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January 15th, 2012
  • On January 4, I traveled to the offices of the Manufacturing Institute in Washington, D.C. to meet with Vince Bertram, the new executive director of Project Lead the Way (PLTW), and with the executive director and staff from the Technology Student Association (TSA). Vince is interested in revitalizing the Engineering Alliance (EA), the online joint venture between TSA and SkillsUSA for students in PLTW. He said he likes the concept for leadership and competitive events, and he wants us to prepare a proposal to seek a sustained commitment to EA.
  • On January 5, I met with executives from Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to rehabilitating housing in poor communities. Every year, they hold what they call “Big Builds” and some involve well-known personalities and big events. (They’re even tied into the Super Bowl this year.) Americorps is also involved. Their proposal is that we initiate a pilot project pairing 10 of our best chapters with 10 of their best affiliates to work on community service projects together. We’ll be reaching out to select state directors to pair local chapters with the strong affiliates that Rebuilding Together identifies as the preferred pilot sites. This initiative certainly helps SkillsUSA meet the request in recent student polls to make available more local service opportunities. Representatives from Rebuilding Together will attend our national conference, have an exhibit booth and make a SkillsUSA University presentation.
  • Congratulations to the following state associations for exceeding last year’s overall membership. They are California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In the next few weeks, we’ll be announcing more states as they exceed last year’s overall numbers. A reminder – professional membership and alumni membership counts. Individuals like industry partners and other friends not affiliated with a local chapter can join too online at the following link:

You Do Change Lives

January 1st, 2012

The reminders of how SkillsUSA changes lives are all around us this time of the year. They show up in the news stories of community service events conducted by SkillsUSA chapters such as nearly 2,000 food items donated to a food bank in Utica, N.Y., rocking horses and building blocks built and donated to Toys for Tots in Lewiston, Idaho and – after months of work by 50 students – the restoration and remodeling of the Salvation Army emergency disaster canteen truck in Painesville, Ohio so the Salvation Army can help others in need.

Sometimes the news comes in more directly. On December 21, I received an email from Mary Bell of Caterpillar and a former SkillsUSA board member to tell me about her meeting a new hire at CAT who is a SkillsUSA alumna “and totally poised just as you’d expect.” I received word on December 22 from Dan Young, a long-time supporter of SkillsUSA and formerly with the FBI, that the contractor who is building his retirement home is a SkillsUSA alumnus and state medalist in brick masonry. And, board member Marlys Bucher wrote on December 22 that the person who will be hosting the Minnesota welding contest at the state pipe fitters apprenticeship training center was a gold medal winner in 1987 in the VICA Skill Olympics. He told her that as an older, nontraditional student “it was a life-changing event . . . and I’m thrilled to be giving back to SkillsUSA.”

Of course, this tradition continues. I recently sent Jim Lentz, COO of Toyota and 2011 Champion of the Year a testimonial from Victoria Holbert, national high school president, and from other Massachusetts state officers who participated in the Champion of the Year dinner ceremonies. All of the students remarked on the positive impact they’d experienced meeting person-to-person with business leaders and how important that is for them. Victoria wrote: “This opportunity along with every other that has been offered to me through this organization has humbled me and helped me grow.” Here’s the link to see the report:

Another Banner Conference for a New Group of Students

July 15th, 2011

Or, as the post-conference correspondence has been saying: “Wow!” Students from every state in the nation, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands were together for what many of them told me was “a life-changing experience.” The weekend before conference we had 260 student officers from 36 states attending State Officer and Advisor 101/201 for leadership training. That was a big increase over last year and our largest ever. We had 15 fine new national officers elected from a field of 40 candidates. The SkillsUSA WorldTeam – which will compete in London this coming October and is the largest team in 23 years – appeared on stage for the first time together on Friday night. We had nearly 5,700 contestants on the edge of their seats during the Awards Ceremony hoping to be medalists and Skill Point Certificate recipients. There was a “wow” every day of the week, whether it was the fireworks on stage or – even more – the visible excitement of the students and instructors.

Here are just a few more figures and highlights:

  • This was SkillsUSA’s largest conference with a total registration of more than 9,600 and a total participation of nearly 15,000.
  • All contestant scores are available online and privacy is protected by contestant number and birth date.
  • Champions Night on Tuesday, sponsored by Carhartt and Pepsi in the Power and Light District set a new record for participation numbers.
  • The 100% Advisor Reception sponsored by IRWIN, also on Tuesday, had a record 375 teachers attending. Seven sponsors provided 15 mega prizes, and they were collectively valued at just under $30,000.
  • SkillsUSA Night at the Kansas City Royals game, on Thursday, was a great success. It was a thrill to see nearly 10,000 students, teachers and supporters in the stands (and SkillsUSA board President Russ Hoffbauer threw a pretty good first pitch, too).

The Opening Ceremony was sponsored by Bosch and Georgia-Pacific and featured SkillsUSA CEO Champion of the Year, John McGlade of Air Products. I have to admit, there was a moment in John’s speech when he seemed to bask in the glow of the reception he was receiving from the audience. He felt the appreciation of nearly 13,000 students and teachers for the work he and Air Products are doing on their behalf. What they didn’t know was that John had taken his advocacy up a notch by writing of Air Products’ support for SkillsUSA to President Obama, the Secretary of Labor, and two offices in the White House.

