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Executive Director’s Report: June 1, 2014

June 1st, 2014

A Report from the Road
From April 24-26, I participated in the NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research) board of trustees meeting in Napa, California. It’s great to connect with some of America’s top commercial contractors. NCCER is sponsoring our national Carpentry and Masonry competitions, and companies around the table are all making contributions to the national contests. I was also part of a presentation on a new “Skills to Industry” program that will connect our construction trades graduates to contractor employment opportunities. And, I met new board members to start a dialogue about support for SkillsUSA at the state and national levels.

From California, I flew to Pensacola for the Florida State Leadership and Skills Conference at the Pensacola Civic Center. Board President, James King, met me there. The conference was a beautiful set-up with a huge stage and lots of exciting A/V and competition areas both inside and outdoors. Special tents were set up and wired for competitions from welding to TeamWorks. Another special part of the conference was a career fair called the “World of Possibilities.” About 2,000 middle and elementary school students toured the contests, business and industry displays and interactive demonstrations. From Gulf Power to Lincoln Electric, there were several partners engaged with the young students to teach them about career pathways. There was also a job fair so the public could meet with employers (while also seeing the Florida SLSC).

State Director, Tyler Kercher, and his conference team had a huge challenge when Mother Nature intervened and dumped two feet of rain in a 24-hour period. Tents had to be removed and contests moved to alternate locations. On awards night, the storm knocked out power in the arena, delaying awards by several minutes. Some schools were stranded at the convention center and conferees slept there because high waters prevented them from returning to their hotels. But, as always seems to happen in SkillsUSA, so many people stepped up to help that the awards were completed in grand fashion. Advisors, partners, Tyler, state board members and staff all pitched in to help those in need. It was indeed a great conference, and one that will long be remembered by all who attended.

From Pensacola, I flew back to Washington D.C. for a meeting on May 1 of the National Coordinating Council for Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO), held in HOSA’s Washington, D.C. office. Representatives from the state directors of CTE and ACTE reported that Perkins is being discussed in Congress, but it will come behind other pieces of legislation, including the Workforce Investment Act. During recent congressional testimony, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was challenged by Representatives on why the administration hadn’t requested more funding for CTE. The Coordinating Council also reviewed the CTSOS.org website that SkillsUSA has been heavily involved in and gave us good feedback. All CTSOs had positive reports on membership and conference participation, and we reviewed new criteria for the definition of a CTSO and NCC-CTSO guidelines for inclusion in the group. These guidelines will be approved at the next meeting in July.

From D.C., I flew to Boston to meet Massachusetts State Director Karen Ward and her board for the 40th SkillsUSA Massachusetts State Leadership and Skills Conference. I arrived in time to drive to Marlborough and attend an incredible opening ceremony with approximately 2,500 students and teachers in attendance. The state officer team was amazing. National Officer Brittany Velez was the keynote speaker and she did an incredible job. The production of the ceremony, the ribbon cutting and VIP reception were second to none. Karen has a great team and a great board of directors.

Thanks to Washington DC-based STEM Connector, two representatives from WGBH—the PBS affiliate in Boston — attended the conference and they will attend the national conference in June. They were thoroughly impressed with all aspects of the Massachusetts conference and especially with the poise and professionalism of the student officers and competitors. Karen and I are hopeful that the visit will result in future regional and national coverage by PBS. They see SkillsUSA as a great story on filling the jobs pipeline and our competitions as a great way for students to display their skills to employers.

On May 2, approximately 2,100 students competed in the Massachusetts SkillsUSA Championships at Blackstone Regional Technical High School. It was a full day of action with excellent contests and lots of business support. Superintendents and administrators from across the state attended. The next morning, the trade center pavilion was packed with students and their parents for a grand awards ceremony. I spoke to the group. It was great to see so many parents there to support their sons and daughters in a crowd of red coats. Thanks to Karen Ward, Assistant State Director Kevin Lopez, the SkillsUSA Massachusetts board of directors and Brittany Velez for their hospitality and the opportunity to attend their 40th.

