- We can hit the membership gong! We have surpassed last year’s membership total. As of yesterday, membership is 302,720. That’s 1,337 ahead of last year and some memberships are still coming into the office. Twenty-six state associations have now exceeded last year’s totals. The most recent is Wisconsin Postsecondary Division, Dale Drees, state association director.
- The Louisiana Community and Technical College System (CTCS) has appointed a state association director, Jawan Ross, and is moving forward to reinstitute the SkillsUSA Louisiana College/Postsecondary Association. The association has been dormant for a year. Jawan was here in the national office on March 16 for some condensed and intense state director training. SkillsUSA welcomes Louisiana postsecondary back, and we’re pleased to hear the LCTCS director is talking about growing the association next year.
- State conferences are underway. The SkillsUSA Georgia conference was a webcast over two days. Representative Jim Langevin, co-chair of the CTE Caucus spoke during the Rhode Island conference. Among his remarks to the students: “SkillsUSA students are the future innovators and job creators for our country.” That’s a nice message to carry. Staff will be visiting 20 state spring conferences.
- On March 5, Bob Daly, senior vice president of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. stopped by the national office for a visit and to discuss opportunities to grow our partnership. Bob is also looking into ways Toyota and Toyota dealers can help support the CTSOs in California.
- On March 6, I was part of a panel discussion during the ACTE Policy and Planning Seminar in Washington. The topic was Measuring Career Readiness Skills: Existing Practice, New Developments and the Challenges That Remain. The concern is finding or developing assessments that are more “career ready” inclusive. Of course, I was able to say during my remarks that SkillsUSA has been teaching and assessing employability skills since 1965 and I spoke about the Skill Connect Assessments and the Professional Development Program. My presentation was well received. Johan Uvin, deputy assistant secretary of OVAE gave a presentation entitled “Perkins Act Preview: Obama Administration.” Uvin said the administration wants to “further improve CTE.” The focus seems to still be on improving postsecondary degree attainment with “at least one year of postsecondary education.” He went on to say OVAE has developed a blueprint for reform, but hasn’t released it yet and that the administration has chosen 2013 for Perkins reauthorization. There will be three major statutory reforms: strengthen alignment of high schools, postsecondary and employers; better accountability systems; and, competitive funding to promote innovation and state reform. Questions from the audience were direct and tough on all three areas, particularly on the competitive funding and Uvin’s assertion that CTE didn’t have data to back up its claims of success.
- I was the keynote speaker at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College/Caper Educator Institute’s “Education Challenge: Career and College Readiness” forum in Henrico, Virginia on March 14. My topic was “Schools Excel Through Student Leadership: Encourage, Promote and Prepare Student Leaders.” There were 210 administrators in attendance, and there was discussion about what it means to be career and college ready. I guess the speech went over well. I gave away all of my business cards.
- We secured a Google Grant for advertising on the Google website. When certain keywords are searched, our ads will appear at the top and in the column on the right of the page. The ads started running on a March 13, and by March 14, SkillsUSA had already received 40,000 impressions.
- And, I attended two outstanding state conferences in the past two weeks – Texas high school and Arizona. More details on these and others next time.
- On February 28, SkillsUSA appeared on Capitol Hill for a congressional event entitled “Beyond the Farm: Integrating Agriculture, STEM and CTE in the 21st Century.” The event was hosted by the Congressional CTE Caucus, ACTE, NASDCTEc and the Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs). SkillsUSA was represented by landscaping student, Elizabeth Shrive, and advisor, Diane Ogg Herndon, from Frederick, Md. Liz’s presentation was on testing soil pH levels and she spoke a lot to the congressional aides about what CTE means to her. Four other CTSOs exhibited as well.
- Planning is underway for the Youth Development Foundation Committee’s Washington, D.C. visits in April. Our YDF delegates will have some attention-getting statistics to put before the congressional offices, thanks to some research recently done here at the office.
Yesterday, we had the great opportunity to attend President Obama’s address about American Energy at the Daimler Truck plant in Mt. Holly, N.C. Two students were in attendance with us along with SkillsUSA North Carolina officials and Joan Higginbotham from Lowe’s and Bill Willett from Snap-on.
Both the students actually met President Obama, shook his hand and got to say a few words. Chance Litwin, our student president for the college division, thanked the President for his support of community colleges and SkillsUSA. Chance attends Gadsden State Community College in Gadsden, Ala. Lance Atkinson, our state president in North Carolina, also met Obama and was able to thank him. Peyton Holland, our alumni liaison and college director in N.C., also got to shake the President’s hand. It was a good day!
