- We can hit the membership gong! We have surpassed last year’s membership total. As of yesterday, membership is 302,720. That’s 1,337 ahead of last year and some memberships are still coming into the office. Twenty-six state associations have now exceeded last year’s totals. The most recent is Wisconsin Postsecondary Division, Dale Drees, state association director.
- The Louisiana Community and Technical College System (CTCS) has appointed a state association director, Jawan Ross, and is moving forward to reinstitute the SkillsUSA Louisiana College/Postsecondary Association. The association has been dormant for a year. Jawan was here in the national office on March 16 for some condensed and intense state director training. SkillsUSA welcomes Louisiana postsecondary back, and we’re pleased to hear the LCTCS director is talking about growing the association next year.
- State conferences are underway. The SkillsUSA Georgia conference was a webcast over two days. Representative Jim Langevin, co-chair of the CTE Caucus spoke during the Rhode Island conference. Among his remarks to the students: “SkillsUSA students are the future innovators and job creators for our country.” That’s a nice message to carry. Staff will be visiting 20 state spring conferences.
- On March 5, Bob Daly, senior vice president of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. stopped by the national office for a visit and to discuss opportunities to grow our partnership. Bob is also looking into ways Toyota and Toyota dealers can help support the CTSOs in California.
- On March 6, I was part of a panel discussion during the ACTE Policy and Planning Seminar in Washington. The topic was Measuring Career Readiness Skills: Existing Practice, New Developments and the Challenges That Remain. The concern is finding or developing assessments that are more “career ready” inclusive. Of course, I was able to say during my remarks that SkillsUSA has been teaching and assessing employability skills since 1965 and I spoke about the Skill Connect Assessments and the Professional Development Program. My presentation was well received. Johan Uvin, deputy assistant secretary of OVAE gave a presentation entitled “Perkins Act Preview: Obama Administration.” Uvin said the administration wants to “further improve CTE.” The focus seems to still be on improving postsecondary degree attainment with “at least one year of postsecondary education.” He went on to say OVAE has developed a blueprint for reform, but hasn’t released it yet and that the administration has chosen 2013 for Perkins reauthorization. There will be three major statutory reforms: strengthen alignment of high schools, postsecondary and employers; better accountability systems; and, competitive funding to promote innovation and state reform. Questions from the audience were direct and tough on all three areas, particularly on the competitive funding and Uvin’s assertion that CTE didn’t have data to back up its claims of success.
- I was the keynote speaker at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College/Caper Educator Institute’s “Education Challenge: Career and College Readiness” forum in Henrico, Virginia on March 14. My topic was “Schools Excel Through Student Leadership: Encourage, Promote and Prepare Student Leaders.” There were 210 administrators in attendance, and there was discussion about what it means to be career and college ready. I guess the speech went over well. I gave away all of my business cards.
- We secured a Google Grant for advertising on the Google website. When certain keywords are searched, our ads will appear at the top and in the column on the right of the page. The ads started running on a March 13, and by March 14, SkillsUSA had already received 40,000 impressions.
- And, I attended two outstanding state conferences in the past two weeks – Texas high school and Arizona. More details on these and others next time.
- On February 28, SkillsUSA appeared on Capitol Hill for a congressional event entitled “Beyond the Farm: Integrating Agriculture, STEM and CTE in the 21st Century.” The event was hosted by the Congressional CTE Caucus, ACTE, NASDCTEc and the Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs). SkillsUSA was represented by landscaping student, Elizabeth Shrive, and advisor, Diane Ogg Herndon, from Frederick, Md. Liz’s presentation was on testing soil pH levels and she spoke a lot to the congressional aides about what CTE means to her. Four other CTSOs exhibited as well.
- Planning is underway for the Youth Development Foundation Committee’s Washington, D.C. visits in April. Our YDF delegates will have some attention-getting statistics to put before the congressional offices, thanks to some research recently done here at the office.
- Membership continues to run ahead of last year at 241,522. That’s 1,130 more than this date last year. Congratulations to the following state associations for exceeding last year’s overall membership. They are California, Clay Mitchell; Connecticut, Heidi Balch; Massachusetts, Karen Ward; New Jersey, Pete Carey; Pennsylvania, Jeri Widdowson; Rhode Island, Josh Klemp; and, Virginia – David Rathbone. Professional membership and alumni membership counts. Individuals such as industry partners and other friends not affiliated with a local chapter can join too online at the following link: www.skills-register.org/rpts/JoinAsProfessional.aspx.
