- We can hit the membership gong! We have surpassed last year’s membership total. As of yesterday, membership is 302,720. That’s 1,337 ahead of last year and some memberships are still coming into the office. Twenty-six state associations have now exceeded last year’s totals. The most recent is Wisconsin Postsecondary Division, Dale Drees, state association director.
- The Louisiana Community and Technical College System (CTCS) has appointed a state association director, Jawan Ross, and is moving forward to reinstitute the SkillsUSA Louisiana College/Postsecondary Association. The association has been dormant for a year. Jawan was here in the national office on March 16 for some condensed and intense state director training. SkillsUSA welcomes Louisiana postsecondary back, and we’re pleased to hear the LCTCS director is talking about growing the association next year.
- State conferences are underway. The SkillsUSA Georgia conference was a webcast over two days. Representative Jim Langevin, co-chair of the CTE Caucus spoke during the Rhode Island conference. Among his remarks to the students: “SkillsUSA students are the future innovators and job creators for our country.” That’s a nice message to carry. Staff will be visiting 20 state spring conferences.
- On March 5, Bob Daly, senior vice president of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. stopped by the national office for a visit and to discuss opportunities to grow our partnership. Bob is also looking into ways Toyota and Toyota dealers can help support the CTSOs in California.
- On March 6, I was part of a panel discussion during the ACTE Policy and Planning Seminar in Washington. The topic was Measuring Career Readiness Skills: Existing Practice, New Developments and the Challenges That Remain. The concern is finding or developing assessments that are more “career ready” inclusive. Of course, I was able to say during my remarks that SkillsUSA has been teaching and assessing employability skills since 1965 and I spoke about the Skill Connect Assessments and the Professional Development Program. My presentation was well received. Johan Uvin, deputy assistant secretary of OVAE gave a presentation entitled “Perkins Act Preview: Obama Administration.” Uvin said the administration wants to “further improve CTE.” The focus seems to still be on improving postsecondary degree attainment with “at least one year of postsecondary education.” He went on to say OVAE has developed a blueprint for reform, but hasn’t released it yet and that the administration has chosen 2013 for Perkins reauthorization. There will be three major statutory reforms: strengthen alignment of high schools, postsecondary and employers; better accountability systems; and, competitive funding to promote innovation and state reform. Questions from the audience were direct and tough on all three areas, particularly on the competitive funding and Uvin’s assertion that CTE didn’t have data to back up its claims of success.
- I was the keynote speaker at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College/Caper Educator Institute’s “Education Challenge: Career and College Readiness” forum in Henrico, Virginia on March 14. My topic was “Schools Excel Through Student Leadership: Encourage, Promote and Prepare Student Leaders.” There were 210 administrators in attendance, and there was discussion about what it means to be career and college ready. I guess the speech went over well. I gave away all of my business cards.
- We secured a Google Grant for advertising on the Google website. When certain keywords are searched, our ads will appear at the top and in the column on the right of the page. The ads started running on a March 13, and by March 14, SkillsUSA had already received 40,000 impressions.
- And, I attended two outstanding state conferences in the past two weeks – Texas high school and Arizona. More details on these and others next time.
- Membership continues to run ahead of last year at 241,522. That’s 1,130 more than this date last year. Congratulations to the following state associations for exceeding last year’s overall membership. They are California, Clay Mitchell; Connecticut, Heidi Balch; Massachusetts, Karen Ward; New Jersey, Pete Carey; Pennsylvania, Jeri Widdowson; Rhode Island, Josh Klemp; and, Virginia – David Rathbone. Professional membership and alumni membership counts. Individuals such as industry partners and other friends not affiliated with a local chapter can join too online at the following link: www.skills-register.org/rpts/JoinAsProfessional.aspx.
- On January 18th, I met with the National Coordinating Council of Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO) in Reston, Va. The highlight was to welcome a new representative from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), Robin Utz. Robin is the chief of the College and Career Transitions Branch at OVAE and formerly served as assistant director of the Career, Standards and Assessment Services team at the Kansas State Department of Education. She’s very supportive of student organizations, having been both an FFA and FCLA advisor herself, and she gets the “big thumbs up” from Ann Wick, our Kansas state association director. In other news, a majority of the organizations reported that they’re having good membership numbers and conference attendance. The Association for Career and Technical Education and the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education consortium talked about the common core education standards developed by the National Governors Association and a roll out of curriculum addressing the standards during the Career Cluster Institute in June.
- We held a staff WorldSkills meeting on January 13 to plan SkillsUSA WorldTeam participation in Leipzig, Germany in 2013. A new management team has been identified and we have a lot of work to do for team selection, trials, training and fundraising. WorldSkills International has been notified of our new structure.
- I recently returned from Nevada where I assisted with strategic planning with the SkillsUSA Nevada board of directors and attended the State Directors’ Association Executive Committee meeting. More on that next time.
While I was in Kansas City, a staffer represented SkillsUSA during the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education consortium (NASDCTEc) fall meeting in Baltimore. NASDCTEc meeting agendas are always packed with great information. The first half of this conference focused on leading strategic change and was very much in line with SkillsUSA’s own Vision 2020 when looking at the acceleration of change around us. (Here’s an interesting factoid from workshop leader Langdon Morris to illustrate the rate of change: An iPod – if it had existed in 1976 – would have cost $3.2 billion and would have taken up an entire computer room.)
The second half of the conference got down to specifics on career and technical education including a presentation and a panel discussion by experts on a recently released study entitled Learning for Jobs: The OECD Policy Review of Vocational Education and Training. Simon Field, the project manager for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development cited several of the study’s findings comparing vocational education at the high school level in 34 nations. He began with the point that “The wealth of nations will come to rely more on the skills of their people than on other sources such as natural resources.” As a consequence, nations should be investing in vocational education and, he said, “The top priority should be bridging the gap between school and business.” When compared to other developed nations, Simon said: “The U.S. actually has a good high school CTE structure. It just needs to be used for far more students” and he spoke specifically of those students who delay postsecondary education until they are 28. One of the panelists, Robert Schwartz, professor of practice, Harvard Graduate School of Education, said he has changed his mind on the value of career and technical education. He said the applied method works and that CTE, when focused on a credential – not narrowly job specific – and including employability and occupational skills, is the way to build a society, not just workers.
Staff met with Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, as she began her “national Perkins listening tour” on CTE and we’ve invited her to national conference. We also broached the subject of a briefing at the Department of Education for the Youth Development Foundation Committee meeting to be held in Washington in April and was told: “Get me the dates.” Staff reports that Board Member Milt Ericksen was an outstanding master of ceremonies for the NASDCTEc sessions.
On May 19, I met with the National Coordinating Council of the Career and Technical Student Organizations for our bimonthly meeting at the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE). Margaret Romer, deputy director at OVAE, hosted the meeting. She said the Office wants to do much more to use CTSO students in visibility for career and technical education within the department, with policymakers and with the public. Among her specific proposals are more meetings at the Department of Education when CTSO students are in Washington, more appearances by the Department of Education before CTSO audiences and conducting a joint Webinar with the student presidents and officials in Washington under the auspices of OVAE as we’ve done in the past.
On the policy front, Romer told us that Jim Stone, director of the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education will be joining our July meeting to discuss a new research project on CTSOs supported by OVAE. She also confirmed that Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier is committed to having career and technical education included in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) known as “No Child Left Behind” in the previous administration. Romer also told me she is looking forward to reviewing the SkillsUSA Employability Skills Assessment. People in the field have been telling her to take a look.