Special thanks to the American Association of Community Colleges for arranging the invitation for SkillsUSA.
We just finished CTE Month and we had a lot going on here at SkillsUSA. That includes social media activity during SkillsUSA Week, a new board member, a new staff member and a shout out from the Assistant Secretary of Labor. So, here are some of the highlights during this shortest month of the year.
- As part of our SkillsUSA Week celebration, February 6-10, we experimented using advertising on Facebook by posting the SkillsUSA public service announcement (PSA) featuring alumna and NASCAR reporter, Wendy Venturini. The ad ran from February 9-12. The campaign reached over 420,000 unique viewers and yielded nearly one million impressions. To view the PSA, go to: www.skillsusa.org/educators/psa.shtml and scroll down to the video window of Wendy. We used the 60-second version.
- Also during SkillsUSA Week, we heard about lots of activity from around the country as our chapters and state associations were engaged in advocacy and service activities. We were happy to have approximately 100 attendees on our SkillsUSA Week webinar on Tuesday, February 7 and pleased by the special guests, Russ Hoffbauer, both student national presidents and one of our business partners, former board member (and SkillsUSA alumnus), John Hinesley, who gave the keynote speech.
- I’m pleased to announce that Lowe’s Senior Vice President, Troy Dally, will be joining the board of directors. And, last week, I had my first phone conversation with the new Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation director, and she sounded excited about the partnership with SkillsUSA.
- Chance Litwin, this year’s SkillsUSA college/postsecondary national student president has been invited to attend the 2012 Building a Grad Nation Summit in Washington, D.C., March 18-21. The annual event brings together community groups, educators, local and state leaders, nonprofit organizations, businesses and youth to discuss efforts to increase high school graduation rates. The Summit is expected to draw 1,000 people including General Colin Powell and U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Chance was chosen from over 200 student applicants. State Farm is a Premier Sponsor for the Summit.
- On February 21, Christen Battaglia joined the Office of Business Partnerships and Development to help with our fundraising. We’re very glad to have her with us and know you’ll give her a hearty welcome when you meet her.
- Here is the latest on SkillsUSA membership. Remember, tomorrow (March 1), is the deadline for not only competitors, but officer candidates and delegates as well. We have 296,490 members entered now and more states have surpassed their total membership last year. Congratulations to the following state associations for exceeding last year’s overall membership. They are California, Clay Mitchell; Connecticut, Heidi Balch; Hawaii, Gilbert Chun; Maryland, Chuck Wallace; Massachusetts, Karen Ward; Mississippi, Andy Sims; New Hampshire, Lynda Demers; New Jersey, Pete Carey; New York high school division, Bruce Potter; Oklahoma, Darren Gibson; Pennsylvania, Jeri Widdowson; Rhode Island, Josh Klemp; Virginia, Ed Sullivan; and, West Virginia, Paul Lovett. And, a reminder that professional membership and alumni memberships count, so if you have staff, board members, corporate members or others (including yourself), be sure and submit them today. Individuals who are industry partners and other friends not affiliated with a local chapter can join online at the following link: www.skills-register.org/rpts/JoinAsProfessional.aspx.
- SkillsUSA Champions magazine won a silver award this year in the Association Trends All-Media Contest. Among the judge’s comments: “This submitted issue lives up to the mission statement with excellent and focused content and clean and easy-to-read design elements. This organization has a strong Web presence and a digital version to further enhance its commitment to members.” Congratulations to Tom Hall and the Office of Publications. If you would like to see the winners gallery (including honors to past SkillsUSA publications), please visit: www.associationtrends.com/gallery/?cat=261.
- Mike Cowles was in Washington on February 7 as part of a delegation from Columbus, Ohio to visit the White House to discuss metro economic revitalization and job creation and how the city can work with small and large businesses to do it. This was one of 40 similar meetings planned by the White House. The delegation included the mayor of Columbus. Mike joined them because of the role of career and technical education in economic development and education. He told me that at one point during the meeting he started to talk about SkillsUSA, and Assistant Secretary of Labor Jane Oates said to the entire delegation: “SkillsUSA is a great organization. If you’re not involved with it already, you need to be.”
- We’re putting the final touches on a rigorous selection process for SkillsUSA WorldTeam and we’ll be keeping our state association directors informed right up front on the process and the candidates. We’ve also restructured the management team. I will be serving as the official delegate. Scott Norman from Pittsburg, Kan., is our technical expert. Dave Worden is our assistant technical expert and Heidi Ambrose is the team leader.