- On January 18th, I met with the National Coordinating Council of Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO) in Reston, Va. The highlight was to welcome a new representative from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), Robin Utz. Robin is the chief of the College and Career Transitions Branch at OVAE and formerly served as assistant director of the Career, Standards and Assessment Services team at the Kansas State Department of Education. She’s very supportive of student organizations, having been both an FFA and FCLA advisor herself, and she gets the “big thumbs up” from Ann Wick, our Kansas state association director. In other news, a majority of the organizations reported that they’re having good membership numbers and conference attendance. The Association for Career and Technical Education and the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education consortium talked about the common core education standards developed by the National Governors Association and a roll out of curriculum addressing the standards during the Career Cluster Institute in June.
- We held a staff WorldSkills meeting on January 13 to plan SkillsUSA WorldTeam participation in Leipzig, Germany in 2013. A new management team has been identified and we have a lot of work to do for team selection, trials, training and fundraising. WorldSkills International has been notified of our new structure.
- I recently returned from Nevada where I assisted with strategic planning with the SkillsUSA Nevada board of directors and attended the State Directors’ Association Executive Committee meeting. More on that next time.
I attended the National Coordinating Council of Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO) meeting on November 9. The big topic of discussion was the request from the administration to involve CTSOs in an entrepreneurship in education event next summer. President Obama has declared November “National Entrepreneurship Month,” but the intent is to do much more in the months ahead to promote innovation and business under an initiative called “Startup America.”
As I understand it, every federal agency will be asked to undertake some kind of activity on a Startup Weekend. The U.S. Department of Education wants the CTSOs – which are already holding entrepreneurship contests – to work together with Junior Achievement and possibly two other youth organizations to solve an education issue.
In addition, we held a lengthy discussion on gathering data from all of the CTSOs so we can begin to aggregate the investment and impact of the student organizations.
Our two national student presidents, Victoria Holbert and Chance Litwin, traveled with me to New York City on September 24-27 to represent SkillsUSA at the NBC News Education Nation Summit. SkillsUSA was invited by NBC News to the Summit to be there with a national group of 350 people considered to be “key thought leaders in American education.”
The agenda was packed with sessions that engaged high level discussions on the American education system. Starting Sunday afternoon, we participated in the premier of a new film “American Teacher,” and a discussion that followed, moderated by Al Roker and Jenna Bush.
On Monday morning, speakers included Tom Brokaw, Warren Buffet, Melinda Gates, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Ann Curry, Sal Khan and LeBron James. There were two additional days of presentations and panel discussions and notables included former First Lady Laura Bush in a discussion of school principal leadership and teacher support, 10 governors discussing common core standards (including a good discussion on the importance of career and technical education), a session on the changing face of education (sponsored by State Farm) and much more. The Summit was streamed online at EducationNation.com and broadcast on MSNBC and CNBC with special spots each morning on the “NBC Today Show.”
Both of our student presidents took advantage of the opportunity to speak to the Summit during panel discussions, and they made us proud. I also took advantage of a discussion on the global competitiveness issue, and how CTE is critical to our national prosperity and national defense. I used the SkillsUSA WorldTeam as an example of U.S. students competing on a global scale and benchmarking our skills against the skills of other nations. Finally, the student officers had the opportunity to meet former President Bill Clinton during the closing session. They were able to have a short discussion with him on how CTE and SkillsUSA had influenced their lives.
We took advantage of the only free time before the Summit started and went to the Top of the Rock for a great city view, to a NYC pizzeria for lunch, to the center of Times Square for a deli sandwich and New York cheesecake for dinner. What an incredible event and a life-changing experience for our students!
- At the recommendation of Frank Carroll, former SkillsUSA board member, president, Bosch Power Tools North America and full-time SkillsUSA champion, we held a meeting here in Leesburg on May 26 with Larry Teverbaugh, CEO of K2Share and Robert Wagner, senior VP, Lowe’s and SkillsUSA board member. The agenda revolved around Vision 2020 and how we can employ the talent and influence of top corporate executives to reach those goals by tapping into their business acumen for strategic guidance – such as developing appropriate and responsive business models for SkillsUSA – and using their leverage appropriately for financial development. It was an excellent half-day meeting and gave the invited staff plenty to think about.
