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Executive Director’s Report: July 15, 2014

July 15th, 2014

Superlatives are in place for SkillsUSA’s 50th National Leadership and Skills Conference and we certainly can say:

  • This was our largest conference in history.
  • It was a great celebration with some excellent speakers including Bill Prince at the Call to Action session. Bill was a student at the SkillsUSA founding in Nashville and a great example of what this organization is about.
  • Dynamic general sessions thanks to CAT and Lowe’s and to Cameron Ferguson and Chris Arvin (Caterpillar Inc.) and Troy Dally (Lowe’s Companies, Inc.), and of course, our own national staff).
* There were the most competitors ever with more than 6,000 entrants in 99 contests.
  • We had 466 special guests attending, 322 from business and 144 from education.
  • There were 1,985 volunteers for the SkillsUSA Championships alone including judges, technical committee and national education team members to name just a few.
  • And, we awarded 996 medals, gold, silver and bronze.

SkillsUSA was in the news before, during and after the conference week appearing on all four network affiliates numerous times, several times in the Kansas City Star including front page above the fold, and in other publications and radio. Our Kansas City media report lists 96 different instances of coverage prior to and shortly after conference. No wonder the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association says SkillsUSA is the gold standard when it comes to convention coverage.

Here’s one of my favorite superlatives. It’s a quote emailed to me from a Freightliner executive in Georgia. “The entire SkillsUSA National event has renewed my faith in the youth of today. Y’all do a really great job in helping those students find direction and purpose for their lives. I was really impressed with just how focused, driven, articulate and polite the SkillsUSA students were. They’re a real breath of fresh air. Congratulations on 50 years. What an inspirational couple days!”

And the members were talking and sharing on social media too. According to Craig Moore:

  • Our pre-conference Facebook “likes” grew over 1,500 to 19,976 post-conference.
  • Our YouTube views for the past 30 days are 17,667. That’s a 336 percent increase from the previous 30-day period.
  • Viewers watched a total of 63,279 minutes on YouTube during the past 30 days. That equals 43 days and 22 hours viewing, an increase of 140 percent over the previous 30-day period.
  • And, 55 percent of the viewers watched on computer, 30 percent on a mobile phone and 13 percent on a tablet.

But the best part is to tune in and read some of the posts from the students themselves. Craig has created a tagboard so you can scroll through Tweets, Instagram photos, Facebook posts and Google+ posts using the conference hashtag. Just go to the tagboard at https://tagboard.com/NLSC14/180380.

There’s also an outstanding “Week in Review” video from Tom Kercheval that does a great job of capturing the excitement of the conference in just five minutes, including the appearance of Mike Rowe at the end. Enjoy at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKO9Yw7qKUM#t=17 and thanks to the partners who made it possible

Meeting with the Chiefs

Tuesday through Thursday this week, I was in Florida for the Chief State School Officers Career Readiness Task Force of 18 people including five of the chiefs and some education experts. (That’s where I come in.) We reviewed a draft of guiding principles and recommended action steps and best practices to teach career readiness. The goal of the task force is to help every student graduate “career ready.” Not surprisingly, defining “career ready” was one of the major discussions during the meeting. SkillsUSA was cited several times as an excellent model for business-education partnerships. The next meeting is in Washington D.C. in September, and in October, there will be a tour of two European education systems. The final report is due in November.

One of the pluses is getting quality time with the chiefs. I had extended visits with four of the five chiefs including Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland and Wisconsin. The chief from Kentucky has already promised me he’ll attend our national conference next year. I also spoke at length with a representative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce foundation regarding a new vision and policy recommendations the foundation is working on for employer engagement with education. The focus is to develop the workforce that will close the skills gap. I’ve been asked to name one of our business partners to serve on the Chamber committee. And, I had a great visit with board member Scott Stump.

Highlights

  • Congratulations to Wisconsin high school state director, Brent Kindred, for his election as president of the SkillsUSA Board of Directors, to Mike de Castro of Air Products as Vice President and to Chris Arvin of Caterpillar Inc. for his continuing role as Secretary. And, welcome to Maryland state director, Chuck Wallace, representing Region 1 and Alex Gromada representing ACTE and Southern Illinois CJAP.
  • And, finally, I just received the news release today on Friday that Colorado State CTE Director and board member Scott Stump has been elected president of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education consortium (NASDCTEc) for the upcoming year. Congratulations, Scott.

That’s it for now. Until next time, thank you for all you do for the great students and teachers we serve.

Executive Director’s Report: June 15, 2014

June 15th, 2014

Chiefs Career Readiness Initiative Launched
The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states. The Council is unquestionably one of the most influential organizations in public education. It works to gain consensus among members on major educational issues and to express those views to Congress, federal agencies and the public. As an example, the CCSSO issued a report in 2010 on transforming educator preparation and entry into the profession. That report led to policy changes and reforms in 44 states to date. The Chiefs want to promote high-quality career and technical education, and they want all of public education to recognize the importance and role of CTE. The Chiefs have pulled together a small task force of 18 people who they call “the best people in the country” to draft recommendations for their report. On May 21, we had our first meeting of the Career Readiness Task Force. The group includes six state chiefs, three state CTE directors, two state leaders of postsecondary programs –including Board Member Scott Stump– two business leaders and five national experts. (That’s where I fit in. I am the only student organization representative on the task force.) Our agenda included a discussion on the economic imperative for our work and how to identify and support high-quality career readiness programs. I served on a subcommittee that discussed what kinds of things will spark student career interests and serve as student incentives. Not surprisingly, the work of student organizations came up in that meeting, and I wasn’t the only one talking about them. The task force members will be working offline during the coming months, and we have two formal meetings scheduled for July and September. The Chiefs want to deliver the report during their national conference in November. This is a great opportunity to work at the highest levels of education policy.

“A Common Framework for Employability Skills”
On May 22, Niki Clausen represented SkillsUSA during the U.S. Department of Education Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) webinar entitled “A Common Framework for Employability Skills.” The webinar focused on why employability skills matter and featured the Employability Skills Framework and website (at http://cte.ed.gov/employabilityskills/) and implementation strategies including career and technical student organizations. In addition to Niki, other guest presenters included: Sharon Miller from OCTAE, Kim Green with NASDCTEc, Steve DeWitt at ACTE, Laura Rasmussen Foster at RTI International, Pamela Frugoli with the U.S. Department of Labor, and SkillsUSA Board Member Kathy Mannes with American Association of Community Colleges. There were 320 participants nationwide. This presentation, as well as the archived webinar, will be available online. I also received a call that week from the U.S. Department of State asking if I would be part of a U.S. Embassy speakers’ program later this year. The embassy wants to help policymakers, employers and practitioners in a faraway country understand the role of technical education in preparing youth for employment. I’m in discussion with the Department of State. It’s nice to be asked.

