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Executive Director’s Report: April 15, 2014

April 15th, 2014

Recent Board of Directors’ Meeting
The Board of Directors’ meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, March 12-13, went very well. A big thank you goes to Board President James King and Tennessee State Association Director Chelle Travis for their wonderful hospitality, great meals, transportation and meeting space at the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology-Nashville (TCAT).

We were very pleased that so many dignitaries from Tennessee state government and education attended the board kick-off dinner. Nissan sponsored the dinner and attendees included Nissan Technical Training Manager Kevin Smith; Chris Tesmer, IRWIN Industrial Tools; Chancellor John Morgan, Vice Chancellor James King, Carol Puryear and Lynn Goodman from the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR); TBR Board Members Danni Varlan and Emily Reynolds; SkillsUSA National Officers (past and present) Tony Hamblin, Jeremy Ballentine and Gildor Simplice; Representative Harry Brooks (House Education Committee Chair) and Senator Jim Tracy (Senate Education Committee Chair); Tennessee State Association Directors Brandon Hudson (high school division) and Chelle Travis (college/postsecondary division); TCAT Nashville Director Mark Lenz; and, Dr. Chip Harris from Tennessee State University’s Center for Career and Technical Education.

Modex Show
On March 18-19, I attended the Modex Show at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. I was asked by the Materials Handling Institute (MHI) to speak during the career and technical education track of the Modex Show. I provided a keynote presentation on the future skilled workforce and how SkillsUSA is a partial solution to the skills gap being experienced by this industry and many others. The show focused on transportation, distribution and logistics occupations. Other speakers were from both the companies that distribute goods (Target, Walmart, Staples, etc.) and those that build the automated equipment to move goods from manufacturing to warehousing to distribution. The entire show floor was an array of automated warehousing and distribution systems, and it demonstrated how high tech this industry has become. My track included several hundred students and teachers who were involved in the transportation, distribution and logistics education cluster.

SkillsUSA Foundation, Inc. Meeting
The SkillsUSA Foundation met in Louisville, March 25-26, and Dave Worden, Carol Lowery, Kelly Persons and I attended. The meeting was hosted by Snap-on Incorporated and Challenger Lifts. Special thanks to long-time Snap-on friends, Alicia Smales and Greg Rintala who filled in for Alicia during this meeting.

After a full-day meeting on Tuesday, March 25th, Foundation members reconvened on Tuesday, March 26th to walk the exhibit floor at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC) and help our Business Partnerships and Development (BPD) team kick off the new, volunteer-led, SkillsUSA-Louisville Advisory Council. The Council is made up of a core group of local business, industry and education leaders from Kentucky and Indiana who will help steward the growing partnership between Louisville and SkillsUSA. The purpose of the Council is to help raise local funding, build awareness and secure in-kind materials and volunteers for the 51st – 56th annual National Leadership and Skills Conferences (NLSC) to be held in Louisville.

In addition, Tim, Dave and Kelly toured the Sullivan College of Technology and Design and met with Michael Covington, HVACR Technology Department chair. Three representatives from Sullivan College joined us during the Circle of Champions Breakfast in January and were excited to talk further about how Sullivan instructors, alumni and students might support NLSC as volunteer judges and technical committee members.

More Travel
From Louisville, I flew to Rhode Island to participate and speak at the SkillsUSA Rhode Island State Leadership and Skills Conference Awards Ceremony. Josh Klemp reported a record number of more than 1,800 students, educators and parents attending. And, there were some very special guests in attendance. Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, State Education Board Chair Eva Mancuso and Deputy Education Commissioner David Talbott all spoke to the group and all were very supportive of the SkillsUSA program in Rhode Island. I was privileged to spend time with all three of them and with State CTE Director Vanessa Cooley. It was also great to see several alumni assisting with the event. Gianna Velino (Region I vice president, 2009-10) had a key role in producing the event and Sheila Vasquez (Region I vice president, 2005-06) delivered the keynote. As a national officer and a culinary student, Sheila had received a full tuition scholarship to Johnson & Wales University where she earned her BS degree. She just completed law school at Florida A&M University and will begin work within the next few weeks as prosecuting attorney in Miami-Dade County. She attributes her success to the love of service she acquired through SkillsUSA. With more than 6,000 members, SkillsUSA is the largest student organization in Rhode Island. Congratulations to State Association Director Josh Klemp and his team for an outstanding celebration for our students in Rhode Island.