* The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) held a conference call the other day to ask the career and technical student organizations to help in the promotion and participation in the administration’s National Education Startup Challenge, an entrepreneurial look at education. SkillsUSA is happy to help. While on the subject of OVAE, President Obama’s 2013 budget flat-funds Perkins at $1.13 billion. One of the three key themes in the budget is “Jobs: aligning job training and education programs with workforce demands.”
* Sales of the Skill Connect Assessments are double what they were last year at this time and sales of ASE automotive assessments – in which SkillsUSA shares – are also way ahead of last year. We’ve been very fortunate to have an assessment expert helping us review the Skill Connect system, providing significant advice on how and where we can make improvements to the system and helping to develop a tool to show teachers the weighting of competencies in the tests. That will be a big help to teachers to prepare their students.
* Finally, there were 700 entries in the National Leadership and Skills Conference (NLSC) pin and T-shirt design contest. That’s pretty neat. And, we held our first NLSC staff meeting on Valentine’s Day.
The U.S. Department of Education is launching the National Education Startup Challenge. They are inviting students to develop an innovative solution to an education problem and design a blueprint for a new company or organization – a startup – to deliver that solution.
Students from across the country are invited to submit a business plan and a video pitch for a for-profit or non-profit startup that includes an innovative strategy, product or service designed to address one of these four topics:
- Middle Grades Matter
Helping middle school students transition to high school and stay on track to graduate.
- Skills, Skills, Skills
Providing students in rural, urban, and/or high-poverty communities with opportunities for internships or other work- and community-based learning experiences that help them develop skills for success in postsecondary education, 21st century careers, and civic life.
- Education Pays
Making it easier for students and families to find and select high-quality, affordable postsecondary programs – whether colleges, universities, or career training programs – that provide good value.
- Finishing Faster
Increasing the likelihood that postsecondary students complete their degrees, and decreasing the time it takes them to finish, such as by improving and speeding up remedial education.
Submissions will be judged by a panel of prominent educators and entrepreneurs who will identify the top startup submissions in three categories:
- 6th – 8th grade students
- 9th – 12th grade students
- Undergraduate/ postsecondary students
Complete guidelines and entry information can be found here: http://nesc.challenge.gov.
- Membership continues to run ahead of last year. We have 269,915 members entered now. That’s 715 more than this date last year. More states have surpassed their total membership last year. Congratulations to the following state associations for exceeding last year’s overall membership. They are California, Clay Mitchell; Connecticut, Heidi Balch; Hawaii, Gilbert Chun; Massachusetts, Karen Ward; Mississippi, Andy Sims; New Jersey, Pete Carey; New York high school division, Bruce Potter; Oklahoma, Darren Gibson; Pennsylvania, Jeri Widdowson; Rhode Island, Josh Klemp; and, Virginia, David Rathbone. And, a reminder that professional membership and alumni memberships also count. Individuals such as yourself, industry partners and other friends not affiliated with a local chapter can join, too, online at the following link: www.skills-register.org/rpts/JoinAsProfessional.aspx
- On January 21, I was in Henderson, Nev., at a brand new state-of-the art technical center to do strategic planning with the Nevada board of directors and Mike Pointer. They put together a two-year plan and a copy has gone to Mike Raponi, past SkillsUSA state association director and now state CTE director.
- I recently met with Tim Zilke, CEO of ASE. Mr. Zilke invited in the local expert on nonprofit management and human resource management ASE uses and he’s agreed to review our SkillsUSA succession plan.
We were proud to have 47 students and nine teachers here at the SkillsUSA National Leadership Center for the annual Ohio Regional Officer Training Institute (ROTI) from January 17-19. This is Ohio’s version of the Washington Leadership Training Institute with lots of leadership training and two visits to Washington, D.C. including the Smithsonian museums, the Holocaust Museum and the Martin Luther King Memorial (on Martin Luther King Day). The keynote speaker flew into Leesburg airport by helicopter. He is Toby Andrews, the 2001 Ohio state student president and now a captain and helicopter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. He came to tell the students how this same event changed his life a decade ago.
On Wednesday, January 18, the students and teachers began their day at Arlington National Cemetery for a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns. After lunch, delegations went to the Hill to meet with 10 of their representatives and both senators from Ohio. Three of the representatives are members of the House CTE Caucus and the students reported that most of the offices they visited support the Perkins Act. For the majority of the students, this was their first visit to the Capitol.