Highlights

  • We received some nice quotes from students who were in the USA Science & Engineering Festival booth in April including this one from Laura Gouillon, SkillsUSA national high school vice president: “I am honored to have been able to give a presentation on the MikeRoweWorks Pavilion stage about how Varsity STEM, CTE, and SkillsUSA are revolutionizing the way students enter the workforce and prepare for their future careers . . . And, it was such an amazing feeling to teach individuals how 3D printers work and how our SkillsUSA members in classrooms across the country are applying our technical STEM and CTE skills through the use of such modern equipment.”
  • On May 15, Tom Holdsworth and I had a conference call with Hillary Wells, an executive producer at WGBH, the PBS Boston affiliate that produces two-thirds of PBS programming. Hillary attended the Massachusetts Leadership and Skills Conference with me earlier this month. She’s interested in many aspects of SkillsUSA including corporate support, the Championships and how it helps connect students with jobs and our membership, particularly at the high school and middle school levels. Hillary and two of her colleagues will be attending the national conference in Kansas City. She says she sees many areas for cooperation on projects and promotion. More to come.
  • Thea Phalon, the new executive director of the Pennsylvania SkillsUSA Council for Lehigh Valley, came to the national center for a visit and orientation on May 19. She met with staff during a reception first thing in the morning and then individually with department directors through lunch. She called the visit both “exhilarating and productive.” We feel the same about her.
  • On May 23, Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the co-chairs of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus sent a letter to President Obama urging him to establish a Presidential CTE Scholars Award program to recognize and value the efforts of American students who have chosen a CTE pathway. The U.S. Presidential Scholars program is 50 years old and was created by President Johnson to honor graduating high school seniors for academic excellence, artistic accomplishments and civic contributions. In the letter, the senators state: “It is our national interest to not only provide all students access to rigorous CTE programs of study, but to also encourage high attainment by CTE students.” They go on to cite successes of CTE including graduation rates “And, CTE students are competing in world class competitions to test their knowledge in ways no standardized test could.” Their sole example was the SkillsUSA WorldTeam earning a silver medal in Leipzig, Germany. On June 3, I sent an email as a constituent to Sen. Kaine thanking him for proposing the award program and telling him I’d welcome the opportunity to talk about our WorldTeam and SkillsUSA.
  • On May 27, I attended a reception for the National Research Center for College and University Admissions in Washington D.C. It was a great networking opportunity with people attending from the National Science Foundation, STEM Connector and several nonprofit organizations. The reception was hosted by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation. I persuaded several people attending the reception to join us in Kansas City for the conference.
  • Massachusetts State Association Director Karen Ward was with us here at the National Leadership Center early in June to meet with Kim Graham and Steve Lake in the Administration and Finance office. They reviewed the state association financial system and looked into ways the state could align its reporting with national reporting.
  • Kim Graham is pleased to announce that all of the national office computers have been replaced and files transferred. It’s been a lot of work and Kim’s done a fabulous job.
  • Congratulations to Business Partnerships and Development team members Christen Battaglia and Carol Lowery for securing $20,000 in ad sales for the 50th Anniversary NLSC Awards and Recognition Book. And thank you, TECHSPO partners and corporate sponsors, for your support!
  • The boxes are piling up, there are multiple meetings in offices among the staff and outside calls buzzing as we prepare for the SkillsUSA 50th National Leadership and Skills Conference. The first national staff members will set up the base of operations in Kansas City on June 14. I’ll be joining them on the 19th and activities really get underway with the national officers on the 20th. It’s going to be great!
  • National conference registration will set a new record again this year. We currently have 10,207 registrants. Last year’s registration — which was also record breaking — was 10,000. And, 6,084 contestants are registered to compete.
  • Gayle Silvey is looking for volunteers to assist with Leverage training on Monday, June 23, from 10:45 a.m – noon at the national conference. Leverage helps students learn how to make proper business introductions and engage in meaningful casual conversations. Volunteers from business and industry engage participating students in conversation to provide real-life experience and help student practice what they’ve learned. Gayle can be reached at gsilvey@skillsusa.org if you and a colleague or two can help.
  • Marsha Daves reports that we have 28 national officer candidates this year.
  • And, if you’d like a smile and a really quick look at how exciting SkillsUSA is to students, just read a few of these tweets at https://twitter.com/hashtag/skillsusa?src=hash.

That’s it for now. We look forward to seeing many of you in Kansas City. There will be

Executive Director’s Report: May 1, 2014

May 1st, 2014

STEM Tour in Massachusetts
On Thursday, March 27, I was honored to work with Karen Ward and her SkillsUSA Massachusetts board of directors during their board meeting at Tri-County RTHS in Franklin, Mass. The state association has an impressive board made up of top school administrators, advisors and business leaders. I worked directly with the finance committee and with strategic planning for the coming fiscal year.

On Friday, we had an amazing experience at Minuteman and Diman Regional Vocational Technical High Schools in Massachusetts. Our friends at Dassault Systems got to see high quality CTE STEM programs with the SkillsUSA life skills training process directly integrated into the classroom and lab during their tours.

Thank you to the three executives from Dassault who spent the day with students, instructors and administrators in these two incredible schools. The experience provided a good snapshot of how our CTE schools teach STEM and integrate life skills training into the school day using SkillsUSA curriculum and chapter activities.

A big thank you to Karen Ward for organizing the visits and for all she and Assistant Director Kevin Lopez did to make it an outstanding experience for all of us. To the administrators who hosted us and the faculty and staff at Minuteman and Diman, thank you so much for taking the time to organize such an outstanding demonstration of real work learning, coupled with student professional development in action. It’s days like Friday that ground us and remind us of the incredible potential our students possess and how leaders lift up our students to be their very best.

And finally, our National High School Secretary, Brittany Velez, and all the student leaders we met on both campuses were the stars of the day. Thanks to each and every student who demonstrated their technical, academic and professional skills. They were all amazing. I hope this experience will help create stronger business/education relationships, and I hope it also gave the Dassault executives a good perspective on how professional, employability or “life skills” can be a key component in a STEM program.

Spring Conferences are in Full Swing
Shelly Coates and I attended the 50th Virginia State Leadership and Skills Conference recently, and State Director Deb Tripp did an excellent job of running it. Illinois State Director Don Bauc reported the Governor of Illinois attended his conference. Rhode Island State Association Director Josh Klemp reported the largest attendance ever with Governor Chafee and the chair of the state education board attending and speaking during the awards ceremony. SkillsUSA Foundation member Cameron Ferguson and past Foundation member Greg Rintala attended the California state conference and the state superintendent of public instruction in California participated. We’ll have more reports on state conferences as staff continues to participate in conferences across the country in the coming weeks.