We have also received word of top-level government officials attending other state conferences. The Governor will be attending the Illinois conference and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction will be attending the California conference.

On Thursday, March 27, I drove to Boston to meet with the SkillsUSA Massachusetts Board of Directors to assist them with strategic planning and financial strategy.

And, on Friday, March 28, Massachusetts State Association Director Karen Ward arranged visits for me and two executives from Dassault Systems to see two of her local SkillsUSA chapters using best practice examples of employability skills integration into STEM education classrooms. The experience provided a good snapshot into how our CTE schools teach STEM and integrate life skills training into the school day through SkillsUSA curriculum and chapter activities. More on these visits next time.

WorldSkills Americas Competition
The WorldSkills Americas Competition concluded on April 5 and the U.S. team has returned from Bogotá, Colombia with two silver medals and a “Best in Nation.” Jake Wozniak (N.Y.) won a silver medal in cabinetmaking and Mike Mullen (Calif.) won a Silver medal in automobile technology and also earned a “Best in Nation” award. There are some great photos on our website at: www.skillsusa.org/compete/worldskillsamerica.shtml.

Highlights

  • On March 15, Kelly Horton and Carol Lowery attended a STEM conference hosted by Universal Technical Institute (UTI) in California. The objectives of the conference were to showcase STEM in automotive and diesel curriculums and to illustrate to teachers how to become intentional about marketing their CTE program as an integrated STEM classroom. Teachers from California, Montana, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming attended.
  • UTI will be hosting an “invitation only” event for teachers from across the country at NLSC with the same objectives as above. Plus, SkillsUSA facilitators will illustrate how to integrate SkillsUSA into their CTE classroom using the STEM model showcased in the workshop.
  • Christen Battaglia was in Washington, D.C. on March 18, meeting with HP LIFE (Hewlett Packard) and the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE). HP LIFE gives entrepreneurs the skills and IT knowledge they need to manage, build and grow successful small businesses.
  • The 2014-15 school year will feature two distinctly separate Membership Kits. One kit will be specific to high school needs and will include resources that a teacher working in a traditional 9th -12th grade environment or a career center will find useful. And, a college/postsecondary kit is being created in direct response to the action plans that were developed by the College/Postsecondary Task Force this past fall. This kit will contain resources and materials that are unique to the nature of a technical or community college. We anticipate that by working to better meet the needs of these two customer markets, they in turn will be able to reach, recruit and engage more members in their chapters.
  • During the recent board of directors meeting in Nashville, Tenn. the board voted to approve the SkillsUSA Middle School Constitution. This move allows the national staff to begin to structure and organize the middle school chapters that are already in existence throughout the nation. Currently, 10 states are serving the middle school market, and this latest advancement will allow the formalization of chapters and the ability for national staff to quantify and serve this membership. Resources and materials for this market will be developed as funding allows.

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

Executive Director’s Report: April 1, 2014

April 1st, 2014

Connecting STEM, Manufacturing and Technician Service
On March 7, I spent the day with our good friends at STEMconnector in Washington DC. The day-long meeting was held at KPMG, just blocks from The White House. STEMconnector continues to gain momentum and build powerful connections with top leaders from business, government and education. Just two days prior, the organization held an event for Women in STEM at the U.S. Capitol, and it was attended by 67 Congressmen, Congresswomen and Senators. Edie Fraser, STEMconnector CEO, absolutely loves SkillsUSA, and she made sure I had a speaking opportunity and was able to inform the 200-member organization about SkillsUSA. We also agreed to host a meeting of STEMconnector at the 2015 NLSC. STEMconnector has published a book “Top 100 CEOs in STEM” and has now published the “Top 100 Women in STEM.” It is a very young organization, but it has become very powerful within corporate America in a short period of time. I am excited that SkillsUSA is a partner, and we are in the middle of the conversation.

Another result of the meetings with STEMconnector has been a connection with their “Life Skills Committee.” Al Bundshaft from Dassault Systems (USA headquarters in Waltham, Massachusetts) leads this committee, and they are seeking best practices in integrating life skills (what we call employability skills) into STEM education classrooms. Al and I connected and the Dassault team, met with Karen Ward, state association director from Massachusetts and me, and we visited SkillsUSA Chapters last week in the Boston area. Our PDP and leadership program is heavily integrated in these schools, and I know they came away with a solid knowledge of how our program and curriculum fits the bill as one of the best practices they were searching for.

