- 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!
- Washington appointments for SkillsUSA WorldTeam are coming right along. We now have a confirmed appointment and location for a briefing on the House side hosted by the CTE Caucus. Both Representatives and Senators will be invited to the briefing. It also appears we’re set to meet with staff from the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in the afternoon. Invitations have also been extended to The White House and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. We’re hopeful of team coverage in the AOL/Huffington Post in addition to continuing coverage in PARADE. The reporter working on the Huffington Post story said her editor saw the PARADE article and said: “Here’s the way to put a face on what we’re covering. Let’s do profiles of these students.”
- On September 7, SkillsUSA West Virginia Director Paul Lovett and I visited my alma mater Mercer County Technical Education Center. We spoke to 24 teachers and administrators, did some training and delivered some SkillsUSA materials. The result? Mercer County Tech is going to be a 100 percent school with 600 members.
- On September 16, I joined Rosanne White and Sandy Honour of Technology Student Association in Baltimore for a meeting with Dr. Vince Bertram, the new CEO of Project Lead the Way. It was our first opportunity to do an orientation on the two organizations for Dr. Bertram and to discuss a relaunch of the Engineering Alliance. Dr. Bertram was extremely interested, and we’ll follow up with a proposal.
- And, on September 22, I presented to the U.S. Department of Labor Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship near Baltimore, Md. They wanted me to speak about SkillsUSA because they believe there are many areas in which we can be cooperating. I was accompanied by Caleb Houston our parliamentarian from Ohio. The opportunity was created in large part by our long-time friend Bob Baird of the Independent Electrical Contractors, along with Steve Mandes of National Institute for Metalworking Skills and Greg Chambers of Oberg Industries, Inc.
NOTE: We were notified just before this was supposed to air that the piece was pulled at the last minute. CBS is planning to run it at some future date, but at this point we don’t know when that will be. When we know, we’ll post it here.
I’ve received word from Air Products that last Friday a correspondent and camera crew from CBS Evening News arrived at Air Products to talk with John McGlade our SkillsUSA CEO Champion of the Year.
The topic was the role of career and technical education in preparing students to enter the world of work. Air Products believes John was selected for the interview because of the company’s commitment to SkillsUSA. Air Products said: “John was glad to participate because it was another chance for him to share his passion and support for CTE and SkillsUSA.”
Following the interview in John’s office, the crew went to one of Air Products’ facilities and then to Lehigh Career and Technical Institute for an interview with director Clyde Hornberger.
Air Products was told a two- to four-minute segment will likely run on Wednesday, September 28. That could change depending on the news of the day, but I wanted to alert you to the possibility that SkillsUSA will be referenced on the evening news.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for a good story on career and technical education.