NASDCTEc Spring Meeting
I attended the Spring National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education consortium (NASDCTEc) meeting in Washington D.C. March 31 – April 3. Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier was a guest speaker at the opening general session. She announced she is leaving the U.S. Department of Education in mid-May. During public comment, I thanked Brenda for her service and for giving our students the opportunity to be heard by the administration. And, I encouraged her to ask U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan to continue listening to our students’ voices. Board member Scott Stump thanked Brenda and stated: “We have moved the bar as a solution to employment and workforce development in the country.” Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier has been a good friend of CTE and SkillsUSA and will be missed.

Secretary Duncan is visiting a CTE school each month. Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier and Secretary Duncan recently visited Worchester Tech in Massachusetts, a school with a very strong SkillsUSA chapter and the national principal of the year. President Obama will speak at only one high school commencement ceremony this year, and that school is Worchester Tech.

A report at the NASDCTEc meeting showed that 31 states had made a higher investment in CTE in 2013. And, 41 states had some type of legislation supporting CTE last year. This data came from a report co-produced by ACTE and NASDCTEc. It includes significant actions that took place last year and is categorized by state. Here is the link.

Regarding Perkins funding, representatives from both sides of the aisle and from the House and Senate spoke during the meeting. Some in Congress see early movement to get Perkins re-authorized (as early as October 2014) and others see a much longer timeframe, possibly even a continuing resolution that carries funding into the next election. Both agree it’s unlikely there will be a major overhaul of Perkins and that the funding amount will likely not be increased. There are many programs competing for federal funds – from medical research to job training – and new money will not be available, according to one appropriations committee member from the Senate. And, there is the philosophy (to which we agree) that funding should follow labor market demand and be aligned with business. We believe local business and industry advisory committees are critical to program alignment with business needs and credentialing – that is where SkillsUSA has always stood – and, where our hundreds of business partners have always stood with us.

There was substantial discussion about assessments and credentials for CTE completers. It was announced that national level assessments are priced from as low as $10 (Skill Connect is there) to hundreds of dollars. One state reporting over $2 million in their state budget for assessment/credentials, and several states are requiring CTE instructors to be certified in their field of teaching in order to maintain employment. And finally, a national clearinghouse for assessments and credentialing was discussed.

There was a constant stream of meetings and discussions of CTE and STEM. A wide array of federal legislation is moving forward to encourage students to enter STEM courses and several STEM organizations are emerging at national and state levels. It was mentioned that STEM in CTE is clear to us, but it is not always clear to those outside our education community. The CEO of “Change the Equation” spoke on behalf of the business community and stated that, in the current job market, there are 3.8 people looking for one job. But, there are 1.9 STEM jobs available for each job seeker. STEM occupations make up 11 percent of the workforce. (The Brookings Institution says 20 percent of all U.S. jobs.) SkillsUSA has STEM alignment as a major focus of our FY15 Strategic Plan.

 

Finally, it was great to see several friends of CTE and SkillsUSA recognized at this meeting for their continuous support. Representative Glen Thompson (Pa.) and Representative Jim Langevin (R.I.) were both present to receive the “Stars of CTE” Award. Thompson reminded the group there had been a $53 million restoration of CTE funding in January. And, during Representative Langevin’s awards presentation, it was mentioned how strongly he supports SkillsUSA in Rhode Island.

And two great friends of SkillsUSA were recognized as Stars of Education. Former California State CTE Director, Dr. Patrick Ainsworth, was named as a “Star” and current California CTE Director, Russ Weikle, was honored as a “Rising Star” at a special luncheon. Both spoke of SkillsUSA (and VICA) in their comments. Russ was a former VICA advisor and a former SkillsUSA director in California. Congratulations to both of these great friends!

Overall, the NASDCTEc conference was a great learning experience. It was really refreshing to hear congressional representatives, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Business Roundtable, the National Association of State School Boards and so many more praise CTE for the good work that is keeping students in school, reinforcing STEM education and helping close the skills gap.

 

Highlights

  • We have received a record total of 167 applications for the National Technical Honor Society grant awards and staff reviewed them to select the four winners.
  • The President’s Volunteer Service Award recipient applications have been reviewed and so far this year, there are 141 individual awards (representing 42,000 hours of volunteer service), 22 team awards (representing 23,000 hours in volunteer service) and two lifetime awards. Students will be recognized during the Opening Ceremony in Kansas City this year. This is a record number of PVSA winners, topping the 111 awarded in 2013.
  • Most national staff will be taking a bus to visit Louisville, September 3-5, 2014 so they can see the Kentucky Exposition Center and begin to plan for the 2015 national conference.
  • In light of discussion during SkillsUSA Foundation’s March meeting around the significance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education to career and technical education, please take a few minutes to read this interesting blog, Why Does STEM Learning Have to Be ‘Real World’? It is from the April 9, 2014 issue of Education Week.

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

 

 

Executive Director’s Report: March 15, 2014

March 15th, 2014

Connection to the Walmart Foundation
Mike Rowe and his staff continue to be great advocates for SkillsUSA. This past fall, we were invited to participate in the USA Science and Engineering Festival in April in Washington, D.C. The Festival is billed as the largest STEM show in the nation and expected attendance is around 350,000 over a three-day period. Mike Rowe will sponsor a “Trades Pavilion” at the Festival, and he really wanted SkillsUSA students to be a part of the action. With our new focus on the skilled worker shortage and making the connection from our CTE programs to STEM education, our vision was to have SkillsUSA students perform live, hands-on skill demonstrations as part of the Festival.  However, we needed a sponsor to support student travel, housing, meals and equipment. Mike Rowe’s team stepped in and connected me directly to the Walmart Foundation and I was asked for a proposal and budget. We spent most of a weekend putting it together and SkillsUSA was approved for a grant for $11,050 to take care of student, advisor and staff expenses to showcase our students at the Festival. Walmart also joined the Festival as a major sponsor, and we will have our own space, adjacent to the Walmart booth. Most of our skill demonstrations will focus on manufacturing and we have also asked for other skills to be demonstrated. This is a great opportunity to open the door to the Walmart Foundation for future support. I know they will fall in love with our students and our program once they experience it.

The connection to the Walmart Foundation comes due to Mike Rowe’s partnership with them. Perhaps you saw it aired during the recent Winter Olympics, but you may not have seen the full version – the following link will take you to a 60-second commercial narrated by Mike Rowe entitled “I am a Factory.” It’s aired by Walmart, and they have pledged $250 billion (with a B) to American manufacturing jobs in the next 10 years! Once you view this video, I think you will see the great connection that SkillsUSA has with Walmart’s manufacturing/American jobs initiative. And Mike Rowe’s voice is not too bad on the commercial either. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OQcoDQq3-o&list=PLs6zAwIMDe3PixJhPPTT3Ks55ZoS-uxhN&index=2.