From Boston, I flew to Kansas City on May 6 for a special tribute to the volunteers and others who have helped us with NLSC for the past 20 years. Shelly Coates organized a great “farewell party” for these special people. From the bus company, to the hoteliers and city officials from the Kansas City CVA, it was a great time to honor them for their work and friendship during our two decades in Kansas City. During the time in KC, I was also honored to serve as keynote speaker for the Kansas City Metro Schools Recognition Luncheon. Byekwaso Gilbert has managed the KC Metro project for 14 years, and it was great to also honor him for his work with these schools in Missouri and Kansas. Students attending were local Metro student officers and state gold, silver and bronze medalists. The event was held at the Kauffman Center, and it was very nicely done. A great celebration for the city and the incredible students and teachers we serve. Rick Hughes from the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association (KCCVA) said “In inimitable SkillsUSA fashion, you put on a great event last evening! Thank you for the kind words, the wonderful imagery and your hospitality. Even in the dimmed lighting, you could see many glassy eyes in the audience. You will be missed!”

Highlights

  • Following up on the last Executive Update, Dave Worden reported that 325,000 people — including 180,000 students and teachers — attended the USA Science & Engineering Festival, April 25 — 27 in Washington DC. Dave said the SkillsUSA exhibit was nearly overwhelmed with traffic. Six students from C.S. Monroe Tech in Leesburg, two students from Thomas Edison High School and two students from Fairfax County Schools (all from Virginia) put on demonstrations illustrating STEM education in CTE. Three national officers also participated — Cole Fallis, Ohio; Brittany Velez, Massachusetts; and, Laura Goullion, California. Dave says that Walmart executives were pleased with the results of including SkillsUSA in the exhibit, and many additional new business and industry contacts were made. Special thanks to Niki Clausen for attending all four days and to Dave Worden and Jim Kregiel for pulling SkillsUSA’s participation together for us.
  • The 2014-15 membership kit will be ready to preview at NLSC.
  • A SkillsUSA 50th anniversary save-the-date postcard will be mailed soon.
  • A new SkillsUSA Alumni Newsletter is ready and can be found at this link.
  • The SkillsUSA FY13 Annual Report is complete. Get ready for some good stories about a few of the students and a teacher who are SkillsUSA. To view it online, go to this page.
  • With a little more than three weeks until our capstone event, Kelly Persons is pleased to report that nearly 50 cash and in-kind sponsorsare onboard to support SkillsUSA’s 50th annual NLSC. Welcome to our eight (to date) new partners: Delcam, FoldFactory.com Corp., NAPA, Praxair Inc., Safelite Fulfillment Inc., TIC-The Industrial Company, Walmart Foundation and Zep, Inc. A big shout out to five partners that have upgraded their support this year: 3M Company, Air Products, Asurion, Caterpillar Inc., and Hypertherm, Inc. A heartfelt thank you goes to all of our partners, cash and in-kind, we couldn’t do our work without them.
  • Please remember that a great way to share your excitement about SkillsUSA with colleagues and business partners is to invite them to Kansas City for an opportunity to see SkillsUSA students in action. Please contact Karen Beatty, kbeatty@skillsusa.org for assistance in registering your guests.

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

Executive Director’s Report: May 15, 2014

May 15th, 2014

STEM Demonstrations by SkillsUSA in Washington, D.C.
SkillsUSA students demonstrated aspects of their occupational programs during the third annual USA Science & Engineering Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C., April 25-27, 2014. More than 325,000 people attended, including 180,000 students and teachers. Six students from C.S. Monroe Tech in Leesburg, two students from Thomas Edison High School (Md.) and two students from the Edison Academy in Fairfax (Va.) put on demonstrations illustrating STEM education in CTE. There were demonstrations of 3D Printing/Advanced Manufacturing, Culinary Arts, Dental Assisting, Robotics and Welding. Three national officers were also in the booth – Cole Fallis (Ohio); Brittany Velez (Mass.); and, Laura Goullion (Calif.). Our national officers were featured on the Mike Rowe stage Saturday morning of the Festival where they delivered the 9 a.m. keynote presentations. Headliners at the Festival included Bill Nye the Science Guy and Mike Rowe.

It was nice that the opportunity for SkillsUSA to participate came through Mike Rowe and mikeroweWORKS. His office started talking to us about participating shortly after the June national conference. They thought we should be there. Our 10×40 exhibit space was next to the Mike Rowe booth. Mike also helped us make a connection with Walmart Foundation which gave SkillsUSA an $11,050 grant to cover expenses for the Festival and floor space in its exhibit. In the same pavilion were other valued SkillsUSA partners including CAT, Lincoln Electric, the American Welding Society and Universal Technical Institute.