- Here’s the latest national conference by the numbers. Conference registration – even in these tough financial times – is up over last year to 9,647. A good sign is that state associations are asking for more hotel rooms. And, we have 5,745 contestants registered That’s more than last year even though we have two fewer contests. We have 79 SkillsUSA University seminars scheduled (74 last year) and there are 144 TECHSPO exhibitors, 30 of them are new. The 101 and 201 State Officer and Advisor Training registration is way up (over 70 more participants) this year to 269 participants from 25 states. SkillsUSA’s partners are giving away $100,000 in travel scholarships related to students attending conference.
- Stephen Gold, CEO of the Manufacturing Alliance, came by for a visit on the morning of May 16. Staff and I provided an overview of SkillsUSA and Gold oriented us to the Alliance. Several of our partners serve on the Manufacturing Alliance board of directors, including CAT, Air Products and Snap-on. Emily DeRocco and I presented to the Manufacturing Alliance board in Washington, D.C. on June 9. Gold sees SkillsUSA as part of the solution for the manufacturing pipeline issue facing the nation’s manufacturers. The Alliance has over 300 manufacturing companies as members. He will also be attending the NLSC.
- On May 18, I participated in the inaugural meeting of the National Youth Safety Advisory Council. Led by CareerSafe and supported by federal OSHA, the council is comprised of leaders from industry and education. Friends of SkillsUSA on the Council include CAT, FFA, Chad Maclin of Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools, Dr. Chip Harris from Tennessee State University and Mike Raponi, former SkillsUSA board member and CTE director from Nevada. The Council will be sponsoring the first National Young Worker Safety Day in conjunction with our NLSC on Tuesday, June 21. The goal of NYSAC is to review current and future safety regulations and policies set forth by OSHA and to help determine the best ways to train and educate young workers including methods and data collection processes.
- Membership in the Alumni & Friends Association is close to 20,000.
- Lowe’s will have 13 vendor companies attending conference this year.
- There were 49 signatures on the “Dear Colleague” letter to support Perkins funding when it was sent to the chairman and ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Service and Education in mid-May. It will probably be one of many letters in the months ahead.
- I have the honor announcing the addition of a new board member. Mark Williams, division administrator, Career Development Division, Illinois State Board of Education has agreed to serve in the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education consortium ex officio position previously held by Milt Ericksen. I hope Mark will be with us in June and I look forward to working with him.
- I have the additional honor of announcing a new Youth Development Foundation committee member, Michael Arndt, director of training, United Association. According to our records, Michael will be the first union official to serve on the YDF. United Association is supporting our Refrigeration contestant at WorldSkills London and UA has supported contestants at the past two WorldSkills Competitions
- Groups of 30 students and teachers from the various career and technical student organizations (CTSOs) met with Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary at the Office of Vocational and Adult Education in Washington on May 6. There was lots of diversity of opinion – particularly among the teachers – as to the meanings and importance of college-ready and career-ready. One teacher said: “All students should get a four-year degree.” Another pointed out the value of CTE when students can earn an associate’s degree in high school with dual credits. Students believed the assistant secretary learned more about the value of CTSOs and how CTSO membership has changed their lives. Nursing student Cloe Ayenu and counselor Martha Lowry, both from Frederick County Career Center in Maryland, represented SkillsUSA. Also in the delegation were National Officer Ricky Jordan from Massachusetts and Deb Tripp, SkillsUSA associate director of training and a former graphic arts teacher.
- On May 4-5, I attended the BPA (Business Professionals of America) national conference in Washington, D.C. The opening ceremony was held on the grounds of the Washington Monument. It was really impressive with the lights of the monument and the flags in the background. It was also cold. BPA recognized each of the CTSOs in attendance including SkillsUSA, FBLA, FCCLA and National FFA. Between 3,000-4,000 people attended the conference.
- On April 29-30, I attended the ProStart event in Overland Park, Kan. ProStart is the national competition for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Teams of three students competed in Culinary and in Culinary Management. Forty states represented about 300 contestants. Several of the instructors attending were also SkillsUSA advisors and they said their students would be in Kansas City this month. We’re aligning standards between SkillsUSA and ProStart, and they’re also aligning their curriculum to the same standards.