Skills Shortage Support Information
As we look forward to the FY15 strategic plan, we have developed a new focus on the skilled worker shortage and STEM education. But, we’re not waiting as work in these areas has already begun. At the 2013 NLSC, we had a top executive from The Manpower Group attend as a Special Guest. Manpower has just published the research report from the 2103 Global Talent Shortage Survey. For the seventh year in a row, skilled trades workers represent the number one category of jobs that employers worldwide are finding difficulty filling. And, technicians are, once again, in the top five, coming in at number four.

As we look at the work of SkillsUSA in helping with these pipeline issues, we also look at the reasons employers are having difficulty finding the necessary talent:  48 percent  of employers cited the lack of technical competencies (hard skills) and 33 percent cited the lack of workplace competencies (soft skills). This data comes from 40,000 employers across 42 countries and territories. Therefore, we believe it’s not much of a stretch to say that SkillsUSA is certainly a part of the solution, particularly, when we look at the hard and soft skill needs of these employers. You can see a short video summary of the report data at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iu0ADHgFeKI and the full report with other interesting facts about the global shortages at this link: http://www.manpowergroup.us/campaigns/talent-shortage-2013/pdf/2013_Talent_Shortage_Survey_Results_US_lo_0510.pdf.

Visit to Cleveland and from DC on to Baltimore
The week of February 17th, I visited the corporate headquarters of Lincoln Electric in Cleveland, Ohio. The trip was partially to assist a student member who is interested in pursuing a welding career (and I have some experience in that field from several years ago) and to also visit with Carl Peters and other Lincoln executives regarding our national partnership as well as our work with Lincoln and WorldSkills. We toured their manufacturing plant and had a great tour of the new Automation Division, a new initiative that involves custom robotic welding work cells for manufacturing and the welding simulators that Lincoln is now producing for welding training. I provided an overview of SkillsUSA for Lincoln’s newest young recruits who will lead the state and regional offices for the company.  Lincoln will also be working with the American Welding Society and participating in the USA Science and Engineering Festival in April in Washington DC.

Last week, I participated in a CTSO meeting and the ACTE National Policy Seminar in D.C. – see: https://www.acteonline.org/nps. From there, I traveled to Baltimore on Tuesday and Wednesday to work the SkillsUSA exhibit and to deliver the closing keynote address at to the HVACR and Mechanical Conference for Education Professionals at the Maritime Training Institute. There were nearly 200 of our high school and college HVACR instructors participating from across the nation. I recruited a few new instructors into SkillsUSA and continued our great partnership with all the HVACR, Plumbing and Mechanical trade associations that sponsored the event. To learn more about the event, go to http://www.instructorworkshop.org/conference+sponsors.aspx.

Highlights

  • On February 22, Kelly Persons had the opportunity to discuss how and why STEM-related education is an integral part of CTE during the Fairfax County, Va. Public Schools’ STEM H Expo at Chantilly High School.
  • Niki Clausen and Heidi Walsh recently returned from a successful visit to Kansas City, Mo. where they met with the national officers to plan for the SkillsUSA 2014 National Leadership and Skills Conference.

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

Executive Director’s Report: March 1, 2014

March 1st, 2014

SkillsUSA Week and CTE Month
During SkillsUSA Week 2014 and National CTE Month, we received several uplifting stories from our chapters about activities they were conducting as a part of the celebration. The following link shows a great tweet from our Cypress Bay Chapter in Florida and how they decorated their school for SkillsUSA Week: http://bit.ly/1cwcz9U. This link shows the state association’s visit with Florida Governor Rick Scott for a proclamation signing: http://on.fb.me/1eQcsMg. And, Ohio’s students met with the Governor and the Superintendent of Education to highlight SkillsUSA week. Our chapters do a great job of spreading the good word about SkillsUSA in their states and local communities, and we are very proud to see the great student-driven activities nationwide.

New CTSO Website
As we celebrate the final week of CTE Month across the nation, we are pleased to announce the rollout of an exciting new website.  This site was created in cooperation with all the national Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) through the National Coordinating Council for Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO) and our affiliate organizations: The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) at the U.S. Department of Education.

The website links to all CTSOs and affiliate organizations, provides the latest CTE news feed, links to our social networks and provides several data points that support the case for CTSOs as a key component of high quality Career and Technical Education.  One of the most dynamic features of the website appears under the “Advocate” header. This link provides CTSO profiles for every state and shows the number of CTSO members in each legislative district for every state.  This is a great tool for state legislative visits and for making the case for CTE at the local, state and federal levels.

We hope you will find this site useful not only an advocacy tool, but also as a marketing and branding tool. The process to develop this website was done with an incredible cooperative spirit amongst all the CTSOs and affiliate organizations.  It offers another way to celebrate the goodness of CTE!  Visit the site at: www.ctsos.org.

U.S. Department of Education Discussions

Daria Ferdine, national high school treasurer from New Jersey, participated in a CTSO Student Voices discussion with the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary for Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (formerly the Office of Vocational and Adult Education) and Brenda Dann-Messier on Tuesday afternoon, February 18th. And, she was also one of four students who made a presentation during a U.S. Department of Education internal briefing entitled “Reflect, Transform, Lead: Preparing Students for College, Career and Citizenship.” Here is a photo taken with Secretary Duncan:

Sec. of Ed. Arne Duncan and Daria Ferdine
Sec. of Ed. Arne Duncan and Daria Ferdine.


U.S. News and World Report

A great Op-Ed article was picked up by U.S. News and World Report, written by our great friend and former board member from Caterpillar, Mary Bell. Mary also was just named as one of the top women in manufacturing, receiving a STEP award (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) from NAM/The Manufacturing Institute. The article entitled, “To Close the Skills Gap in Manufacturing, Close the Gender Gap,” can be seen here.

Educated and Skilled to Lead America Video Competition Winner Announcement
This past fall, chapters from around the country submitted their entries for the Educated and Skilled to Lead America Video Competition (based on this year’s SkillsUSA theme). Chapters were challenged to create a video that showcased how they are becoming educated (what does their classroom or lab look like/what are they learning?) and skilled (what are their skills and how do they apply them). More than 25 entries were received and congratulations go to the winners — Sydney Martin and Krystal Smoger of St. Clair TEC in Marysville, Mich. where Ms. Keely Baribeau serves as the advisor. The honorable mention was submitted by Alexia Tignor of Franklin Technology Center in Joplin, Mo. where Ms. Deonna Anderson serves as the advisor.

You can watch both in the playlist below:

WorldSkills Americas Competition

SkillsUSA is sending two students to compete in the WorldSkills Americas Competition in Bogota Columbia, April 1-6, 2014. The students are Jacob Wozniak, Cabinetmaking, from Springville, N.Y. and Michael Mullen, Auto Service Technology, from San Luis Obispo, Calif. The WorldSkills Americas competition serves as a good benchmark for the next WorldSkills Competition to be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil in August, 2015.