Dave Worden said that Walmart executives were pleased with the results of including SkillsUSA in the exhibit and many additional new business and industry contacts were made. Particular thanks to Niki Clausen, Dave Worden and Jim Kregiel for participating and pulling the team together for SkillsUSA. Here are some photos from the event.

Highlights

  • On Tuesday, April 22, Natalie Crede and Malinda Lindimore, two HR executives from Safelite, an auto glass replacement company, visited the SkillsUSA National Leadership Center for a reception with staff in the morning. A little later, we took them on a tour of the Frederick Career and Technology Center in Maryland. Martha Lowry, the SkillsUSA school advisor, had her leadership team meet us at the door. We met with the principal, the culinary students served hors d’oeuvres, we toured the school and then students spoke on how SkillsUSA participation had changed their lives. It was a moving experience for all concerned. Safelite presented SkillsUSA with a sponsorship-level $25,000 check in what they said they hoped would be the first of many donations. The company is particularly interested in customer-relations skills because a lot of its work is done in customers’ driveways. Natalie and Malinda were very complimentary of the SkillsUSA brand and our leadership curriculum. Thanks go to Don Hermanek of IAA (Insurance Auto Auctions) and Russ Hoffbauer of State Farm for the introduction. Check out these photos from the visits.
  • On the evening of April 22, I addressed the GAERF (Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation) board of directors during its meeting in Washington, D.C. I spoke on our partnership with GAERF on the Skill Connect Assessments (which GAERF has now recognized as certifications for the printing industry), the skills gap and workforce shortages. Board members asked if there are ways we can work together on advocacy. They’re concerned because they’ve been seeing graphic communications programs closing. On a brighter side, I had a former CEO of a major printing company ask if there was anything he might do to support us in Ohio. Mike Cowles has already had his first meeting with the company in Dayton.
  • On April 10 and 11, I was in Jacksonville, Fla. to introduce Mike Horn of Pro Services at Lowe’s to Boyd Worsham, chair of our Carpentry contest technical committee and vice president of Haskell Company, a national contractor. We were joined by Don Whyte, president and Steve Green, vice president of NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research). The topic was how best to work with commercial contractors. This is one of those instances where SkillsUSA was happy to make the introductions.
  • While there’s no specific movement on Perkins reauthorization, we’re pleased to note that 94 members of the House of Representatives and 25 Senators have helped champion federal funding for CTE. In separate letters to House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittees, the large bipartisan coalition urged a strong federal investment in Perkins in upcoming appropriations bills. Thanks go to ACTE and NASDCTEc for their leadership and to Representatives Thompson (Pa.) and Langevin (R.I.) and Senators Blumenthal (Ct.), Baldwin (Wis.) and Kaine (Va.) for leading in their respective chambers.
  • Sales of Skill Connect Assessments are up by over 3,600 tests at this point in the year. We understand our customers are very happy with the support desk at K2Share and with the new delivery system.
  • We’ve heard great things about state association spring conferences including those in Ohio and Maryland. I attended conferences in Florida and Massachusetts (more in the next issue). And, you might like to see how Gwinnett Technical College in Georgia used their medallions and winners to get lengthy TV news coverage and demonstrations. See it here – http://tinyurl.com/kvzl9la.
  • I just returned from the NCCER board of trustees meeting in San Francisco, and I’ve had it confirmed that one of our students will speak during their Construction Industry Institute meeting this summer. Present will be owners of major construction companies.

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

Executive Director’s Report: May 1, 2014

May 1st, 2014

STEM Tour in Massachusetts
On Thursday, March 27, I was honored to work with Karen Ward and her SkillsUSA Massachusetts board of directors during their board meeting at Tri-County RTHS in Franklin, Mass. The state association has an impressive board made up of top school administrators, advisors and business leaders. I worked directly with the finance committee and with strategic planning for the coming fiscal year.

On Friday, we had an amazing experience at Minuteman and Diman Regional Vocational Technical High Schools in Massachusetts. Our friends at Dassault Systems got to see high quality CTE STEM programs with the SkillsUSA life skills training process directly integrated into the classroom and lab during their tours.

Thank you to the three executives from Dassault who spent the day with students, instructors and administrators in these two incredible schools. The experience provided a good snapshot of how our CTE schools teach STEM and integrate life skills training into the school day using SkillsUSA curriculum and chapter activities.

