Registration is open for the 2013 ACTE National Policy Seminar. This year, the CTE community will “climb the Hill” in March during the 2013 ACTE National Policy Seminar. The focus of the conference will center on how to overcome key obstacles, such as funding battles, and working with both sides of the aisle in today’s partisan environment to create successful CTE policy. For more information, go to www.acteonline.org.
- Staff met recently with representatives of the ALCOA Foundation on future support. ALCOA is a past SkillsUSA partner. And, staff met in Washington, D.C. with superintendent of Arizona Public Instruction and his chief of staff to discuss the Skill Connect Assessments.
- Janet Conner, state association director for the high school division of SkillsUSA Texas visited the National Leadership Center on December 5 to review new SkillsUSA conference management software. Because of the association’s size, Texas is often a driver of association services that benefit other state associations.
- We recently finalized a new partnership with the Gates Corporation (automotive division and a manufacturer/supplier of automotive hoses, belts, tensioners, pulleys and a variety of other parts). A Gates representative serves on our national auto service technical committee and came in at the official sponsor level ($25,000 minimum). We are thrilled to have them on board. We will be sending out information on how Gates would like to work with state associations and local chapters.
- And, in the “it’s nice to be asked” category, we’re pleased that a congressional office has consulted SkillsUSA to ask what our priorities for CTE are in the 113th Congress and what we would recommend to promote CTE. Discussion included the administration’s blueprint for CTE, Perkins, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, high school and postsecondary CTE, SkillsUSA WorldTeam and the importance of industry involvement. There will be further discussion in the weeks ahead.
- The Best of Brand Awards were presented during the state directors’ conference in Rapid City. Congratulations go to: SkillsUSA Georgia for capturing Best of Brand in the Website Category and Best of Innovation, Membership Recruitment Category; SkillsUSA Massachusetts for Best of Brand in the Multi-Media Category and Best of Innovation, Advocacy Category; and, SkillsUSA Wisconsin for its Best of Brand in the Print Category.
- In early August, I had a great trip to Yakima, Wash., to do two presentations on the Skill Connect Assessments. The first was a panel discussion including other assessment providers. The second presentation was strictly on our assessments. Both presentations were packed with people. I also got to spend some great time visiting with Eleni Papadakis, the Washington state CTE director.
- I received a nice letter from Assistant Secretary of Education Brenda Dann-Messier thanking SkillsUSA for inviting her to participate in the national conference. The part I liked best comes at the end of this paragraph (that I’ll paraphrase): ”The Administration’s blueprint for Perkins reauthorization calls for transformation of our career and technical education programs based on our key principles: effective alignment of CTE and labor market needs … strong collaboration [among education and employers] … meaningful accountability [for academic, technical and employability skills] … and increased emphasis on innovation. Through your national skills competitions, and the many state and local competitions and activities that SkillsUSA offers throughout the year, your organization is already demonstrating the key reform principles in action!”
- In a quick update on national conference media coverage, we’ve documented over 100 stories about conference and/or winners in the greater Kansas City region from May into August. As a matter of fact, there’s a feature on a local medalist that ran several times beginning August 22, so it keeps on going. That figure is up over the 85 stories last year. The news releases on medalists and Skill Point recipients were emailed out almost immediately after conference, arriving before the July 4 holiday. A total of 5,581 releases were sent to daily and non-daily papers. And, trade press has been very good. Some of the trade press celebrates the fact that there are more contestants in the contests they cover. They see that as a sign of increasing interest in their fields.
- Champion of the Year invitations were delivered directly to Member offices on Capitol Hill on August 20. In all, we invited 11 Senators and 12 Representatives, including Paul Ryan who just happens to represent the district in Wisconsin where Snap-on has its headquarters. We also invited representatives from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Labor. A press conference is scheduled at the National Press Club during the morning of September 18.
- During our staff meeting on August 8, it was reported that Skill Connect Assessment sales were up 28 percent over last year and that we are seeing much more pre- and post-testing using the assessments. Staff also reported publication sales were up three percent over last year as of the end of June and the marketing department is still crunching the numbers on a survey taken by 650 students at conference.
- Board President, James King, was here for the staff meeting and he told the staff ”There’s interest in CTE because we teach marketable skills. The leadership component is what was missing and that’s what SkillsUSA does. I can’t think of any organization in America that does more for students than SkillsUSA.”
On Tuesday, September 18, 2012, the students and advisors attending WLTI will have time to go to Capitol Hill and visit with their Senators and Representatives between 10:15 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (The bus leaves at 3 p.m.) Appointments need to be set up ahead of time. You can find a sample appointment request letter here.
We suggest delegations first fax the appointment request letter and follow it up with a phone call. Letters sent by mail may take a month to reach Congressional offices because of security systems. But, if you do send a letter, please hand-write or type the address – don’t use a label. The label will be blackened because all Congressional mail goes through an irradiation process. And, don’t rely on an email invitation. Congress is receiving a massive amount of email right now, so there is a good chance it could be overlooked, depending upon the office.