2014 Regional Advisors of the Year
The regional Advisors of the Year have been chosen. Congratulations go to:

  • Ellen Coughlin, DCMO BOCES — Chenango Area Campus, New York, Region 1;
  • James Dinsmoor, Rockdale Career Academy, Georgia, Region 2;
  • Tobin Prinsen, Apollo Career Center, Ohio, Region 3;
  • Mark Sponaugle, Carthage Technical Center, Missouri, Region 4;
  • James Adamson, Central Kitsap High School, Washington, Region 5.

Highlights

  • Niki Clausen conducted a Chapter Management Institute (CMI) for 30 teacher advisors in New York City on February 3. The CMI was held in conjunction with their Career and Technical Education Summit. In addition to the CMI training, they also participated in a CTE Policy Panel discussion which included Brenda Dann-Messier, the assistant secretary of education for career, technical and adult education.
  • The national officer planning meeting in Kansas City will be held the last weekend of March.
  • Work is moving forward on the FY15 membership kit to contain a separate resource tailored specifically for college/postsecondary membership.
  • Kelly Horton is working with Ohio state association director, Mike Cowles, on a contract to serve youth in alternative education pathways who are required to be in a CTSO.
  • I’m very happy to announce that our great long-time friend, Snap-on Incorporated, has committed to a $100,000 grant for SkillsUSA in 2014. Alicia Smales, member of the SkillsUSA Foundation, contacted us on Monday with the great news. A BIG thank you to Alicia and the entire Snap-on team for their continued support. Snap-on Incorporated has been a national partner for nearly three decades. We are also very appreciative of the support they provide to our regional and state winners in a variety of competitions. Snap-on provides nearly $300,000 in donations of tools and equipment to our students and teachers annually.
  • I’m also happy to announce that another great friend, Air Products, recently contributed $52,500, giving them a total of $102,500 contributed to SkillsUSA so far this year!
  • SkillsUSA will be raffling off a Dyna Street Bob Motorcycle at the 2014 National Conference Awards Ceremony, Friday, June 27, in Kansas City. This motorcycle is made possible thanks to a generous donation by Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Inc.
  • We’re seeing some exciting new designs for the SkillsUSA website. The home page looks great, and work continues on interior pages. Web manager, Craig Moore, says technical implementation of www.skillsusa.org begins February 25.
  • Tom Kercheval, our audiovisual technology manager, just put the finishing touches on an updated “What is SkillsUSA?” video, reflecting input from the recent meeting of state association director officers.
  • The Spring issue of SkillsUSA Champions has been mailed, and the digital publication is online at: www.skillsusa.org/champions/spring14.shtml. Focus is on our student leaders, new training events, and successful alumni and SkillsUSA student competitors involved in STEM education.
  • Stratton Publishing & Marketing Inc./Stratton Research in Alexandria, Va., will be sending a questionnaire to a random sampling of approximately 1,500 advisors and students as part of a SkillsUSA’s strategic communications audit. The end goal: timely, high-quality and valuable content that better aligns with student and advisor needs. Those who participate will have the opportunity to win an iPad mini.
  • The following video was produced by Jefferson County (Ky.) Public Schools showing highlights of the January 16th Breakfast of Champions kick-off event in Louisville:

 

  • And, as you know, SkillsUSA turns 50 in 2015. The upcoming 50th conference in Kansas City marks the beginning of a year-long celebration, culminating with the 51st National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Ky. Plans are underway for the celebration to include the development of 50th anniversary logos; a 50th anniversary pin and T-shirt; a special celebration at the National Leadership Center and more. 

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

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: http://CTE.ed.gov/employabilityskills/.

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).

Highlights

  • 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.

ACTIVE ADVISOR NEWS: February 2014

February 1st, 2014

Update from Tim Lawrence

FY 15-16 Strategic Planning
Every year in January, SkillsUSA staff spends a week in strategic planning for the next fiscal year. Staff worked diligently developing the goals, objectives and tactics for the FY 15-16 strategic plan. During this process, we always take a look back as we move forward. Fiscal Year 2013 ended August 31 and there were so many superlatives that we can all be proud of.  Thank you all for making it such an amazing year for SkillsUSA. Here is a short video clip showing a few special moments from 2013:

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: http://CTE.ed.gov/employabilityskills/.

The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) and state CTE directors also announced good news regarding federal funding for CTE. An omnibus bill was released recently 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.

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, the week of January 19-23, more than 50 students and advisors from SkillsUSA 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).

Thank you for all you do for the great students we serve.

Work Force Ready System/Skill Connect Assessments
Available assessments
SkillsUSA assessments offers 42 technical and employability assessments in 10 cluster areas including four co-branded assessments with ASE/AYES and five co-branded assessments with PrintED/GAERF.  For a complete list of assessments and the blueprints that describe the standards, competencies, and academic skills tied to each assessment, go to: www.workforcereadysystem.org/technical_areas.shtml.

Resources to prepare students for testing
SkillsUSA offers free resources to prepare students for testing. See what’s available at: www.workforcereadysystem.org/resources.shtml. New Teacher Preparation Guides are an excellent resource and can be found at: www.workforcereadysystem.org/guides.shtml. Currently, we have 21 guides available for various assessments. We plan to have the final 12 available in the near future!

If you have used one of our guides, please take a short survey to help us determine content for future guides and periodical updates. Provide feedback at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/TeacherPrepGuides.

To order Skill Connect Assessments, go to http://www.workforcereadysystem.org.Log-on to the test platform with your username from last year or click “Don’t have an Account” to create one. Click “Course Catalog”, type the assessment area in the search box and click on the assessment name. Select your quantity and click “add to cart”. Follow the prompts to complete your order.

Enroll students and grade books
Detailed instructions on how to enroll students, distribute voucher tests and how to access the grade report can be found at: www.workforcereadysystem.org/testing.shtml.  Also see our training webinar “”Assessment Ordering and Management Tools” to learn how to access the full line of reports available.

Training Webinars Available
Training webinars on our assessments were held in January and another one is scheduled for March. View the archived webinars for topics; “Teacher Tips for Student Success” and “Meeting Industry Demands” or join us in March for the live webinar “Assessment Ordering and Management Tools”. For a complete schedule and to view the archived webinars go to: www.workforcereadysystem.org/webinars.shtml.

Assessment Support
Please note our new phone number, email address and hours of operation.

Direct: 1-866-444-7779
Email: support@skillconnect.org
Help Desk Support Hours: Mon.- Fri. 8 a.m.-6 p.m. EST

CTE Month and SkillsUSA Week Events and Activities
February is Career and Technical Education Month and February 9-15 is SkillsUSA Week. SkillsUSA Week activities are a great way to highlight the good work your state association and local chapters are doing. For SkillsUSA Week ideas, see the chapter management section on the SkillsUSA website. SkillsUSA offers downloadable public service announcements at: www.skillsusa.org/educators/skillsusaweek.shtml.

