to all of us. Thanks Joe and welcome Michael.
  • We are also very pleased to welcome a new Region I representative to the Board – Dr. Dale Derrickson, state association for Delaware was elected to replace a great board member from Pennsylvania – Jerry Tylka.

SkillsUSA TECHSPO, TAG Tuesday and Champions Night

June 25th, 2013

SkillsUSA TECHSPOSkillsUSA TECHSPO opens this morning at 8 a.m. It is the largest trade show for technical education. You can find booths outside on 13th Street and North Central between Municipal Auditorium and Bartle Hall. There are also a few special SkillsUSA University sessions beginning this morning.

New this year is TAG Tuesday (Train-Act-Grow). TAG Tuesday is a series of leadership activities to be held for delegates during national conference. In the morning, there will be workshops for high school chapter leaders and high school state officers and there will be separate workshops for college/postsecondary delegates on networking with business. The afternoon will offer experiential sessions for the high school delegates and one-on-one interviews with business representatives for the college/postsecondary delegates. TAG Tuesday is sponsored by Insurance Auto Auctions and Adesa.

Tonight at the Kansas City Power and Light District will be the Champions Night activity. Note: a state/national SkillsUSA shirt is required for entry. Champions Night is sponsored by Carhartt. Also at 7 p.m. is the 100-Percent Advisors Reception at the College Basketball Experience. Sponsored by Air Products, the event is for 100-percent chapter advisors only.

Highlights

June 1st, 2013
  • On May 2, I attended the Research Partner Executive Dinner and Reception hosted by the National Research Center for College and University Admissions. The NRCCUA — which is a college and career planning program and runs “myCollegeOptions” — billed it as a networking event and it certainly was. There were 30 top executives from several different organizations. As a result of our visits, I’ve invited executives from Junior ROTC and STEM Connector to attend the national conference.
  • In another outreach from the college community, Wanda Monthey, Governor Roy Romer, Karen Lanning, director of Federal Relations and two other members of the College Board Career Readiness staff came to visit SkillsUSA headquarters to learn more about our organization. The College Board (known for the SAT exam) has put together a team to see what the role of the College Board can be in working with CTE. The team will be working on policy, partnerships, guidance, assessments and curriculum. They said the CB will be “putting the student in the center of what we do and finding pathways for all students to their careers.” They showed a great deal of interest in SkillsUSA. In a follow-up email, Jean-Claude Brizard wrote: “My biggest takeaway from yesterday is your success in getting the grassroots mobilized (teachers and students). Your national convention is fantastic. We have to find a way to engage you in our work.” More to come, I’m sure.
  • Thanks to an introduction from Board Member Russ Hoffbauer, on May 2 I met in Washington with Clark Plucinski, executive director of the Collision Repair Education Foundation. In the interest of gaining “higher quality trainees and employees” in the collision repair industry, the Foundation grants as many as 200 scholarships averaging $1,000 – $2,500 annually for students’ continuing education. The foundation also awards mini-grants and many other things to support collision repair instruction. Clark said he’s open to the option of adding travel scholarships for SkillsUSA students and perhaps adding SkillsUSA membership as a criterion for receiving a scholarship.
  • Worldwide, SkillsUSA is featured as one of 14 model public-private partnerships “that have enabled innovation and technology advancement and promoted talent development” in a recently released global report from the World Economic Forum prepared by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited entitled “Manufacturing for Growth.” Deloitte has been acquainted with SkillsUSA for quite some time — due in part to our partnership with the Manufacturing Institute — but it was still quite an honor to be selected and highlighted on an international scale. Here is a link to the news release about the report (and citing SkillsUSA). To view or download the three-volume report, go to this link. SkillsUSA is featured on page 25 of the second volume.
  • And, more coverage. SkillsUSA was included in an independent supplement from Media Planet to USA Today entitled “Employing America” and featuring Mike Rowe. An article entitled “Who will take over for the retiring baby boomers?” is about SkillsUSA in part and includes quotes from Joe Pietrantonio of Air Products, Nick Pinchuk of Snap-on and Don Whyte of the National Center for Construction Education and Research. The insert was in Midwest editions of USA Today. Here’s a link to the story (and no, we didn’t supply the photo). Another story being picked up by many places is on students who built a robotic locker for a classmate with Muscular Dystrophy. Here it is on the Huffington Post.
  • In other news, staff travelled to California for a meeting with ALCOA to create a program for ALCOA employees to promote manufacturing careers to students. Dave Worden spoke to a committee of the IEC (Independent Electrical Contractors) about the WorldSkills Competition and the WorldTeam. Staff also conducted an “Enhance Your Chapter” training session here on May 9 for four teachers from Virginia and other staff members met with intelitek to discuss online programs including the Skill Connect Assessments.
  • And, finally, three-person SkillsUSA 2012 Engineering Technology/Design competition team national gold medalists were chosen to visit the White House for President Obama’s Science Fair in April. The students, Grant Feldhege, Neil Molitor and Tyler Tran, from Tech High School in St. Cloud Area School District, Minn. designed, created, and manufactured a new product called Dolly-to-Trolley. It is a device that clamps onto a two wheel dolly and allows a person to move and maneuver trailers easily. The students are working on having their product patented. President Obama celebrated the remarkable achievements of student science fair winners and extraordinary kid innovators from across the nation in the third White House Science Fair.