On March 8, National High School Vice President Laura Gouillon from California joined me in Peoria, Illinois for a whirlwind round of presentations to a variety of manufacturing and community groups. SkillsUSA Foundation member and former Board president Cameron Ferguson of Caterpillar arranged for the visit, and it was a great opportunity to inform a very diverse group of organizations about SkillsUSA. On Sunday, Laura and I spoke to the Osher Institute of Lifelong Learning (OLLI) at a gathering at Bradley University. OLLI is made up of retired executives from area business and industry, and community organizations are very supportive of the group. I provided a 20-minute overview of SkillsUSA from a national perspective, and Laura delivered an incredible presentation about her experience in “SkillsUSA, STEM and CTE.” Laura used powerful examples of how her academics have been enhanced through real-world learning and how SkillsUSA has helped her grow to the point where she now has aspirations of becoming an electrical engineer. She has applied to several top universities and has already been accepted at USC with a full-tuition scholarship. She is a great example of a SkillsUSA leader and a wonderful role model for youth.

On Monday, we had a full day with several groups at CAT. We spoke first with the global dealer support group, providing some of the same information from the previous day’s presentation. We then had a great meeting with all the CAT volunteers from the Peoria corporate offices who support SkillsUSA at the national and state levels. Our next stop was at the CAT Visitors Center where we spoke to the Specialized Manufacturing Group and several area school administrators and teachers, including the Chairman of the Peoria District 150 School Board. This was a 90-minute presentation with several questions and lots of interaction. We also had the advisor and several student leaders from our college chapter at Illinois Central College participate in the meetings. Following lunch, we traveled to another CAT facility and had a one-on-one conversation with Gwenne Henricks, CAT’s Vice President of Product Development and Global Technology. Gwenne is also CAT’s Chief Technology Officer and an electrical engineer, so she and Laura had a great conversation.

We then traveled to Illinois Central College in East Peoria where we met the SkillsUSA chapter officers and toured the campus, including the CAT “Think Big” dealer technician training program. It’s always great to see our students in action, especially when one of our key partners is supporting the school in a “Big” way. And, finally, Cameron made sure that Laura had a chance to experience the “Big Iron” as we ended our visit at the CAT equipment demonstration and training center. Laura got to see and climb aboard some of CAT’s large trucks and loaders. She was very excited to get an up close and personal view of what heavy equipment looks like. What a thrill for any teenager! You can see some of the photos of this experience on our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153892007000591.1073741901.22208255590&type=1.

A BIG thank you goes out to Cameron Ferguson and the CAT team for such a great opportunity and experience for both one of our student leaders and for me personally!

Applying Skills Internationally in Pursuit of Access to Clean Water
The Business Partnerships and Development office is working on a project for SkillsUSA to collaborate with the World Plumbing Council to field a multi-disciplined team of three students (plumbers and engineers under the age of 26) to compete at the Water Innovation Challenge in Singapore, June 3 – 5, 2014. The theme of this pilot competition sponsored by WorldSkills Foundation is “new water–ways in which to create and control water supplies in specific international community environments.”

Teams will participate in a series of hands-on design challenges and practical tasks. The competition will take place over three days as the teams develop a series of real and innovative solutions for emerging water and sanitation problems in two developing countries: Nepal and Bangladesh.

The challenge’s impact on developing countries looks promising. Design toolkits created by winning teams during the competition will be made available to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international development organizations to support innovative individual plumbing and sanitation development projects around the world.

 

We look forward to keeping you informed as SkillsUSA college/postsecondary students are confirmed and prepare for the challenge.

Record-setting Membership Year
SkillsUSA is enjoying a record-setting membership year with 309,590 members to date. This number represents the highest level of paid membership in the organization’s history as well as the largest growth in membership since school year 2007-2008. A great deal of work has been completed over the past several years by the entire staff, and the organization as a whole that has lead to this substantial increase in membership over previous years. We believe this record-setting membership year can be attributed to working hard to understand our customers and meet their needs. We have provided a new and improved membership kit, a new hotline dedicated to answer membership questions, membership registration site enhancements, new educational resources, state association director workshops and new advisor toolkits. The following chart shows members served since 2005:

Membership Chart

 

College/Postsecondary Reach on the Rise
The College/Postsecondary Task Force met last November and the action plans developed at that time are now being put into motion. SkillsUSA’s new business partner, CBC, is organizing, filming and producing a video and poster series that will help to raise awareness in the college/postsecondary target market. The theme of the series is how SkillsUSA has been instrumental in preparing members to get jobs, a better job or to make more money. The video production will take place in Nashville, Tennessee the first week of May. Alumni members from the Tennessee college/postsecondary division have stepped up to participate. Several business partners will also be lending their voices to the cause and will appear on camera in support of hiring SkillsUSA members. Special thanks go to CBC for sharing their talents and expertise and to James King, SkillsUSA Board President and Vice Chancellor for the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT) and Chelle Travis, SkillsUSA Tennessee college/postsecondary State Director, for committing their time and energies to this project.