SkillsUSA is also launching a video competition during SkillsUSA Week for members to showcase their skills. Here is their opportunity to tell the story that CTE programs are preparing students for the 21st Century. Entries should be between 2-3 minutes in length and uploaded to YouTube by May 1, 2014. For details, go to: www.skillsusa.org/educators/skillsusaweekvid.shtml. If you have questions, email Stephanie Bland at sbland@skillsusa.org.

2014 Lowe’s Grant Winners
The focus for this year’s Lowe’s grant program was to identify schools, classrooms or students who have a basic need to improve the quality of the students’ educational experience. The grant winners have been selected. There were 21 winners and a total of $352,643 grant dollars given. Congratulations go to the following schools:

Arkansas – Dumas New Tech High School; Arizona – Kofa High School; California – Hanford West High School and Weber Technical Institute; Colorado – Woodland Park High School; Florida – Lake Technical Center and Washington-Holmes Technical Center; Georgia – Lanier Charter Career Academy; Illinois – Waubonsie Valley High School; Indiana – Area 31 Career Center; Kentucky – Kentucky Tech-Floyd County Area Technology Center and Millard Area Technology Center; Maine – Tri-County Technical Center; Mississippi – Prentiss County Vocational Technical School; Montana – Dodson Public School; Nebraska – Bryan Senior High; Ohio – Collins Career Center; Oregon – Logos Public Charter School; Pennsylvania – Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center (EWCTC) and Lawrence County Career and Technology Center; and, West Virginia – Mercer County Technical Education Center.

Competition Central
The SkillsUSA Store is here to help your students look their best this conference season. Visit our “Competition Central” section at: www.skillsusastore.org/skillsusa/welcome.asp today to find the full line of SkillsUSA work uniforms, official blazers and wind jackets, along with everything else they need to succeed. And, please reference the official competition uniform chart for photos and descriptions of the uniform components needed for each competition.

Collision Repair Education Foundation Scholarship and Grant Opportunities
High school and college/postsecondary collision repair technology and automotive refinishing students attending career and technical schools and colleges have the opportunity to apply for the over $200,000 in available scholarships and tool grants available through the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) and the organization’s industry supporters.  For more information about the scholarship and grants available, go to www.CollisionEducationFoundation.org.

ACTE National Policy Seminar: March 3-5, 2014
Registration is open for the 2014 ACTE National Policy Seminar (NPS). This year, NPS will feature the latest information from Capitol Hill staff and Members of Congress on the reauthorization of Perkins, as well as ongoing reauthorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Higher Education Act and Workforce Investment Act. For more information, go to: www.acteonline.org.

2014 SkillsUSA University
We are currently accepting proposals from high-quality presenters of innovative, timely and dynamic educational topics to present at the 2014 SkillsUSA University. This year SkillsUSA University is sponsored by 3M. All sessions will take place at the Downtown Marriott Hotel or the Kansas City Convention Center on June 25, 26 and 27.

We ask instructors who would like to present to send emails with proposed topics to Niki Clausen at nclausen@skillsusa.org.

Possible topics: local chapter activities; fundraising; community service; SkillsUSA Program of Work success stories; business etiquette; communication skills for students; local industry partnerships, etc. These can be best practices (with a local advisor presenting) or an expert in the subject area. If you do not want to present, but you have suggestions for workshop topics, please feel free to forward them to us.

The deadline for proposals is February 28. For more information and a Request for Proposal (RFP), go to: www.skillsusa.org/events/skillsuniv.shtml.

National Youth Safety Video Contest Reminder
CareerSafe, Safety Education for America’s Future, is sponsoring the 2013-2014 National Youth Safety Video Contest. Students across the country are challenged to create a two-minute video demonstrating safety in the workplace. The contest kicked off on October 15, and all submissions should be sent into CareerSafe by March 1, 2014. The winning students will receive a SkillsUSA Prize Pack as well as a scholarship up to $2,500, and the winning school will receive a prize up to $5,000. For more information on the contest, please visit the CareerSafe website at: www.careersafeonline.com.

ACTE National Policy Seminar: March 3-5, 2014

January 15th, 2014

Registration is open for the 2014 ACTE National Policy Seminar (NPS). This year, NPS will feature the latest information from Capitol Hill staff and Members of Congress on the reauthorization of Perkins (See this link), as well as ongoing reauthorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (See this link), Higher Education Act (See this link) and Workforce Investment Act (See this link).

Attendees will also receive timely updates on federal funding for Perkins and other key programs, with important details on how you can best influence the funding process; opportunities to weigh in on the critical policy issues affecting their programs; and advocacy tips and tools to promote their your program at the local, state and federal levels.

For more information, go to: www.acteonline.org.

Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2014

Happy 2014! On behalf of our national staff, Board of Directors and our wonderful team of national officers, I wish you happiness, good health and a prosperous New Year.

ACTE Convention
I traveled to Las Vegas to attend the annual Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) Convention, December 4-7. There were 3,497 in attendance and staff members Marsha Daves, Niki Clausen, Heidi Walsh and I were extremely busy there. National high school vice president Laura Gouillon, a pre-engineering student from California and college/postsecondary president, Leah Rife, a graphic arts student from Colorado, also attended and spoke at various meetings on behalf of SkillsUSA and worked very hard in the SkillsUSA booth at the Career Tech Expo. Both students made us extremely proud.

I participated in two Trade and Industrial Education Division meetings, and Laura Gouillon, Leah Rife and I presented SkillsUSA updates at both sessions. I was involved in a great ASE/NATEF meeting with instructors and administrators, a reception, and a panel discussion with the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). SkillsUSA was recognized and commended at both meetings. I also had a very positive lunch meeting with the new CEO and the new Chairman of intelitek. This company provides over a million dollars in robotics and automated manufacturing equipment annually at the SkillsUSA Championships and also hosts both our high school and college employability curricula on their Learning Management System.

On Wednesday evening, I was privileged to attend the ACTE Awards Banquet where board member and SkillsUSA Minnesota Director, Jen Polz, was honored with the ACTE Region 3 Outstanding Educator Award. We are very proud of Jen and this great accomplishment. The keynote speaker at the banquet was U.S. Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan. Jen received her award from Assistant Secretary of Education Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier.

Both staff and national officers met with a number of business partners and prospects at the Career Tech Expo. I had good meetings with Goodheart-Wilcox, Lincoln Electric, Snap-on, Channellock, Autodesk and the U.S. Army, just to name a few. We also met with several companies who expressed serious interest in getting involved. It was also great to spend time with board members Dave Milliken, Peggy Torrens and Jeff Johnson and several state CTE directors.

On Thursday evening, I hosted 28 of our state leaders at a nice dinner at Maggiano’s Restaurant. This dinner was a thank you for state association directors, corporate members and state education department officials. It was great to have Greg Rintala of Snap-on and his wife join us as well as Amelia Mitchell Powers, former national officer, and now a corporate trainer for CAT. Our two national officers also participated and thanked the group for all their support.

