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YDF Takes to the Hill

May 15th, 2012

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.

 

Highlights

May 1st, 2012

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.

Highlights

April 15th, 2012
  • 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.

Highlights

March 31st, 2012
  • 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.

Highlights

March 14th, 2012
  • 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.

SkillsUSA at Presidential Address

March 8th, 2012

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.

Obama Speech

President Obama speaks at the Daimler Truck plant.

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!

SkillsUSA group

From L-R: Glenn Barefoot, Chance Litwin, Joan Higginbotham, Lance Atkinson, Peyton Holland, Bill Willett and Tim Lawrence.

Special thanks to the American Association of Community Colleges for arranging the invitation for SkillsUSA.

CTE Month and Highlights

March 1st, 2012

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.

National Education Startup Challenge

February 21st, 2012

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:

  1. Middle Grades Matter
    Helping middle school students transition to high school and stay on track to graduate.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Highlights

February 15th, 2012
  • 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.

Students Deliver Their Messages to Policymakers

February 1st, 2012

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


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