Highlights

  • Air Products has agreed to sponsor the 100% Advisor Session during conference.
  • The updated What is SkillsUSA? video, has been completed and is being duplicated. It will be a sales item.
  • Niki Clausen and Heidi Walsh recently returned from Kansas City where they met with the national officers to practice for the NLSC.

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

Executive Director’s Report: February 15, 2014

February 15th, 2014

Happy CTE Month and SkillsUSA Week!  As we celebrate the outstanding work of CTE educators and programs nationwide this month, it’s great to recognize our SkillsUSA state associations that are growing participation and opportunity for students and teachers through outstanding membership recruitment efforts.  As we all know, CTE and CTSOs change lives for the better, and we are very proud of all the great work that is being done to lift up our students.  Special congratulations to the following state association leaders:

  • Arizona, Carrie Wolf, State Association Director
  • California, Clay Mitchell, State Association Director
  • Connecticut,  Heidi Balch, State Association Director
  • District of Columbia, Ed Roebuck, State Association Director
  • Indiana, Kelley Baker, State Association Director
  • Kansas, Becky Warren, State Association Director
  • Maine, Hal Casey and Rick Thomas, State Association Directors
  • Maryland, Charles Wallace, State Association Director
  • Mississippi, Andy Sims, State Association Director
  • New Hampshire, Kate Krumm, State Association Director
  • Oklahoma, Darren Gibson, State Association Director
  • Pennsylvania, Jeri Widdowson, State Association Director
  • Rhode Island, Josh Klemp, State Association Director
  • Texas, Janet Conner, State Association Director, High School Division

As of today, February 12, we have 275,089 members on the books and that’s approximately 8,000 ahead of the same day last year. We are trending well and are optimistic the push forward will continue through the new year.

Lowe’s Meeting

On January 24, I traveled to Charlotte, N.C. and met with Lowe’s executives, Board Member Troy Dally, Mike Horn, Vice President, Commercial Sales and Tom Donoghue, Community Relations Manager. I shared some of the results of our FY13 Lowe’s Schools in Need Grant Program and an impressive video presentation put together by grant recipient schools, Carol Lowery and Tom Kercheval from staff. The video shows the impact of how Lowe’s grant dollars were spent in those schools and students and teachers thanking Lowe’s for the opportunity. I had some great meetings with Troy regarding both the altruistic connection Lowe’s has to SkillsUSA, as well as how we can enhance our visibility of SkillsUSA graduates who go on to be professionals in the construction industry. It was really great to spend quality time with Tom and review some of the history of our partnership as well as discuss the future. We’re hopeful Lowe’s support will continue for many years to come.

Louisville “Circle of Champions” Breakfast

On January 16th, SkillsUSA, in cooperation with Greater Louisville, Inc. (GLI) and the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau, held a breakfast for members of the local business community at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. About 200 attended and all of the seats were taken. Students from local CTE schools demonstrated their skills as attendees entered the building, including robotics, culinary arts, cosmetology, automotive, diesel, masonry and others. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer gave a powerful presentation welcoming SkillsUSA to the city and national officer Crystal Sandoval was the master of ceremonies and did a great job. Other presenters included the vice president of GLI, Dr. Dale Winkler from the Kentucky Department of Education, and board member Laurie Hackett from Air Products. All did a great job, and the breakfast was a huge success. The business community showed a lot of great enthusiasm for SkillsUSA’s national conference coming to Louisville. We are confident this event is the beginning of a strong and fruitful relationship with the Louisville, Kentucky community.



Youth Voices with CTSO National Officers

Daria Ferdine, national high school treasurer from New Jersey, has been selected to represent SkillsUSA at the U.S. Department of Education meeting with Secretary Arne Duncan on February 18. Students from each career and technical student organization (CTSO) will share activities with Secretary Duncan. The event will be held in the Secretary’s conference room, and the conversation will focus on how the CTSO’s are helping to advance some of the Department of Education’s key priorities (e.g., college and career readiness, STEM, technology, higher education access, great teachers and leaders, etc.). The students will also have an opportunity to share recommendations with the Secretary about how to improve CTE and the education system, in general. We are confident that Daria will do a great job representing SkillsUSA.