On Friday and Saturday, Niki Clausen and Marsha Daves made three SkillsUSA presentations for the ACTE participants. Marsha presented “The Easy Button – Teaching and Assessing Work-Ready Skills and Career-Ready Practices in the CCCS” and Niki Clausen presented great sessions on “Why SkillsUSA.”

WorldSkills Update
We will be sending a small delegation to the WorldSkills Americas competition to be held in Bogota, Columbia, April 1-6, 2014. At this time, we have sponsorship and endorsement to send, at minimum, a cabinetmaker and automotive tech student, their experts and our technical delegate and team leader. We are also working with Canada in an attempt to house both our delegation students and adults in the same hotel for safety and security purposes.

Speaking of Canada, we are in discussion with Skills Canada, and, our two countries are interested in jointly hosting the 2016 WorldSkills General Assembly. We plan to submit a letter of interest in early 2014. The major costs of this meeting are covered by registration fees paid by each member country. Our proposed venue is on the USA/Canada border at Niagara Falls. It’s a world-class destination, and we believe it would be an incredible spot for the WSI General Assembly. We believe this activity would help us continue to ramp up our WorldSkills involvement and international credibility as called for in Vision 2020.

A big thank you goes to SkillsUSA Kentucky, CTE Director Dale Winkler, the State Office of Career and Technical Education (OCTE). Thanks also to Joe Morgan and Fran Dundon for their support. The support from the Kentucky OCTE is invaluable and will help us tremendously as we transition to Louisville.

Planning for the “Circle of Champions” Breakfast in Louisville
December 1-2 were busy with several meetings centered around planning our first business/community outreach in Louisville, Kentucky. Much time was spent developing the agenda, logistical planning and guest list with leaders from Greater Louisville, Inc., the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Kentucky Exposition Center. Afterward, Louisville leadership arranged for me to meet with Mayor Greg Fischer and present how SkillsUSA members will impact the Louisville community with workforce opportunities as we plan toward the 2015 National Leadership & Skills Conference and beyond.

Mayor Fischer agreed to reach out to the Louisville business community on behalf of SkillsUSA. His support is vital to us as we work to develop a business advisory foundation that will support national conference efforts over the next six years.

SkillsUSA created a press release, came up with a short video to share with the Louisville business community and sent out invitations to 1,500 businesses covering the Louisville, Kentucky-Clarksville, Indiana area asking for attendance at the “Circle of Champions” breakfast on Thursday, January 16, 2014, at the Kentucky Exposition Center. The event will begin with a “circle” of select SkillsUSA students who will demonstrate their skill and leadership areas as our invited guests enter the facility at 8 a.m. A brief presentation will begin at 8:30 a.m. that will include a message from Mayor Greg Fischer and other speakers currently being identified. We are confident this event is the beginning of a strong and fruitful relationship with the Louisville, Kentucky community.

Highlights

  • Kelly Horton attended the SkillsUSA Massachusetts FLC and reported the conference had over 600 members in attendance and was the largest fall conference for the state to date. She facilitated a workshop about engaging students through SkillsUSA’s educational resources, and SkillsUSA Massachusetts purchased enough educational materials so that each participating school would receive a complete set of resources to assist students in their employability skills development.
  • Kelly also reports that her presentation to the state presidents of the New England region of the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) went well. She spoke to them, at the request of Universal Technical Institute, about SkillsUSA and how it helps the student to prepare for the world of work.
  • Gayle Silvey attended the Georgia college/postsecondary FLC and facilitated a membership growth and retention workshop for about 50 instructors. Strategies discussed included ways to reach, recruit and engage college/postsecondary members in SkillsUSA to help them advance their employability skills and careers. Gayle also attended the Tennessee college/postsecondary TLTI where she facilitated three workshops for approximately 60 instructors. These workshops focused on infusing educational resources into classroom instruction, curriculum and chapter meetings.
  • Together, Gayle and Kelly hosted a Strategic Membership Advisory Committee meeting near Dulles Airport, December 10-12. The committee is comprised of senior executive business leaders and educational leaders from the CTE community, and they met to focus on scalable membership growth and development to ensure we reach our Vision 2020 goal of impacting 1 million learners. Board member, Chris Arvin from Caterpillar, and Foundation members Alicia Smales from Snap-on and Larry Teverbaugh from K2Share were among the attendees.
  • The winter 2014 issue of SkillsUSA Champions has been mailed. The electronic version (sponsored by Interstate Batteries Fundraising) is active at: www.skillsusa.org/champions/winter14.shtml.
  • Finally, Karen Beatty reports that the Skills Build America campaign has received $170,000 in corporate and personal donations since it was launched a year ago.

That’s all for now. Happy New Year! Thanks for all you do for the great students and teachers we serve.

 

Executive Director’s Report: December 15

December 15th, 2013

It’s Fall Leadership Development Time
Each fall, we kick off leadership development activities for our students and teachers with the annual Washington Leadership Training Institute (WLTI) in D.C. in September and then look to our states to continue the leadership momentum with fall leadership conferences happening in nearly every state and territory during October and November. WLTI 2013 set new participation records with nearly 380 SkillsUSA students and teachers participating and each of them making visits with their elected representatives in Congress.

Several states are setting new records at their fall events as well and on November 13-15, I participated in a dynamic Ohio Fall Leadership Conference (FLC) in Columbus. If I could use one word to describe the experience it was “inspiring.” Whenever I spend time with state and regional student officers, great advisors and administrators and state association directors like Mike Cowles, it truly drives home the work we do. These kinds of SkillsUSA events always remind me why our work is so important to schools, communities and our nation, and it never fails to be inspirational when I see our mission in action.

As a part of my visit to Columbus, I was honored to be invited as the keynote speaker for approximately 80 CTE administrators from across Ohio at the Fall OTIESA Conference. My topic was “Building Better Lives — One at a Time.” I shared updated workforce development numbers and the latest poll data on our students nationwide. The administrators asked for the data and my presentation so they could use it for presentations in their local school divisions. I left behind the full presentation and supporting video to be posted with Web access for all of them to use. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) was also very well represented at both the OTIESA meeting and at the fall leadership conference, and it was great to spend time with our Ohio corporate member, Linda O’Conner, and several other ODE representatives.

Later on the morning of November 14, I was the opening ceremony keynote speaker for over 1,100 students at teachers at the fall leadership conference, held at the Hyatt Columbus. It’s always awesome to see that many students in red blazers in the audience! Following the opening, students and teachers rotated through a series of leadership workshops and presentations by student officers and outside experts. Following the student sessions, I presented a national update to approximately 100 advisors and provided them the latest on our strategic direction. SkillsUSA Ohio is doing a very nice job of aligning their vision and strategy with that of Vision 2020 and national strategic objectives.

