- 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.
- On May 2, I attended the Research Partner Executive Dinner and Reception hosted by the National Research Center for College and University Admissions. The NRCCUA — which is a college and career planning program and runs “myCollegeOptions” — billed it as a networking event and it certainly was. There were 30 top executives from several different organizations. As a result of our visits, I’ve invited executives from Junior ROTC and STEM Connector to attend the national conference.
- In another outreach from the college community, Wanda Monthey, Governor Roy Romer, Karen Lanning, director of Federal Relations and two other members of the College Board Career Readiness staff came to visit SkillsUSA headquarters to learn more about our organization. The College Board (known for the SAT exam) has put together a team to see what the role of the College Board can be in working with CTE. The team will be working on policy, partnerships, guidance, assessments and curriculum. They said the CB will be “putting the student in the center of what we do and finding pathways for all students to their careers.” They showed a great deal of interest in SkillsUSA. In a follow-up email, Jean-Claude Brizard wrote: “My biggest takeaway from yesterday is your success in getting the grassroots mobilized (teachers and students). Your national convention is fantastic. We have to find a way to engage you in our work.” More to come, I’m sure.
- Thanks to an introduction from Board Member Russ Hoffbauer, on May 2 I met in Washington with Clark Plucinski, executive director of the Collision Repair Education Foundation. In the interest of gaining “higher quality trainees and employees” in the collision repair industry, the Foundation grants as many as 200 scholarships averaging $1,000 – $2,500 annually for students’ continuing education. The foundation also awards mini-grants and many other things to support collision repair instruction. Clark said he’s open to the option of adding travel scholarships for SkillsUSA students and perhaps adding SkillsUSA membership as a criterion for receiving a scholarship.
- Worldwide, SkillsUSA is featured as one of 14 model public-private partnerships “that have enabled innovation and technology advancement and promoted talent development” in a recently released global report from the World Economic Forum prepared by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited entitled “Manufacturing for Growth.” Deloitte has been acquainted with SkillsUSA for quite some time — due in part to our partnership with the Manufacturing Institute — but it was still quite an honor to be selected and highlighted on an international scale. Here is a link to the news release about the report (and citing SkillsUSA). To view or download the three-volume report, go to this link. SkillsUSA is featured on page 25 of the second volume.
- And, more coverage. SkillsUSA was included in an independent supplement from Media Planet to USA Today entitled “Employing America” and featuring Mike Rowe. An article entitled “Who will take over for the retiring baby boomers?” is about SkillsUSA in part and includes quotes from Joe Pietrantonio of Air Products, Nick Pinchuk of Snap-on and Don Whyte of the National Center for Construction Education and Research. The insert was in Midwest editions of USA Today. Here’s a link to the story (and no, we didn’t supply the photo). Another story being picked up by many places is on students who built a robotic locker for a classmate with Muscular Dystrophy. Here it is on the Huffington Post.
- In other news, staff travelled to California for a meeting with ALCOA to create a program for ALCOA employees to promote manufacturing careers to students. Dave Worden spoke to a committee of the IEC (Independent Electrical Contractors) about the WorldSkills Competition and the WorldTeam. Staff also conducted an “Enhance Your Chapter” training session here on May 9 for four teachers from Virginia and other staff members met with intelitek to discuss online programs including the Skill Connect Assessments.
- And, finally, three-person SkillsUSA 2012 Engineering Technology/Design competition team national gold medalists were chosen to visit the White House for President Obama’s Science Fair in April. The students, Grant Feldhege, Neil Molitor and Tyler Tran, from Tech High School in St. Cloud Area School District, Minn. designed, created, and manufactured a new product called Dolly-to-Trolley. It is a device that clamps onto a two wheel dolly and allows a person to move and maneuver trailers easily. The students are working on having their product patented. President Obama celebrated the remarkable achievements of student science fair winners and extraordinary kid innovators from across the nation in the third White House Science Fair.
- The Best of Brand Awards were presented during the state directors’ conference in Rapid City. Congratulations go to: SkillsUSA Georgia for capturing Best of Brand in the Website Category and Best of Innovation, Membership Recruitment Category; SkillsUSA Massachusetts for Best of Brand in the Multi-Media Category and Best of Innovation, Advocacy Category; and, SkillsUSA Wisconsin for its Best of Brand in the Print Category.
- In early August, I had a great trip to Yakima, Wash., to do two presentations on the Skill Connect Assessments. The first was a panel discussion including other assessment providers. The second presentation was strictly on our assessments. Both presentations were packed with people. I also got to spend some great time visiting with Eleni Papadakis, the Washington state CTE director.