If you have questions or need information about how to contact your members of
Congress, contact Jane Short at 703-737-0612 or by email at email@example.com.
The National Leadership and Skills Conference is always an exciting—transforming—experience involving 15,000 of our closest friends. It’s also humbling to realize how much our collective work affects lives. Many teachers said to me and to staff: “Thank you for what you do for our students.”
Of course, that includes you. By way of example, board member Greg Rintala forwarded an email he received from Tina Oswald-White of mikeroweWORKS Foundation with an attached thank-you note from a student who received a mikeroweWORKS travel scholarship. The email commended the board members “who work so hard behind the scenes . . . and do so much not only for the organization but for the students and our future workforce.” The student’s note said in part “[This experience] opened my eyes to how much potential I have in the world, something I have never seen before.”
I wish everyone could have heard the Assistant Secretary of Labor Jane Oates say during the Special Guest Breakfast on Tuesday, “Scholarships and internships are wonderful for individuals. Support for SkillsUSA is an investment in capacity building for the American workforce.”
All of our special guests including Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary of Education Brenda Dann-Messier, Bill Symonds of the Harvard Pathways to Prosperity Project and many more were all amazed by the conference. As one of our first-time guests said to me, “If Secretary of Education Arne Duncan could see this, he’d stop talking about ‘islands of excellence’ in CTE.”
I’m not even going to start recounting all of the corporate executives in attendance, but it was delightful to have the top executives from two of our best sponsors attending the conference together, Jim Lentz of Toyota and Nick Pinchuk of Snap-on. I understand each had a marvelous time and I know Jim was in the news more than once. Here’s one TV clip including Jim – http://fox4kc.com/2012/06/26/students-showing-off-talents-at-skillsusa-competition/.
Speaking of news, the early report on coverage in the Kansas City area media includes 79 separate stories and that doesn’t even include stories that are coming in on area winners. For the first time ever this year, we had three of the four TV networks covering the Championships live simultaneously and multiple times on Tuesday morning. There were 24 stories on Tuesday alone. Several years ago, we asked the Convention and Visitors Association what other Kansas City convention SkillsUSA should use as a benchmark for news coverage. The answer was “SkillsUSA is the benchmark. No organization gets the coverage you get.” We’re also picking up national coverage.
- Thanks to an introduction from Board President Russ Hoffbauer, staff and I met on June 7 with the president and senior vice president of Insurance Automotive Auctions (IAA), an automotive recycling business with 160 locations in 48 states. IAA is looking for talent in IT, management trainees and people with automotive experience. They saw a fit with the SkillsUSA mission, and they are interested in getting IAA involved at the state and local levels. They will both be attending conference.
- We reached out to sponsors to support CTE and the student organizations slated for cuts under California Governor Jerry Brown’s school finance reform proposal. I sent email to our sponsors on June 1 and June 6.
- On June 1, we had a very encouraging meeting with the CEO, executive vice president and chief engagement officer and the new student relations director of Project Lead the Way (PLTW). Rosanne White, Technology Student Association (TSA) executive director, joined us. PLTW is interested in working with both organizations again and has reopened discussion on the Engineering Alliance created by TSA and SkillsUSA previously. PLTW wants to increase the number of schools offering its curriculum by 800 next year, and they are very interested in teaching employability skills to students.
- On May 30-31, Arizona State Association Director Carrie Wolf and I went on a recruiting trip to Phoenix to start an Arizona Youth Development Foundation. Four companies have already pledged their support and agreed to serve.
- On May 25, the national staff directors held a retreat to discuss funding priorities with an eye toward achieving Vision 2020 goals. The meeting generated great discussion on SkillsUSA’s message, in addition to helping us take a more comprehensive look at our FY13 strategic plan and beyond. Congratulations go to the staff members who planned and lead the meeting, and thanks to ASE for inviting us to use their headquarters for the retreat.
- The National Coordinating Council of the Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO) met on May 24. One of the primary topics for discussion with Robin Utz from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) was the administration’s blueprint for reform of Perkins. The NCC-CTSO is pleased to have an opportunity for early reaction to the blueprint, and the Council will be preparing its own white paper on the blueprint and Perkins reauthorization.
- Thanks to an introduction from board member Kathy Jo Mannes, I spoke on May 23 with representatives from Skills for America’s Future, an initiative by the administration tied in with The Aspen Institute. Their focus is to help find ways to build business and community college partnerships, and they’re looking to SkillsUSA to help.
- Finally, I was a special guest speaker for the Fredtech 2012 banquet in Fredericksburg, Va. on May 22. The Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce hosted the event and 21 students – all of them Virginia state medalists – were honored.
