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Highlights

August 29th, 2013
  • I’ve met twice with a local management consultant – and another meeting is scheduled for early in September – to discuss creation of a human resources plan. We’ll begin by conducting an analysis of SkillsUSA’s structure and processes, including staffing and staff succession, so we know we are appropriately aligned to meet the goals in Vision 2020.
  • We held a staff meeting on August 6 and the chief topic was the 2013 National Leadership and Skills Conference. Small cross-departmental teams reviewed the national conference and offered up their five best superlatives and five major challenges. Among the superlatives: excellent general sessions, particularly the quality of the speakers; good news media coverage; the registration process went well with improvements implemented during the past two years; addition of TAG Tuesday for delegates; and YDF Breakfast and Challenge Fund. We also did some brainstorming for the 50th anniversary celebration.
  • The Challenge Fund held during conference raised $140,000 from corporate and individual contributions. All monies were dedicated to the Skills Build America Campaign.
  • We’re finding SkillsUSA appearing more frequently in papers and books focusing on skill gaps and worker shortages. One of the most recent is in the book The U.S. Technology Skills Gap: What Every Technology Executive Must Know to Save America’s Future. The central thesis by author Gary Beach is that the widening “skills gap” in math and science is a threat to America’s future, and business should get involved. The very first example of a public-private partnership — in the chapter entitled “Let’s Build Some Arks” — is SkillsUSA, 1965. He wrote in the chapter: “Do your homework and learn more about CTE.” Beach called our offices last week to say “SkillsUSA was way ahead of the game.”
  • SkillsUSA will be featured in a nationwide PBS broadcast entitled “American Graduate Day” on Saturday September 28. The program is about community organizations that are successful in preventing dropouts. SkillsUSA will be both an example of a community organization and of CTE. We have been compiling stories of students who stayed in school and have gone on to greater things thanks to SkillsUSA, their instructors and others. There will be much more to tell in the coming weeks.
  • Bob Baird of the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC), chair of our Industrial Motor Control contest and long-time friend of SkillsUSA, came to visit on August 7 to discuss ways IEC and SkillsUSA can support each other at local, state and national levels. Support from IEC would include work by its chapters in training, contests, and advocacy. We also spoke of possible support from some of IEC’s corporate members. Bob expressed interest in the Professional Development Program as a curriculum for apprentices.
  • I attended a meeting between youth organizations and the Army at Ft. Myer to discuss the Army’s SAY Program (Strengthening America’s Youth) The Army involved us in a discussion of STEM education and recruiting the best youth with technical skills into the military. I suggested, and it was well received, that the Army give preference through rank and pay to students who come to them with technical and leadership credentials such as being a SkillsUSA officer or a leader in another student organization. The dialogue continued the following day when the representatives of the Army visited our office to discuss our 2014 partnership.
  • Jacob Wozniak of Springville, New York won the qualifying trial in Cabinetmaking for a spot on the 2015 SkillsUSA WorldTeam. Jacob will compete in Sao Paulo, Brazil in August 2015. He is a graduate of the Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES program and he won the 2012 high school Gold medal in Cabinetmaking. Jacob competed against Caleb Floyd, the 2012 high school Silver medalist from Kathleen, Ga. and Warner-Robins High School, and Brett Sidesinger of Topeka, Kan. and Washburn Tech, who was the highest scoring age-eligible contestant from the 2013 Cabinetmaking contest. The Cabinetmaking Qualifying Trial was conducted at the biennial AWFS Fair in late July at the Las Vegas Convention Center, thanks to the generous in-kind sponsorship of the Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Suppliers (AWFS).  WorldTeam Cabinetmaking technical expert Rob Tobias of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster, PA, served as the chief judge.
  • I recently received a note from Daniel Berrios, our 2013 WorldSkills Cabinetmaking competitor about his experience in Germany. “The WorldSkills competition was one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences I have ever had. It felt like the Olympics. The mixture of cultures, languages, and people really brought about a sense of unity and equality among all competitors. The confusion and excitement are hard to put into words, but in the end it was all about a good friendly competition; no politics nor boarders, just people doing what they love to do with a focus on winning a medal. The competition itself was intense, and the cabinet was one of the most difficult projects I had ever done, with lots of complex angles, cuts, and joints all while thousands of people watched my every move. Every cut had to be perfect and nothing less would suffice, although, I do admit I did make a few mistakes on my cabinet. But, I have no regrets on how I built my project, and if I had the opportunity again, I would do it in a heartbeat.”
  • Speaking of quotes, here’s an excerpt from an email by Judy Rambert of Pivot Point, a long-time supporter of SkillsUSA and the WorldTeam. She wrote after listening to my remarks during the recent Congressional Roundtable: “I sat listening to your speech on Capitol Hill tonight, and it reminded me why Pivot Point cherishes our involvement with SkillsUSA. Your message captured our commitment to the youth of our profession. Students involved in SkillsUSA chapters have superb statistics of completing their education. You all must be so proud!”
  • And, the Best of Brand Awards were presented during the state directors’ conference in South Portland, Maine. Congratulations go to Best of Innovation: Advocacy – Tennessee college/postsecondary; Best of Innovation: Membership Growth and Engagement – Michigan; Best of Brand: Print – Wisconsin; Best of Brand: Multi-media – Arizona; and, Best of Brand: Website – Oregon.