- I received a nice letter from Assistant Secretary of Education Brenda Dann-Messier thanking SkillsUSA for inviting her to participate in the national conference. The part I liked best comes at the end of this paragraph (that I’ll paraphrase): ”The Administration’s blueprint for Perkins reauthorization calls for transformation of our career and technical education programs based on our key principles: effective alignment of CTE and labor market needs … strong collaboration [among education and employers] … meaningful accountability [for academic, technical and employability skills] … and increased emphasis on innovation. Through your national skills competitions, and the many state and local competitions and activities that SkillsUSA offers throughout the year, your organization is already demonstrating the key reform principles in action!”
- In a quick update on national conference media coverage, we’ve documented over 100 stories about conference and/or winners in the greater Kansas City region from May into August. As a matter of fact, there’s a feature on a local medalist that ran several times beginning August 22, so it keeps on going. That figure is up over the 85 stories last year. The news releases on medalists and Skill Point recipients were emailed out almost immediately after conference, arriving before the July 4 holiday. A total of 5,581 releases were sent to daily and non-daily papers. And, trade press has been very good. Some of the trade press celebrates the fact that there are more contestants in the contests they cover. They see that as a sign of increasing interest in their fields.
- Champion of the Year invitations were delivered directly to Member offices on Capitol Hill on August 20. In all, we invited 11 Senators and 12 Representatives, including Paul Ryan who just happens to represent the district in Wisconsin where Snap-on has its headquarters. We also invited representatives from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Labor. A press conference is scheduled at the National Press Club during the morning of September 18.
- During our staff meeting on August 8, it was reported that Skill Connect Assessment sales were up 28 percent over last year and that we are seeing much more pre- and post-testing using the assessments. Staff also reported publication sales were up three percent over last year as of the end of June and the marketing department is still crunching the numbers on a survey taken by 650 students at conference.
- Board President, James King, was here for the staff meeting and he told the staff ”There’s interest in CTE because we teach marketable skills. The leadership component is what was missing and that’s what SkillsUSA does. I can’t think of any organization in America that does more for students than SkillsUSA.”
A sample letter/press release is on the SkillsUSA’s advocacy site. It’s a template to be used by state association directors, instructors, parents and others to help get the word out to the media and to Congress about the students who competed or participated in some other way (i.e., as a delegate, Courtesy Corps member, etc.) during the National Leadership and Skills Conference. The press release can be sent to five media outlets at a time through the advocacy site and to the students’ Representative and Senators. The site can be reached by going to: http://www.skillsusa.org/about/policy.shtml and clicking on “advocacy site.” Please encourage your teachers to use and spread the word about this valuable tool.
The National Leadership and Skills Conference is always an exciting—transforming—experience involving 15,000 of our closest friends. It’s also humbling to realize how much our collective work affects lives. Many teachers said to me and to staff: “Thank you for what you do for our students.”
Of course, that includes you. By way of example, board member Greg Rintala forwarded an email he received from Tina Oswald-White of mikeroweWORKS Foundation with an attached thank-you note from a student who received a mikeroweWORKS travel scholarship. The email commended the board members “who work so hard behind the scenes . . . and do so much not only for the organization but for the students and our future workforce.” The student’s note said in part “[This experience] opened my eyes to how much potential I have in the world, something I have never seen before.”
I wish everyone could have heard the Assistant Secretary of Labor Jane Oates say during the Special Guest Breakfast on Tuesday, “Scholarships and internships are wonderful for individuals. Support for SkillsUSA is an investment in capacity building for the American workforce.”
All of our special guests including Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary of Education Brenda Dann-Messier, Bill Symonds of the Harvard Pathways to Prosperity Project and many more were all amazed by the conference. As one of our first-time guests said to me, “If Secretary of Education Arne Duncan could see this, he’d stop talking about ‘islands of excellence’ in CTE.”
I’m not even going to start recounting all of the corporate executives in attendance, but it was delightful to have the top executives from two of our best sponsors attending the conference together, Jim Lentz of Toyota and Nick Pinchuk of Snap-on. I understand each had a marvelous time and I know Jim was in the news more than once. Here’s one TV clip including Jim – http://fox4kc.com/2012/06/26/students-showing-off-talents-at-skillsusa-competition/.