On November 15, SkillsUSA Ohio had 121 regional officer candidates campaign for just over 40 regional leadership positions. There were hundreds of voting delegates from each Ohio region in place to hear campaign speeches and vote for their new leadership. The delegate sessions ended with election results and a full formal candlelight installation ceremony for the newly elected officers. Also, during the day, over 400 students participated in mock job interviews with 38 business professionals and military officers who volunteered to interview the students (modeled after our national TAG Tuesday event at NLSC). This entire event was an impressive display of student leadership and participation in the core leadership component of SkillsUSA. I want to commend state director, Mike Cowles, and his team from ODE for inspiring so many students to be actively involved.

My next stop was at the Central PA FLC in Gettysburg, Pa. On November 21, I accompanied 235 students and 60 advisors on visits to the state capitol and education department in Harrisburg. Some state officials and legislators attended the opening dinner, and I delivered the keynote address, reinforcing the importance of leadership and advocacy at all levels. Again, it was great to see our state and district leaders follow our national model (this advocacy event has been patterned after WLTI).

And, Ohio and Pennsylvania weren’t the only states reporting strong participation. We asked state associations how their fall leadership conferences are going, and, so far, we’ve received 25 responses. Many are seeing an increase in attendance. Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington postsecondary and West Virginia all report increases. Many have reported that participation is about the same — and a few have reported a decrease. Here are a couple highlights to note: Kathy Gillman from West Virginia reported that they held their first fall leadership conference in more than 15 years, and she said, “It was fabulous!,” and Andrew Sims from Mississippi saw a participation increase from 330 to 730 — a 127 percent increase.

Forum to Raise Awareness about the Need to Prepare Students
Kelly Horton traveled to the Rhode Island Fall Leadership Conference and then on to Massachusetts for their fall leadership event. While in Massachusetts, she participated in a forum on November 21 at the Norwood, Massachusetts campus of Universal Technical Institute. The purpose of the forum was to help raise awareness about the need for greater collaboration between industry and education in creating curricula that prepare students with the relevant skills needed to achieve employment. To view a PR Newswire article about the forum, go to: www.fox54.com/story/23996133/universal-technical-institute-norwood-campus-hosts-new-england-skills-gap-expo-solutions-through-stem.

Congressional Briefing on Perkins
On November 12, Eric Gearhart, director of Research and Foundation Relations at SkillsUSA, Kim Green, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) and Johan Uvin, deputy assistant secretary of education for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education participated in a Congressional briefing on the Carl D. Perkins Act. The hearing was hosted by the bipartisan Congressional Career Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, and provided information on Perkins and CTE. Policymakers, their staff and other relevant stakeholders attended, totaling about 50 people.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Uvin began the discussion by framing his remarks around a recent OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) which found that adults in the United States are lagging behind their peers internationally for literacy, numeracy, and problem solving. Uvin argued that CTE is one of the best ways to address this problem. He contended that improving the delivery system and ensuring consistent quality of CTE programs throughout the United States was an important task that the reauthorization process for Perkins must address.

Eric organized his remarks through the perspective of the students SkillsUSA, along with other Career Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs), serve on a daily basis. He pointed out that CTE is a great strategy for student engagement and “is essential to enfranchising students throughout the country.” He emphasized the mutually beneficial relationship between businesses and CTE programs and argued for tax incentives for the private sector to help encourage these connections.

Kim Green spoke about the history surrounding the Perkins Act, areas in current law that are being considered for improvement and other insights into the reauthorization process. She also highlighted NASDCTEc’s recent national report  on individual state CTE standards. Green linked the report’s findings to the overall discussion on how to leverage federal investments from the Perkins Act to continue promoting innovation and improving the quality of CTE programs throughout the country.

Staffing Changes at the National Office
Finally, there are some staffing changes at the national office. I am very pleased to report that, after releasing the job announcement for a new director of our Business Partnerships and Development (BPD) Office, SkillsUSA has hired Kelly Persons as our new BPD director. Kelly has an amazing background in fundraising, grant and foundation work. Her experience includes work with Habitat for Humanity, the AARP Foundation and the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation. Kelly will bring a dynamic new perspective to our staff and development efforts.

And, sadly, Eric Gearhart, director of Research and Foundation Relations at SkillsUSA will be leaving to explore some other career interests and opportunities on January 1. He will continue to manage a couple ongoing BPD projects for us on a consulting basis, so we will see Eric in our building from time to time, after the New Year, but not as a full-time staff member.

Other Highlights

  • Julie Kantor, chief partnership officer at STEMconnector, who attended the 2013 NLSC, has written many times since about SkillsUSA. She has written another article, published in the Huffington Post. See it here : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-kantor/teachers-its-time-to-make-it-real_b_4239780.html. I especially like the following quote from the article—”It’s so basic. When you make it real, applicable to real life, you touch the hearts and minds of America’s youth and young workforce. Make it hands on, and show young people the correlation to real life and they will learn way more and advance academically.”
  • On November 16-17, I was invited to visit Haskell Company in Jacksonville, Fla. and meet with Vice President Boyd Worsham (national technical committee chairman for carpentry) and others from the commercial construction industry, including Steve and Diane Greene and SkillsUSA Foundation member, Ed Prevatt, from NCCER. It was also a great time to socialize over dinner aboard the Haskell Company boat “Casamia” and cruise the St. John’s River and see a Jacksonville Jaguars football game from the Haskell Suite. Haskell was the designer and builder of this NFL stadium as well as several high-rise buildings that make up the Jacksonville skyline.
  • In preparation for the move to Louisville, Ky., Dave Worden reports that their department has met with some of local groups like the IBEW, the Carpenters Apprenticeships Training Council and the Teamsters about their potential support for the 2015 conference in Louisville; a warehouse has been secured in Louisville about five miles from the Expo Center; and, the Louisville contest floor locations mapping is approximately 75% complete.
  • The next WorldSkills Competition will be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil from August 11-16, 2015 and the first two members of WorldTeam have been chosen. They are Jacob Wozniak in Cabinetmaking from Springville, N.Y. and Michael Mullen in Auto Service Technology from San Luis Obispo, Calif.
  • Work continues on the www.SkillsUSA.org redesign. The website inventory process is now complete, and a preliminary site map is being reviewed. Wireframes (the skeletal framework of the website) will be ready soon. Usability testing is scheduled for Dec. 16-17 and Jan. 6.
  • We’re moving ahead quickly with the strategic communications audit that covers all print and electronic vehicles for our members. The research firm is reviewing many items to understand what we’re currently doing, including SkillsUSA’s mission statement, strategic plan, organizational structure, research reports, business plans for communications, membership data and, of course, samples of everything all our departments send out. Interviews with staff directors were conducted to review our communications/marketing structure and develop the research instrument used with local members. The end goal: timely, high-quality and valuable content that better aligns with student and advisor needs.

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


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