The Youth Development Foundation Committee held its spring meeting at the N.E.W. Customer Service Companies headquarters in Sterling, Va., on April 18 and then in Washington, D.C. on April 19. Twelve members attended the first meeting in person and by phone. The meeting was chaired by Greg Rintala of Snap-on. The meetings were productive, and the day wrapped up with a great evening in the N.E.W. suite at Nationals Park for a Washington Nationals baseball game (and the Nationals won).
We were up early Thursday morning for visits to Congress. The message carried by the YDF Committee members started with the issues of workforce shortages, skills gaps and middle-class occupations. Their message then went on to say “Policymakers should pay attention to – and build upon – what works to address these issues. We know SkillsUSA and career and technical education work. Here’s what we do to support them.” Then, the members would fill in their own stories on needed skills and the work they and their companies do with SkillsUSA. Two delegations of YDF members visited with staff from the House Manufacturing Caucus and staff from the Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee. Members also met with nine additional congressional offices during the course of the morning. We held a debriefing of our meetings at the offices of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) just two blocks from the Hill. All visit reports were positive.
This was Greg Rintala’s last meeting as chair of the YDF. Dave Camden from Toyota is picking up the gavel. My thanks go to both of them for their tremendous leadership. And, thanks to Bill Maddox and Wanzel Jessie of N.E.W. for hosting the meeting.
On April 2, SkillsUSA briefed staff of a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee subcommittee preparing for hearings to discuss ways to address the skills gap. Staff was particularly interested in things done by and with our partners, such as the CAT ThinkBig program. The staff also appreciated our helping them to secure potential witnesses from among our sponsors. One of the witnesses on April 17 was from the American Welding Society.
More in the “it’s nice to be asked”category. Staff and I had a conference call with the Boston Consulting Group on Monday. The Group is working with Harvard Business School on the topic of U.S. competitiveness. The goal of the project is to identify a set of actions that companies can take to improve competitiveness, and they thought SkillsUSA would be a good source. We were also called for an interview on the increasing popularity of “trade schools” by “Fox Business.” (We can’t correct everything in the news.) Here is the link to the story: www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2012/04/06/going-to-trade-school-should-do-it. And, staff member Eric Gearhart and Bob Skodzinsky of Haas Technical Education Center Network were the primary sources for a tremendous three-page feature article entitled “Student Journey: From SkillsUSA to WorldSkills”printed in the March 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering published by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. The article really ties together the need for skilled workers, SkillsUSA, the Championships and the WorldTeam.
During the first week of April, we signed an agreement to coordinate where we can with Rebuilding Together (formerly known as “Christmas in April”), an organization dedicated to renovating homes owned by the poor and elderly. They do 10,000 projects every year. We’ll encourage our members and partners to work with Rebuilding Together and serve on their local affiliate boards. For their part, they have several major partners and several excellent visibility opportunities every year, including the Super Bowl.
Skill Connect assessment sales are brisk. SkillsUSA University has 75 classes confirmed and eight more pending. We have a record number of President’s Volunteer Service Award winners with 122 individual awards representing 34,251 hours of service and 11 team awards totaling 19,097 service hours.
- SkillsUSA was invited to help prepare hearings for a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on April 17. The hearing will be about the skills gap and how to address it. Our staff met with committee staff on Monday, April 2, to discuss the overall agenda, suggest additional witnesses from among our partners and what SkillsUSA is doing that can add to the hearings.
- On the legislative front, staff attended the National Coordinating Council meeting for the student organizations, and according to a report from the U.S. Department of Education, Perkins is not likely to be folded in with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and reauthorization of Perkins is more likely in 2015 than next year. In a related development, we also understand that Perkins funds are protected from being folded into a workforce investment fund as originally proposed. NASCTEc worked for the change and reports that Perkins is the only program that cannot be consolidated into the unified workforce plan. And, on March 30, Representative Jim Langevin, co-chair of the bipartisan CTE Caucus presented the 2012 SkillsUSA Rhode Island Outstanding Advisor of the Year award in Cranston. That‘s great visibility for SkillsUSA.
- On March 27, we had a webinar for state association directors on the expanded curriculum and changes to the officer training seminars held during conference, formerly called State Officer 101/201 and advisor training, but now called Leverage (state officers), Activate (chapter leaders) and Engage (advisor training). Seventeen directors joined the webinar and six more have asked for a reprise. Reaction was positive. There have also been six webinars on the Skill Connect Assessments focusing on general administration of the tests and on building student success with the assessments. And, staff reports that four states are using the assessments as part of their state competitions.
- We have 46 applications in for the SkillsUSA WorldTeam. The interview and selection process will begin soon. We also got the good news that Festo will sponsor our 2013 Mechatronics Team.
- Staff reports that the March 23 Chapter Management Institute held here at the national center was attended by 22 teachers from Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
- And, finally, the succession plan approved by the board last year has been reviewed by a local consultant sent our way by Tim Zilke of ASE. The consultant commended the plan overall and had some suggestions that we’ll implement soon.
- 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.