Highlights

September 1st, 2012
  • The Best of Brand Awards were presented during the state directors’ conference in Rapid City. Congratulations go to: SkillsUSA Georgia for capturing Best of Brand in the Website Category and Best of Innovation, Membership Recruitment Category; SkillsUSA Massachusetts for Best of Brand in the Multi-Media Category and Best of Innovation, Advocacy Category; and, SkillsUSA Wisconsin for its Best of Brand in the Print Category.
  • In early August, I had a great trip to Yakima, Wash., to do two presentations on the Skill Connect Assessments. The first was a panel discussion including other assessment providers. The second presentation was strictly on our assessments. Both presentations were packed with people. I also got to spend some great time visiting with Eleni Papadakis, the Washington state CTE director.
  • I received a nice letter from Assistant Secretary of Education Brenda Dann-Messier thanking SkillsUSA for inviting her to participate in the national conference. The part I liked best comes at the end of this paragraph (that I’ll paraphrase):  “The Administration’s blueprint for Perkins reauthorization calls for transformation of our career and technical education programs based on our key principles: effective alignment of CTE and labor market needs … strong collaboration [among education and employers] … meaningful accountability [for academic, technical and employability skills] … and increased emphasis on innovation. Through your national skills competitions, and the many state and local competitions and activities that SkillsUSA offers throughout the year, your organization is already demonstrating the key reform principles in action!”
  • In a quick update on national conference media coverage, we’ve documented over 100 stories about conference and/or winners in the greater Kansas City region from May into August. As a matter of fact, there’s a feature on a local medalist that ran several times beginning August 22, so it keeps on going. That figure is up over the 85 stories last year. The news releases on medalists and Skill Point recipients were emailed out almost immediately after conference, arriving before the July 4 holiday. A total of 5,581 releases were sent to daily and non-daily papers. And, trade press has been very good. Some of the trade press celebrates the fact that there are more contestants in the contests they cover. They see that as a sign of increasing interest in their fields.
  • Champion of the Year invitations were delivered directly to Member offices on Capitol Hill on August 20. In all, we invited 11 Senators and 12 Representatives, including Paul Ryan who just happens to represent the district in Wisconsin where Snap-on has its headquarters. We also invited representatives from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Labor. A press conference is scheduled at the National Press Club during the morning of September 18.
  • During our staff meeting on August 8, it was reported that Skill Connect Assessment sales were up 28 percent over last year and that we are seeing much more pre- and post-testing using the assessments. Staff also reported publication sales were up three percent over last year as of the end of June and the marketing department is still crunching the numbers on a survey taken by 650 students at conference.
  • Board President, James King, was here for the staff meeting and he told the staff  “There’s interest in CTE because we teach marketable skills. The leadership component is what was missing and that’s what SkillsUSA does. I can’t think of any organization in America that does more for students than SkillsUSA.”

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