- SkillsUSA’s CTE advocacy efforts on the “Dear Colleague” letter to Congress from May 5-12 were good. We just need to work our way up to great. During the week, 67 people called or wrote 69 messages to 53 congressional offices. We do appreciate all the support, and lots of people responded to us that they liked knowing what was happening and having the chance to participate.
- On May 9, representatives from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) visited with us in Leesburg to talk about how they could help us get our educational materials in front of industry including the Skill Connect Assessments. NCCER has also taken over the leadership of the Carpentry contest and they’re bringing their national board to our conference this year. Board members include representatives from several major corporations and commercial contractors.
- And, as of May 27, we had 9,686 national conference registrants and 5,764 contestants. Last year’s totals were 9,606 registrants and 5,595 contestants, and we still have weeks to go.
- Air Products’ John McGlade, CEO Champion of the Year, will be a featured speaker at the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education consortium (NASDCTEc) spring meeting in Washington, D.C. SkillsUSA is delighted John will take the time to talk to the state leaders of CTE about their new vision for CTE, the value of CTE and maybe just a little about the value of SkillsUSA. Thanks to Laurie Gostley-Hackett, Youth Development Foundation Committee member from Air Products, for her coordination of John’s participation.
- In answer to proposed cuts to Perkins funding this year, and in support of both NASDCTEc and the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE) urgent requests to contact Congress, SkillsUSA sent out more than 16,000 e-mails asking our professional members and technical committee members to call Congress. We’re getting reports back from the field. One said: “Our congressman said his office has been flooded with faxes and e-mails so he’s shut them down. Calling is the only thing that works.” It appears this will be a busy year for advocacy given the pressure of the federal budget.
- In an effort to encourage more U.S. participation in the WorldSkills Competitions this October, we have been working with the London organizing committee to offer special hotel/conference packages to our members. These packages would be available for five-night stays either at the beginning or end of the conference (from October 5-8) and would include breakfasts, admission to the competitions and to the opening or closing ceremonies, transportation to and from the airport and an excursion. The costs are approximately $500 (U.S. dollars) per person based on SkillsUSA registering at least 50 people. The organizing committee has put together various other hotel packages, and their travel agency will work directly with individuals who prefer to plan their own trips. Contact them by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. All information regarding the competitors, the 2011 WSC schedule and the housing packages can be viewed on our Web page at www.skillsusa.org/compete/worldteam.shtml. Please direct any questions to email@example.com.
- Here’s a list of additional reports. The executive directors of the Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) held a meeting with Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary, U.S. Department of Education, on February 15 to discuss CTSO policy. We started the energy audit of the National Leadership Center on February 25 and hope to have a preliminary report ready by the next board meeting. The second half of the staff has now gone through (and passed) Red Cross CPR and First Aid training. Cindy Sutton, former YDF member and now executive VP of Earth Alive dropped by the office on February 7 with the two co-founders of Purple Heart Homes seeking advice for the start up of a nonprofit. And, finalists for the Lowe’s national conference pin and T-shirt designs have been selected. Lowe’s will be announcing the winners soon.
On December 13, the National Coordinating Council of Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO) met in Washington to catch up on progress thus far this school year. All but one of the organizations reported that membership and conference attendance are holding their own or are on the rise.
We talked about the generational transfer among teachers. The Baby Boomers are leaving and we now have Gen-X and Millennials to serve. That’s a much different population. There was also a lot of discussion of the CEO Champion of the Year dinner by the other associations. The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) announced that attendance at the ACTE conference in Las Vegas was up over the previous year.
There is no better example of career and technical education (CTE) success than career and technical student organization students (CTSO). ACTE invites CTSO leaders and students to attend the National Policy Seminar, March 7-9, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. A special student rate is available. Join other CTE advocates to hear from national leaders, learn about education and work force development policies and join other CTE advocates on Capitol Hill.
As of January, the face of Congress has changed dramatically, and your voice is needed more than ever to help ensure your legislator understands the importance of CTE and CTSOs. New federal leaders need to hear from you to make the connections between their decisions and student experiences. For instance, House leaders are proposing a 20 percent reduction in education funding! Attend ACTE’s National Policy Seminar to let them know firsthand how this would affect you and your programs.
For more information and to register go to: www.acteonline.org.