Speaking of news, the early report on coverage in the Kansas City area media includes 79 separate stories and that doesn’t even include stories that are coming in on area winners. For the first time ever this year, we had three of the four TV networks covering the Championships live simultaneously and multiple times on Tuesday morning. There were 24 stories on Tuesday alone. Several years ago, we asked the Convention and Visitors Association what other Kansas City convention SkillsUSA should use as a benchmark for news coverage. The answer was “SkillsUSA is the benchmark. No organization gets the coverage you get.” We’re also picking up national coverage.
A sample press release has been added to SkillsUSA’s advocacy site. It’s a template to be used by state association directors, instructors, parents and others to help get the word out to the media about the students who competed or participated in some other way (i.e., as a delegate, Courtesy Corps member, etc.) during the National Leadership and Skills Conference.
The press release can be sent to five media outlets at a time through the advocacy site.
Be sure to spread the word about this valuable tool.
A sample press release has been added to SkillsUSA’s advocacy site. It’s a template to be used by state association directors, instructors, parents and others to help get the word out to the media about the students who competed or participated in some other way (i.e., as a delegate, Courtesy Corps member, etc.) during the National Leadership and Skills Conference. The press release can be sent to five media outlets at a time.
The site can be reached by going to: www.skillsusa.org/about/policy.shtml and clicking on “advocacy site.” Please encourage your teachers to use and spread the word about this valuable tool. #NLSC12
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.
- Staff recently attended the annual meeting of the CEWD (Center for Energy Workforce Development), a nonprofit consortium formed in 2006 of electric, natural gas and nuclear utilities and their associations. SkillsUSA has engaged in a partnership with the CEWD which was formed to help utilities work together to develop solutions of the coming workforce shortage in the utility industry. It is the first partnership between utilities, their associations, contractors and unions to team with secondary and postsecondary educational institutions and the workforce system to create workable solutions to address the need for a qualified, diverse workforce. CEWD contracted SkillsUSA to create a Skill Connect Assessment in Energy Industry Employability Skills, and it is now available. SkillsUSA’s Career Skills Education Program (CSEP) is being used by CEWD as the companion curriculum for that assessment. With help from a Gates Foundation grant, CEWD has launched the Get Into Energy Career Pathway (GIECP) featuring eight pilot sites whose goal is to attract a total of 5,000 low-income students into training and jobs for the energy workforce sector. Additional information about CEWD is at www.cewd.org.
- Some closing media notes . . . The Champion of the Year releases – both before and after the event – were sent to 1,148 automotive trades, business and education reporters nationwide, both print and online each time, and posted in several places online including Google, Yahoo and AOL. We also produced a report of WorldTeam coverage to share with WorldSkills International and discovered we had at least 118 stories or repostings of press releases on the WorldTeam including WCBS-TV, WAGC-TV, several other TV stations, and several newspapers including the St. Petersburg Times, BodyShop Business as well as several other trade publications and, of course, Parade Magazine.
Our two national student presidents, Victoria Holbert and Chance Litwin, traveled with me to New York City on September 24-27 to represent SkillsUSA at the NBC News Education Nation Summit. SkillsUSA was invited by NBC News to the Summit to be there with a national group of 350 people considered to be “key thought leaders in American education.”
The agenda was packed with sessions that engaged high level discussions on the American education system. Starting Sunday afternoon, we participated in the premier of a new film “American Teacher,” and a discussion that followed, moderated by Al Roker and Jenna Bush.
On Monday morning, speakers included Tom Brokaw, Warren Buffet, Melinda Gates, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Ann Curry, Sal Khan and LeBron James. There were two additional days of presentations and panel discussions and notables included former First Lady Laura Bush in a discussion of school principal leadership and teacher support, 10 governors discussing common core standards (including a good discussion on the importance of career and technical education), a session on the changing face of education (sponsored by State Farm) and much more. The Summit was streamed online at EducationNation.com and broadcast on MSNBC and CNBC with special spots each morning on the “NBC Today Show.”
Both of our student presidents took advantage of the opportunity to speak to the Summit during panel discussions, and they made us proud. I also took advantage of a discussion on the global competitiveness issue, and how CTE is critical to our national prosperity and national defense. I used the SkillsUSA WorldTeam as an example of U.S. students competing on a global scale and benchmarking our skills against the skills of other nations. Finally, the student officers had the opportunity to meet former President Bill Clinton during the closing session. They were able to have a short discussion with him on how CTE and SkillsUSA had influenced their lives.
We took advantage of the only free time before the Summit started and went to the Top of the Rock for a great city view, to a NYC pizzeria for lunch, to the center of Times Square for a deli sandwich and New York cheesecake for dinner. What an incredible event and a life-changing experience for our students!