SkillsUSA Highlighted during Washington Symposium

January 15th, 2013

Board member Joe Pietrantonio of Air Products served as a panelist at the Talent Driven Innovation – Best Practices Symposium on November 28th at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The Symposium was sponsored by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte and was moderated by The Manufacturing Institute’s Jennifer McNelly, a member of our Youth Development Foundation Committee. Joe participated in a discussion on “How Global Businesses Operate Public-Private Partnerships.” Joe used Air Products’ positive experience with SkillsUSA extensively in his remarks, and his fellow panelists from Toyota, Alcoa Foundation and Haas Automation also spoke on the benefits of their respective company’s relationships with SkillsUSA. There were positive references to SkillsUSA throughout the Symposium, but especially during the above-referenced panel. Joe said he was pleased with how much positive reaction occurred after the panel discussion, including the enthusiastic support of Assistant Secretary of Labor Jane Oates.

In a related development, in December Deloitte requested additional information about SkillsUSA and our partnerships for a report entitled “Manufacturing for Growth” that Deloitte and the World Economic Forum will premiere at the Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland this month. SkillsUSA was recommended to Deloitte as an example of a best-practice, public-private partnership “based on conversations we have had with leaders around the world.” We sent in all of the information. This will be one more step toward being “internationally known” as we say in Vision 2020.

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.

CTE and Air Products on CBS Evening News

September 28th, 2011

NOTE: We were notified just before this was supposed to air that the piece was pulled at the last minute. CBS is planning to run it at some future date, but at this point we don’t know when that will be. When we know, we’ll post it here.

I’ve received word from Air Products that last Friday a correspondent and camera crew from CBS Evening News arrived at Air Products to talk  with John McGlade our SkillsUSA CEO Champion of the Year.

The topic was the role of career and technical education in preparing students to enter the world of work. Air Products believes John was selected for the interview because of the company’s commitment to SkillsUSA. Air Products said: “John was glad to participate because it was another chance for him to share his passion and support for CTE and SkillsUSA.”

Following the interview in John’s office, the crew went to one of Air Products’ facilities and then to Lehigh Career and Technical Institute for an interview with director Clyde Hornberger.

Air Products was told a two- to four-minute segment will likely run on Wednesday, September 28. That could change depending on the news of the day, but I wanted to alert you to the possibility that SkillsUSA will be referenced on the evening news.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for a good story on career and technical education.

Highlights

September 15th, 2011
  • The SkillsUSA WorldTeam received coverage in the Labor Day weekend edition of PARADE magazine. And, there was much more extensive coverage online, including the team members’ biographies. Here is the link: www.parade.com/what-people-earn/americas-skilled-workers/featured/110904-at-last-good-news-on-jobs.html. PARADE appears in more than 600 Sunday edition newspapers. PARADE is the largest circulation magazine in the country with 70 million readers of the print edition and 40 million online. More coverage in PARADE online has been promised this month.
  • Board member Joe Pietrantonio stopped by the National Leadership Center on Wednesday, August 31. Joe met informally with all of the staff members who were in the office and then sat down with staff to discuss Air Products’ support for the furtherance of the Champion of the Year Dinner. Additionally, SkillsUSA is fortunate to have the very personal support of John McGlade in helping us build this program.
  • While attending the state association director conference in Louisville, I drafted a letter to President Obama asking him to meet with SkillsUSA WorldTeam when it is in DC on September 30. That letter was sent to The White House scheduling office on September 1. We also sent them a notice with the PARADE magazine article link. If all goes according to plan, the team will begin its day in Washington at the offices of The Manufacturing Institute hosted by YDF member Emily DeRocco, meet with members of the CTE Caucus, visit with the President and visit members of Congress.

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