Partnership with Million Women Mentors (MWM)

SkillsUSA has formed a strategic partnership with Million Women Mentors, an initiative of STEMconnector, the national organization that works closely with corporations and thousands of entities to assist in STEM best practices and smart STEM investments.

This is an engagement campaign and national call to action that mobilizes corporations, government entities, nonprofit and higher education groups, around the imperative of mentoring girls and young women in STEM fields. MWM will support the engagement of one million science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) mentors (male and female) to increase the interest and confidence of girls and young women to persist and succeed in STEM programs and careers.

Women comprise nearly half of the U.S. workforce, yet just 24 percent of the STEM workforce. However, the good news is that women in STEM careers earn 92 cents for every dollar male STEM counterparts earn versus 75 cents in other fields. What’s more, 80 percent of the fastest growing occupations in the United States depend on mastery of mathematics and scientific knowledge and skills. 

SkillsUSA invites its business and industry partners and its member educators to sign on as a mentor of a girl or young woman aspiring to a future in the skilled/technical workforce. Any SkillsUSA instructor mentoring a female student(s) qualifies as a mentor. Virtually all SkillsUSA occupational programs possess important elements of STEM. In fact, 68 of our national competitions are directly related to STEM. You can sign up as an individual or you can sign up as a company or as an educational institution and enumerate your colleagues who are serving or will serve as mentors. Simply go to MWM’s website, and click on the “Pledge to Mentor” button on the lower right. 

SkillsUSA believes the Million Women Mentors initiative can be an important national asset in helping to close the “skills gap” that has become a focus of concern for nearly all of our partners.

Highlights

  • Work continues on the www.SkillsUSA.org redesign. We’ve seen initial designs for the new look of our home page and have made revisions to the design concept. The next design compositions will include the revised home page as well as three interior pages. Programming and coding for the new site begins on February 24.
  • Niki Clausen just returned from running a successful “Enhance Your Chapter” training in Sarasota where 36 educators participated.
  • Kelly Horton and Gayle Silvey ran a very successful state director webinar on January 27 to show them the enhancements to the membership system. Twenty-eight state association directors participated and follow-up comments have been very positive.
  • Heidi Walsh just returned from traveling to the American Association of Community College’s Workforce Development Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida with national officer, Dustin Cagle. It was a good visit, and she reports they received a lot of interest in SkillsUSA’s programs.
  • Patty Duncan and Lana Ford have been running a series of webinars to inform our customers about the Work Force Ready System, and they have been well attended.
  • And, last week Kelly Persons joined a morning News Talk Radio program serving listeners from Indiana and Kentucky who live and work in and around the greater Louisville metro area. She did a great job educating the listeners about SkillsUSA and the NLSC. I’ll send you a link to the archived broadcast when it becomes available.

That’s it for now. 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.

Highlights

November 27th, 2013
  • The winter issue of SkillsUSA Champions magazine is traditionally our “insider’s guide” to the national championships. Technical committee chairs are surveyed each year on what competitors need to remember and what they shouldn’t overlook. The current responses are strong, and we also will have a guest column from Gary Beach, author of The U.S. Technology Skills Gap: What Every Technology Executive Must Know to Save America’s Future, who cites SkillsUSA first in his list of model public-private partnerships. This new magazine issue will go to press at the beginning of December.
  • SkillsUSA has signed an agreement with Stratton Publishing & Marketing Inc./Stratton Research in Alexandria, Va., to conduct a strategic communications audit of our print and electronic communications to members. This member-based research will help SkillsUSA assess the appropriateness of our communication mix and make refinements to our strategies. Based on the findings, Stratton will develop a comprehensive report showing how SkillsUSA can better respond to our members’ information needs while providing timely, high-quality and valuable content.
  • The Alumni Coordinating Committee (ACC) fall planning meeting was held in Kansas City, November 1-3. Massachusetts state association director Karen Ward, representing the State Directors Association and former board and YDF member, Greg Rintala, with Snap-on, representing business and industry, were in attendance. Discussions included the new ACC structure, quality standards for state alumni association, business and industry partner involvement and an alumni pin contest to design the “50th conference pin.”
  • We are in the midst of redesigning the SkillsUSA website. We have surveyed staff, teachers, state directors and students and have a finalized project brief. We also have completed an inventory of all the content for the current website. We should have a preliminary site map soon.
  • The Office of Business Partnerships and Development (BPD) is currently working with major partners 3M, Caterpillar, Snap-on, State Farm and Toyota, among others, on their partnership details for the coming year. We are pleased to announce that Praxair has become a significant partner at the $25,000 level by providing scholarships to members in welding occupations.
  • A date for a fundraising breakfast in Louisville, Ky., “Circle of Champions” is set for Thursday, January 16, 2014. BPD will be working closely with the SkillsUSA Foundation Committee to identify ways to support this important initiative.