Speaking of advocacy, this year’s Wednesday morning Call to Action for instructors and administrators was attended by over 800 people, and it appears over 200 signed up to be added to our Active Advisor list. Steve DeWitt of the Association for Career and Technical Education spoke on the budget in Washington. Our newest board member, Mark Williams representing the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education consortium, spoke on the importance of advocacy and on the new brand for CTE. Dave Camden represented Toyota, which sponsored the Call to Action, and as a member of the Youth Development Foundation, Dave spoke of how important industry support is for SkillsUSA and CTE. Thanks to their support, this was truly a call to action at a time when SkillsUSA and CTE really need it.

The SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference has often been called “the showcase of career and technical education.” That’s what it was again this year. The final VIP list included 365 names. Even better, during the YDF Awards Luncheon, when asked for a show of hands of people attending the conference for the first time, at least 40 percent of the attendees responded. There were also significant delegations of executives at conference from Air Products, Harley-Davidson, Autodesk, John Deere, Lowe’s, State Farm and mikeroweWORKS Foundation. The entire board of the National Center for Construction Education and Research attended as well. Representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Education Association attended and were well cared for by our VIP Host Committee and partners. Kansas City Mayor, Sly James, spoke at the VIP Breakfast on Thursday morning and Sharon Hoge, assistant commissioner of the Office of College and Career Readiness, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spoke during the VIP reception on Wednesday evening.

More than 500 students and teachers participated in the Timberland PRO community service projects planting trees and helping at the Kansas City food bank. The Community Blood Center registered 45 volunteers and collected 32 units of blood. There were 42 first-time donors. This was the most successful blood drive at conference.

Media coverage was up again this year. At the most recent count, there were 70 stories about SkillsUSA in the Kansas City news media including appearances on all four network affiliates and the front page of the Kansas City Star on Thursday and Saturday. News releases on all of the medalists, Skill Point recipients and honorees have gone to the media and I’ll report on those later.

The Opening Ceremony and the Awards Ceremony were both carried on streaming video thanks to the underwriting of Lowe’s. The Opening Ceremony had 2,548 unique viewers (a single computer with a unique IP address) while the ceremony was live. Since then 2,891 viewers have watched it in the archived version. For the Awards Ceremony, there were 6,495 viewers live streaming 7,907 hours of content. Since then, 3,496 viewers have looked at the archived footage for part one of the ceremony and 1,796 have watched part two. You can watch here.

Consistent with the strategic plan, SkillsUSA is conducting customer-satisfaction surveys including surveys about conference. We begun with the state association directors and have added more participants. Give your feedback here.

The new student center at conference also gathered responses from 722 students on 10 questions including: “How would you most like to be communicated with?” and “How often do you go to the website and what information are you seeking?”

Photos and videos from the 2011 NLSC are archived here.

A Day of Service and the Awards Ceremony

June 24th, 2011

This morning, more than 500 students are heading out into the greater Kansas City area to perform community service. This year, participating students and advisors will have the opportunity to work two different service projects, both of which will have a positive impact on the environment in the Kansas City community by planting trees and serving at a Kansas City food bank, which distributes as many as 66,000 meals a week. This community service event is sponsored by Timberland PRO, which has partnered with us at the national conference since 2002.

Also happening this morning is the Champions 5K Run, which begins at 9 at Parkville Nature Sanctuary in Parkville, Mo.  All proceeds benefit the SkillsUSA Alumni and Friends Association.

SkillsUSA University will be wrapping up today, and the delegates will have their last meetings and cast the final ballots for the students who will represent them as national officers for the upcoming school year.

Tonight, we head back to Kemper Arena for the Awards Ceremony, sponsored by Lowe’s. We will be honored to hear from Robert Wagner, Senior Vice President of Store Operations, Lowe’s. The winner of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle raffle will be announced, and the new national officers will be sworn in. And of course, SkillsUSA Champions will receive their gold, silver and bronze medals.

Awards Ceremony tickets are available at the booth outside of 2103A in Bartle Hall. The cost is $10. They will also be available for purchase at Kemper Arena.

Can’t make it? You can always watch the live stream courtesy of Lowe’s. Details are available here:

Help Timberland Pro Give Hunger the Boot!

May 14th, 2011

Timberland PRO is celebrating its 10th year of partnership with SkillsUSA by joining forces with the Harvester’s Food Network, the only food bank in the Kansas City region. They feed up to 66 thousand people every week.

Timberland PRO is running a virtual food drive from May 13 through June 24. One dollar can feed five people, so the goal is to raise $2,000 or 10,000 meals. Timberland PRO will match donations up to $2,000. Please visit to make your donation and be sure to pass it along to your friends.

Exciting Pilot for “Champions Serving Others”

April 15th, 2011

On March 28 and 29, staff and I were in Atlanta at the Mary Agnes Jones Elementary School for the first hands-on trial of “Champions Serving Others.” With support from Lowe’s, SkillsUSA has put on a CD all the necessary materials for students to conduct community service activities.

With the assistance of Gayle Silvey, Georgia state association director, we had over 50 teachers and students from 14 schools across the state go through the steps of “planning, implementation and celebration/reflection” on the CD for conducting a successful community service project. The project was beautification of the elementary school itself. Three trainers took the students through the curriculum, and then three teams of students worked through the afternoon refurbishing a nature trail, building planters, etc. At the end – the celebration part – there were special Champions Serving Others medals for the students, and all of the tools used in the projects were raffled off to the teachers. I’m not sure whether the students or teachers were more excited. Lowe’s sent approximately 20 people to help and the director of community affairs from Georgia-Pacific corporate also attended. It’s a great day to reflect back on.

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