The ROTI wrapped up on Thursday, including a meeting with the Maryland state officers at the Frederick CTE Center. Congratulations go to Mike Cowles for a great event and thanks to SkillsUSA staffers for coordination and training. Check out some of the photos here.
And, as further proof of SkillsUSA advocacy, Gayle Silvey, state association director of Georgia wrote to report that on January 17, Governor Nathan Deal launched the “Go Build Georgia Campaign” at a press conference in the Georgia Capitol Rotunda promoting construction skilled trades in the state. There were nearly 300 business and industry representatives, legislators and education officials present. Also on hand were several SkillsUSA student officers and student members demonstrating their skills in carpentry, plumbing, masonry and electrical trades right on the floor of the Rotunda. The governor and First Lady of Georgia, Sandra Deal, met with the officers and toured the demonstrations. The students also met State Senator Jason Carter – grandson of President Jimmy Carter – who told them he believes in CTE and that “it is a source of motivation for students to pursue their dreams and follow their passions in life.” Congratulations go to Gayle as well. Photos of the event (although not of the demonstrations) can be seen at: http://photos.gov.georgia.gov/GovernorNathanDeal/January-2012/11712-Go-Build-Georgia-Press/21071439_fggtcM#!i=1675665969&k=43H5xVk
- Membership continues to run ahead of last year at 241,522. That’s 1,130 more than this date last year. Congratulations to the following state associations for exceeding last year’s overall membership. They are California, Clay Mitchell; Connecticut, Heidi Balch; Massachusetts, Karen Ward; New Jersey, Pete Carey; Pennsylvania, Jeri Widdowson; Rhode Island, Josh Klemp; and, Virginia – David Rathbone. Professional membership and alumni membership counts. Individuals such as industry partners and other friends not affiliated with a local chapter can join too online at the following link: www.skills-register.org/rpts/JoinAsProfessional.aspx.
- On January 18th, I met with the National Coordinating Council of Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO) in Reston, Va. The highlight was to welcome a new representative from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), Robin Utz. Robin is the chief of the College and Career Transitions Branch at OVAE and formerly served as assistant director of the Career, Standards and Assessment Services team at the Kansas State Department of Education. She’s very supportive of student organizations, having been both an FFA and FCLA advisor herself, and she gets the “big thumbs up” from Ann Wick, our Kansas state association director. In other news, a majority of the organizations reported that they’re having good membership numbers and conference attendance. The Association for Career and Technical Education and the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education consortium talked about the common core education standards developed by the National Governors Association and a roll out of curriculum addressing the standards during the Career Cluster Institute in June.
- We held a staff WorldSkills meeting on January 13 to plan SkillsUSA WorldTeam participation in Leipzig, Germany in 2013. A new management team has been identified and we have a lot of work to do for team selection, trials, training and fundraising. WorldSkills International has been notified of our new structure.
- I recently returned from Nevada where I assisted with strategic planning with the SkillsUSA Nevada board of directors and attended the State Directors’ Association Executive Committee meeting. More on that next time.
CTE Month and SkillsUSA Week, February 5 – 11 are coming up. The news stories are already coming in. I’m seeing stories about school open houses, community service events conducted by our chapters like Fairfield Career Center in Ohio working to help homeless teenagers and examples of how CTE and SkillsUSA change lives.
Of course, CTE is even more than that. It keeps students in school. Ninety percent of CTE concentrators graduate from high school. That’s in comparison to the average national freshman graduation rate of 74.9 percent.
And, those students are preparing for the careers America desperately needs.
During his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday, President Obama spoke of the need for training and the need for education. I hope federal and state policymakers wake up to the fact they’ve got the answer on their doorstep. It’s called CTE. It needs their support through the Perkins Act and appropriations in Washington and in statehouses across this country.
CTE Month and SkillsUSA Week are great opportunities to tell your community and policymakers that CTE is learning that works for America. I’ll be sending more on that soon. Happy CTE Month.
I attended the National Coordinating Council of Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO) meeting on November 9. The big topic of discussion was the request from the administration to involve CTSOs in an entrepreneurship in education event next summer. President Obama has declared November “National Entrepreneurship Month,” but the intent is to do much more in the months ahead to promote innovation and business under an initiative called “Startup America.”
As I understand it, every federal agency will be asked to undertake some kind of activity on a Startup Weekend. The U.S. Department of Education wants the CTSOs – which are already holding entrepreneurship contests – to work together with Junior Achievement and possibly two other youth organizations to solve an education issue.
In addition, we held a lengthy discussion on gathering data from all of the CTSOs so we can begin to aggregate the investment and impact of the student organizations.