 

Highlights

November 14th, 2013
  • The SkillsUSA Foundation, Inc. met October 16-17 at the National Leadership Center in Leesburg. In brief, the group discussed the name change from the Youth Development Foundation to the SkillsUSA Foundation, Inc.; discussed opportunities for their involvement to obtain support for the transition to Louisville; and, discussed collaborating efforts on a SkillsUSA/Skilled Trade Awareness Month to bring greater attention to both SkillsUSA and skilled trade issues. A big thank you goes to the Foundation members for their dedication and commitment to the SkillsUSA mission. We are grateful for their service. We also look forward to working with Kaye Morgan-Curtis from Newell Rubbermaid as a new Foundation member.
  • We finished counting the number of congressional visits made by during WLTI. This year, students and advisors visited with 37 Senators, 72 Representatives and 1 Resident Commissioner, for a total of 110; and, we received excellent feedback from the visits. We also heard some nice comments from the attendees this year too, some of which include … “It was a great and awesome experience, truly transforming; All activities were definitely an experience of growth and learning; Thank you, it was a great conference!; This was my first SkillsUSA conference and it had a dynamic effect on my students. Thank you for all you do; I am an alumni and it was wonderful to see the wonderful things SkillsUSA still does for students; and, I so appreciated the opportunity to meet staff and to be able to interact with others throughout the nation.” A big thank you to the board of director members who accompanied students on their Capitol Hill visits.
  • And, on October 18, we held our annual staff outing with a lovely autumn lunch and wine tasting at a local winery. We honored years of service at the luncheon for six of our staff members: Stephanie Bland, five years; Jim Kregiel, 10 years; Jane Short and Missy Wilson, 20 years; Kim Graham, 25 years; and, Judy Garrison, 35 years. Of course, each and everyone on our staff is an amazing resource for SkillsUSA. We have such a great staff.

Highlights

October 31st, 2013
    • SkillsUSA was featured on the PBS program “American Graduate Day” and aired live nationwide on Saturday, September 28, from noon – 7 p.m. EDT. The program spotlighted 20 organizations – including SkillsUSA – that help keep students on the path to high school graduation and successful futures. Among the SkillsUSA features were SkillsUSA alumnus Chris Jimmerson and his teacher, Alice Boss, both of Ypsilanti, Mich. No surprise therefore that SkillsUSA Michigan has posted the clip. So if you missed it, see below:
    • Staff recently traveled to McDonough, Georgia to meet on upcoming new initiatives for the organization. Upcoming events include a college postsecondary task force meeting, planned for November 6-8, in Leesburg, Va. This meeting will focus on specific needs of college/postsecondary members both in recruiting and engaging students. Participants will include college/postsecondary members, national officers, advisors and state directors.
    • The Marketing and Membership Services team is establishing a strategic membership advisory committee. This new group will meet December 10-12 near Dulles Airport to focus on strategic membership initiatives that will produce large scale membership growth while ensuring sustainable membership business models. Participants will be primarily board and foundation members.
    • Staff conducted an advanced and a basic Chapter Management Institute training in Mt Sterling, Ohio, October 17-18 for 50, and another in Haines City, Florida on October 24 for 37.
    • We have finished counting the number of congressional visits made by during WLTI. This year, students and advisors visited with 37 Senators, 72 Representatives and 1 Resident Commissioner, for a total of 110, and we received excellent feedback from the visits. We also heard some nice comments from the WLTI attendees this year too: “It was a great and awesome experience, truly transforming; All activities were definitely an experience of growth and learning; Thank you, it was a great conference!; This was my first SkillsUSA conference and it had a dynamic effect on my students. Thank you for all you do; I am an alumni and it was wonderful to see the wonderful things SkillsUSA still does for students; and, I so appreciated the opportunity to meet staff and to be able to interact with others throughout the nation.”

