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Executive Director’s Report: February 1, 2014

February 1st, 2014

The 14th Annual Strategic Planning Session
Staff broke into teams and analyzed data from the field and brainstormed solutions. As a result, we have a draft FY15 Strategic Plan in place. New areas of focus include strategic membership focus, building state leader capacity, focus on SkillsUSA as a skills gap solution and a connector to STEM education and SkillsUSA’s 50th Anniversary celebration. The organization’s work will center around nine macro objectives that rise to the board-mandated areas of focus and are inclusive of the new areas listed above. We took the draft plan to the State Directors’ Association Executive Council Meeting in Sarasota, Florida on January 29. Following state director input and staff review, we will develop the budget for FY15 and bring the plan and budget to the board for review and approval in March.

Meeting of National Coordinating Council
I recently attended the bi-monthly meeting of the National Coordinating Council for Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO). Several very important reports were given.

The U.S. Department of Education has released a new Employability Skills Framework and made a presentation to the career and technical student organizations (CTSOs) regarding the content and dissemination strategy. We are very pleased that our employability skills curricula and assessments are in direct alignment with the new framework. The framework is also cross-walked to the Common Core Standards and Common Core Career Technical Standards.You can view the employability skills framework at:

ACTE and state CTE directors also announced good news regarding federal funding for CTE. An omnibus bill was released Monday and $53 million was reinstated to the Perkins legislation. This is only $5 million short of the funding level prior to sequestration. SkillsUSA and the other CTSOs were commended for the advocacy work to make this funding reinstatement possible. And, thanks to board and foundation members who accompanied our students on Capitol Hill last September, for their role in this effort.

ACTE announced efforts to position CTE as key to STEM education. Again, this aligns perfectly with our strategy to position SkillsUSA in the same manner. And, we look forward to working with ACTE and other CTE associations in moving the STEM/CTE agenda forward.

There are also other advocacy opportunities on the horizon. On February 18, we will be sending a national student officer to Washington, D.C. to meet with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier. This will be a listening session called “Youth Voices” to gather student opinion on the U.S. Department of Education’s goals. And, last week, more than 50 students and advisors from Ohio visited the U.S. Department of Education and provided their input to the new employability skills framework and other department initiatives.

And, finally, a letter has been sent to President Obama and signed by each CTSO national president, requesting an appointment during CTE Month in February. This proposed meeting will allow our student leaders to discuss the importance of CTE and the technical and academic knowledge they are gaining in their training programs, as well as the life skills gained through their student leadership organizations. We are hopeful this meeting will occur. We will also be announcing SkillsUSA Week during the second week of February (9th-15th).


  • On Monday, January 13, select staff had a good meeting with Jennifer McNelly and her staff from The Manufacturing Institute. We are working together on digital manufacturing badges for SkillsUSA students’ electronic portfolios, on a “Youth Voices” campaign for manufacturing and participation in NAM’s Dream It, Do It program and for involvement in Manufacturing Day next October.
  • Moving forward with SkillsUSA’s strategic communications audit and with the help of Stratton Publishing and Marketing Inc., SkillsUSA conducted two focus groups on Jan. 20, with the visiting state officers and their advisors from Ohio. Focus group feedback will form the basis for the next step – a questionnaire to be sent to a sampling of students and teachers. The end goal is to have timely, high-quality and valuable content for our SkillsUSA members that better aligns with student and advisor needs.
  • In an effort to meet the needs of college/postsecondary members, a college/postsecondary task force meeting was held last November in which state directors, instructors and students from five states participated. As a follow-up to the task force meeting, a separate meeting was recently held with Tennessee college/postsecondary state director, Chelle Travis. Many items from the task force meeting were fine-tuned, and an outline was developed to produce a separate college/postsecondary membership kit.
  • SkillsUSA held a Common Core Task Force meeting on January 20-22 in the Washington-Dulles area. State directors, teachers, teacher educators and CTE state directors from Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska and Rhode Island joined national staff to create a set of objectives that will lead students to become proficient in 21st Century employability skills. These objectives will also be aligned with the Common Core State Standards. 

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

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:

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