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In SkillsUSA There are Triple-Headers

October 15th, 2012

From September 15-19 in the Washington, D.C. area, SkillsUSA held three of its most important events of the year: 1) the Washington Leadership Training Institute (WLTI); 2) the fall board of directors meeting; and, 3) the Champion of the Year dinner. Each of these manifests the important work SkillsUSA is doing in the interests of our members, partners and ultimately the nation.

The WLTI is at the core to SkillsUSA’s mission to teach students and their instructors the skills they’ll need to be successful leaders and advocates. The emphasis isn’t just on making an impact in Washington — although we do that too — it’s on putting those skills to work back home. I was particularly pleased to hear that some of the state delegations are doing just that. In New York, for example, students are expected to go back to school boards and other groups to talk about their experiences when they return.

With 314 registered attendees, this was our largest WLTI ever. There were excellent presentations to the students and instructors by Congressional staff from both parties from the House and the Senate. There were discussions with senior staff from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education on the administration’s Blueprint for Reform and reauthorization of Perkins. And, Barry Wulf, a past national officer and now a Black Hawk helicopter pilot for the California National Guard was a commanding keynote speaker.

We’re still compiling the reports from the states on their delegation visits. We have record of 80 visits — down from 103 last year — but we still don’t have reports from all of the states. We heard from board members and from delegations about how much they enjoyed making the congressional office visits together and I received a letter from one of the board members about WLTI saying the “national staff is simply outstanding.” WLTI photos are available here:

The Champion of the Year became two events on September 18 with a news conference at the National Press Club in the morning and then the dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The news conference focused on America’s skills gap. Of course, Champion of the Year Nick Pinchuk, chairman and CEO of Snap-on was the featured speaker. Also speaking: Jane Oates, assistant secretary of Employment and Training, U.S. Department of Labor; Bryan Albrecht, president, Gateway Community College; Amelia Powers, western region parts manager, Caterpillar and a SkillsUSA alumna; Kaila O’Farrell, national Region I vice president of SkillsUSA; and, yours truly. Bloomberg News was there to cover it as were reporters from two magazines, the Association of Career and Technical Education, and a 5:30 video news release was written and edited together and put on the feed to Fox stations by 3:30 p.m. for the evening news and then transmitted again the following morning.

The dinner was an impressive affair. (One student said to me: “I didn’t think it would be this elegant.”) Mr. Pinchuk is an eloquent and passionate speaker when it comes to both the importance of the skilled workforce and SkillsUSA. He said in part: “We, as a nation, need to make skilled workforce training a national priority, and to make skilled careers, a national calling.” He concluded his remarks by recognizing the students in the audience saying, “Meet America’s future, the young men and women of SkillsUSA.” Special thanks go to Greg Rintala, Alicia Smales and Rick Secor of Snap-on for all of their work on these events. Check out the pictures and video:

A news release went out from this office to all of the search engines and many more business and trade magazines, broadcast networks and newspapers. To read the release, link to: Clips are still arriving.

WLTI, Board Meeting and Champion of the Year Dinner Festivities

October 1st, 2012

WLTI 2012

The Washington Leadership Training Institute, the board of directors’ meeting and the Champion of the Year dinner all went beautifully.

WLTI definitely hit a new registration high with 314 attending representing 27 states and Puerto Rico. It took six buses just to get the group around. We had some great presenters, including top staff from the U.S. Department of Education to talk about the administration’s Blueprint for reauthorizing career and technical education (CTE), congressional staff to talk about the outlook for Perkins, and experts on the Common Core State Standards Project and the Common Career Technical Core. And, we had exciting trainers and training for the students. It was a great five days.

Champion of the Year

The Champion of the Year dinner honoring Nick Pinchuk, Snap-on chairman and CEO was an outstanding event. We had over one hundred students join in the excitement. We also had super support from our own partners on the board and the Youth Development Foundation. There were also letters of congratulations from Assistant Secretary of Education and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor Jane Oates, Senators Herb Kohl, Ron Johnson, Mike Enzi and Mark Warner and from five U.S. Representatives. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker declared September 18 “Nick Pinchuk Day.”

As part of the Champion of the Year festivities, there was a press conference at the National Press Club at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, September 18th. Nick Pinchuk spoke on the national imperative to prepare a skilled workforce and the importance of career and technical education and organizations such as SkillsUSA to close the gap. We know the word is getting out there. A reporter from Bloomberg News called last week and said: “I’m working on a story on the skills gap. I know the gap exists, now I want to know how to fix it. That’s why I’m calling SkillsUSA.” I spoke with the reporter for nearly an hour.


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.”


August 15th, 2012
  • Newly-elected board President, James King, paid a visit to the SkillsUSA National Leadership Center on August 8-9. He participated in our monthly staff meeting and NLSC debriefing. He also spent time with individual staff during his time with us. We very much enjoyed his visit.
  • Letters have been faxed to Members of Congress, governors and state CTE directors, along with medalist and Skill Point recipient news releases. They were sent out in record time this year, well in advance of the congressional recess. Staff reports we’ve received many requests from Members for home addresses so they can send letters of commendation.
  • Staff traveled to Snap-on headquarters in Kenosha last week to continue planning for the Champion of the Year Dinner where Snap-on CEO, Nick Pinchuk, will be honored on September 18. And, staff met with Bosch at their Chicago headquarters on August 9 to discuss our partnership moving into the future.

Champion of the Year Report

November 15th, 2011

SkillsUSA’s second Champion of the Year dinner went very well. The Champion of the Year award is given by SkillsUSA to honor the leadership of a corporate chief executive doing exemplary work in the creation and promotion of America’s highly skilled workforce. The award also recognizes the honoree for the corporation’s involvement in promoting and supporting career and technical education (CTE).

Jim Lentz, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A. Inc. received the 2011 SkillsUSA Champion of the Year award on November 4, during a ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Representatives from 36 corporations and organizations attended the event. A big thank you to the following state association directors for attending and bringing students to participate – Bruce Potter (New York), Heidi Balch (Connecticut), Pete Carey (New Jersey) and Karen Ward (Massachusetts). For photos and additional information, go to:


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: 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.

Alumni Start Up Grant Winners

July 14th, 2011

A new grant program was established this year to assist states in starting state Alumni & Friends Associations. The grant program was funded from proceeds from the inaugural Champion of the Year Dinner.

Ten state associations submitted quality applications for review and one grant was awarded per region. Congratulations go to: Region 1-New Jersey, Region 2-Virginia, Region 3-Ohio, Region 4-Oklahoma, and Region 5-California. Contact Niki Clausen for more information at or 703-737-0639.

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