Highlights

September 27th, 2013
  • On the advocacy front and use of social media, SkillsUSA posted an alert and a sample letter about federal funding for Perkins on our website before Labor Day. we posted an announcement on September 12 with our followers on Facebook, LinkedIn and Tumblr. On Facebook, we used the ACTE infographic on CTE Funding. As of September 26, the links had been shared 64 times and over 6,956 people have seen the post. And, we have the final numbers for government offices reached following national conference with the names of winners. We wrote to 98 U.S. Senators, 289 U.S. Representatives (that’s two-thirds of the House) and 49 governors plus one territorial governor. We’re getting replies from congressional offices, some talking about setting up school visits when they’re back in the districts.
  • A September 11 posting by David Hoey, CEO of WorldSkills International praises the work of Patrick Klarecki, our chief expert in Print Media Technology, and Bruce Kenworthy for winning the Sustainability Award during the WorldSkills competition. The Sustainability Award is a big deal at WorldSkills and we commend Pat and his technical committee for being models of how to reduce waste, reuse and recycle. For further information, go to: http://tinyurl.com/qf8es2r.
  • Staff reported that the new membership hotline that assists teachers in starting a new chapter, discovering ways to engage more members and strategies to strengthen their existing chapters, is enjoying a surge of activity. We’re currently tracking 337 teachers and will continue to provide support to these teachers in anticipation that it will lead to membership registration and a stronger chapter structure. To date, 69 percent of callers are teachers that are currently non-advisors and are learning about SkillsUSA for the first time in their quest to take the lead of an existing chapter or start a new chapter. A large number of callers, 39 percent  in fact, are starting a brand new SkillsUSA chapter.
  •  I’m happy to welcome Joe Morgan of the Kentucky Department of Education as the new chair of the SkillsUSA Championships Executive Committee. Joe will be representing education on the committee and stepping in for the always wonderful Francie Russell. Joe will serve for one year on the YDF committee.
  • On September 13, I took Mega Prize winner Mike Benton and his wife on a tour of the Capitol before we went to a Washington Nationals baseball game. The day began with a reception with all of the national staff and a tour of the national headquarters. I can say confidently that Mike and his wife had a wonderful time, thanks in part to our mega prize sponsor, N.E.W.

Highlights

September 13th, 2013
  • Marsha Daves had 26 Washington state teachers and administrators attend her Professional Development Program training session at Puget Sound Skills Center near Seattle on Saturday, August 24. The session was funded by State Farm and state director Bruce McBurney and Denny Wallace also attended.
  •  A SkillsUSA student and teacher have been selected for interviews during the nationwide PBS broadcast entitled “American Graduate Day” on Saturday, September 28. Also scheduled for the broadcast are short videos about CTE and SkillsUSA featuring John McGlade, Air Products, Glenda Bonds, an instructor at Cross Key High School in Atlanta, and Mike Rowe. For more information, go to http://americangraduate.org/grad-day.
  • We have the early results from his survey of 668 SkillsUSA Championships technical committees. He’s heard back from 157 individuals (23.5 percent) and hopes to hear back from as many as a third. Among the interesting responses he’s received (and bearing in mind they’re all preliminary): 80 percent of the respondents say they plan to transition to Louisville; when asked how well students were prepared for the contests, 48 percent said better than last year and 45 percent said the same; and, when asked if contests reflect industry expectations for contests, 45 percent strongly agree and 43 percent somewhat agree.
  • We’re starting to gear up for a new year in advocacy in Washington. Following the lead of ACTE and NASDCTEc, SkillsUSA has posted an alert and a sample letter on the SkillsUSA Advocacy Site so teachers and others can weigh in on the importance of restoring federal funding for CTE. Just visit http://www.capwiz.com/skillsusa/home/.

 

Highlights

August 29th, 2013
  • I’ve met twice with a local management consultant – and another meeting is scheduled for early in September – to discuss creation of a human resources plan. We’ll begin by conducting an analysis of SkillsUSA’s structure and processes, including staffing and staff succession, so we know we are appropriately aligned to meet the goals in Vision 2020.
  • We held a staff meeting on August 6 and the chief topic was the 2013 National Leadership and Skills Conference. Small cross-departmental teams reviewed the national conference and offered up their five best superlatives and five major challenges. Among the superlatives: excellent general sessions, particularly the quality of the speakers; good news media coverage; the registration process went well with improvements implemented during the past two years; addition of TAG Tuesday for delegates; and YDF Breakfast and Challenge Fund. We also did some brainstorming for the 50th anniversary celebration.
  • The Challenge Fund held during conference raised $140,000 from corporate and individual contributions. All monies were dedicated to the Skills Build America Campaign.
  • We’re finding SkillsUSA appearing more frequently in papers and books focusing on skill gaps and worker shortages. One of the most recent is in the book The U.S. Technology Skills Gap: What Every Technology Executive Must Know to Save America’s Future. The central thesis by author Gary Beach is that the widening “skills gap” in math and science is a threat to America’s future, and business should get involved. The very first example of a public-private partnership — in the chapter entitled “Let’s Build Some Arks” — is SkillsUSA, 1965. He wrote in the chapter: “Do your homework and learn more about CTE.” Beach called our offices last week to say “SkillsUSA was way ahead of the game.”
  • SkillsUSA will be featured in a nationwide PBS broadcast entitled “American Graduate Day” on Saturday September 28. The program is about community organizations that are successful in preventing dropouts. SkillsUSA will be both an example of a community organization and of CTE. We have been compiling stories of students who stayed in school and have gone on to greater things thanks to SkillsUSA, their instructors and others. There will be much more to tell in the coming weeks.
  • Bob Baird of the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC), chair of our Industrial Motor Control contest and long-time friend of SkillsUSA, came to visit on August 7 to discuss ways IEC and SkillsUSA can support each other at local, state and national levels. Support from IEC would include work by its chapters in training, contests, and advocacy. We also spoke of possible support from some of IEC’s corporate members. Bob expressed interest in the Professional Development Program as a curriculum for apprentices.
  • I attended a meeting between youth organizations and the Army at Ft. Myer to discuss the Army’s SAY Program (Strengthening America’s Youth) The Army involved us in a discussion of STEM education and recruiting the best youth with technical skills into the military. I suggested, and it was well received, that the Army give preference through rank and pay to students who come to them with technical and leadership credentials such as being a SkillsUSA officer or a leader in another student organization. The dialogue continued the following day when the representatives of the Army visited our office to discuss our 2014 partnership.
  • Jacob Wozniak of Springville, New York won the qualifying trial in Cabinetmaking for a spot on the 2015 SkillsUSA WorldTeam. Jacob will compete in Sao Paulo, Brazil in August 2015. He is a graduate of the Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES program and he won the 2012 high school Gold medal in Cabinetmaking. Jacob competed against Caleb Floyd, the 2012 high school Silver medalist from Kathleen, Ga. and Warner-Robins High School, and Brett Sidesinger of Topeka, Kan. and Washburn Tech, who was the highest scoring age-eligible contestant from the 2013 Cabinetmaking contest. The Cabinetmaking Qualifying Trial was conducted at the biennial AWFS Fair in late July at the Las Vegas Convention Center, thanks to the generous in-kind sponsorship of the Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Suppliers (AWFS).  WorldTeam Cabinetmaking technical expert Rob Tobias of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster, PA, served as the chief judge.
  • I recently received a note from Daniel Berrios, our 2013 WorldSkills Cabinetmaking competitor about his experience in Germany. “The WorldSkills competition was one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences I have ever had. It felt like the Olympics. The mixture of cultures, languages, and people really brought about a sense of unity and equality among all competitors. The confusion and excitement are hard to put into words, but in the end it was all about a good friendly competition; no politics nor boarders, just people doing what they love to do with a focus on winning a medal. The competition itself was intense, and the cabinet was one of the most difficult projects I had ever done, with lots of complex angles, cuts, and joints all while thousands of people watched my every move. Every cut had to be perfect and nothing less would suffice, although, I do admit I did make a few mistakes on my cabinet. But, I have no regrets on how I built my project, and if I had the opportunity again, I would do it in a heartbeat.”
  • Speaking of quotes, here’s an excerpt from an email by Judy Rambert of Pivot Point, a long-time supporter of SkillsUSA and the WorldTeam. She wrote after listening to my remarks during the recent Congressional Roundtable: “I sat listening to your speech on Capitol Hill tonight, and it reminded me why Pivot Point cherishes our involvement with SkillsUSA. Your message captured our commitment to the youth of our profession. Students involved in SkillsUSA chapters have superb statistics of completing their education. You all must be so proud!”
  • And, the Best of Brand Awards were presented during the state directors’ conference in South Portland, Maine. Congratulations go to Best of Innovation: Advocacy – Tennessee college/postsecondary; Best of Innovation: Membership Growth and Engagement – Michigan; Best of Brand: Print – Wisconsin; Best of Brand: Multi-media – Arizona; and, Best of Brand: Website – Oregon.

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