A big thank you to Karen Ward for organizing the visits and for all she and Assistant Director Kevin Lopez did to make it an outstanding experience for all of us. To the administrators who hosted us and the faculty and staff at Minuteman and Diman, thank you so much for taking the time to organize such an outstanding demonstration of real work learning, coupled with student professional development in action. It’s days like Friday that ground us and remind us of the incredible potential our students possess and how leaders lift up our students to be their very best.

And finally, our National High School Secretary, Brittany Velez, and all the student leaders we met on both campuses were the stars of the day. Thanks to each and every student who demonstrated their technical, academic and professional skills. They were all amazing. I hope this experience will help create stronger business/education relationships, and I hope it also gave the Dassault executives a good perspective on how professional, employability or “life skills” can be a key component in a STEM program.

Spring Conferences are in Full Swing
Shelly Coates and I attended the 50th Virginia State Leadership and Skills Conference recently, and State Director Deb Tripp did an excellent job of running it. Illinois State Director Don Bauc reported the Governor of Illinois attended his conference. Rhode Island State Association Director Josh Klemp reported the largest attendance ever with Governor Chafee and the chair of the state education board attending and speaking during the awards ceremony. SkillsUSA Foundation member Cameron Ferguson and past Foundation member Greg Rintala attended the California state conference and the state superintendent of public instruction in California participated. We’ll have more reports on state conferences as staff continues to participate in conferences across the country in the coming weeks.

NASDCTEc Spring Meeting
I attended the Spring National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education consortium (NASDCTEc) meeting in Washington D.C. March 31 – April 3. Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier was a guest speaker at the opening general session. She announced she is leaving the U.S. Department of Education in mid-May. During public comment, I thanked Brenda for her service and for giving our students the opportunity to be heard by the administration. And, I encouraged her to ask U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan to continue listening to our students’ voices. Board member Scott Stump thanked Brenda and stated: “We have moved the bar as a solution to employment and workforce development in the country.” Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier has been a good friend of CTE and SkillsUSA and will be missed.

Secretary Duncan is visiting a CTE school each month. Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier and Secretary Duncan recently visited Worchester Tech in Massachusetts, a school with a very strong SkillsUSA chapter and the national principal of the year. President Obama will speak at only one high school commencement ceremony this year, and that school is Worchester Tech.

A report at the NASDCTEc meeting showed that 31 states had made a higher investment in CTE in 2013. And, 41 states had some type of legislation supporting CTE last year. This data came from a report co-produced by ACTE and NASDCTEc. It includes significant actions that took place last year and is categorized by state. Here is the link.

Regarding Perkins funding, representatives from both sides of the aisle and from the House and Senate spoke during the meeting. Some in Congress see early movement to get Perkins re-authorized (as early as October 2014) and others see a much longer timeframe, possibly even a continuing resolution that carries funding into the next election. Both agree it’s unlikely there will be a major overhaul of Perkins and that the funding amount will likely not be increased. There are many programs competing for federal funds – from medical research to job training – and new money will not be available, according to one appropriations committee member from the Senate. And, there is the philosophy (to which we agree) that funding should follow labor market demand and be aligned with business. We believe local business and industry advisory committees are critical to program alignment with business needs and credentialing – that is where SkillsUSA has always stood – and, where our hundreds of business partners have always stood with us.

There was substantial discussion about assessments and credentials for CTE completers. It was announced that national level assessments are priced from as low as $10 (Skill Connect is there) to hundreds of dollars. One state reporting over $2 million in their state budget for assessment/credentials, and several states are requiring CTE instructors to be certified in their field of teaching in order to maintain employment. And finally, a national clearinghouse for assessments and credentialing was discussed.

There was a constant stream of meetings and discussions of CTE and STEM. A wide array of federal legislation is moving forward to encourage students to enter STEM courses and several STEM organizations are emerging at national and state levels. It was mentioned that STEM in CTE is clear to us, but it is not always clear to those outside our education community. The CEO of “Change the Equation” spoke on behalf of the business community and stated that, in the current job market, there are 3.8 people looking for one job. But, there are 1.9 STEM jobs available for each job seeker. STEM occupations make up 11 percent of the workforce. (The Brookings Institution says 20 percent of all U.S. jobs.) SkillsUSA has STEM alignment as a major focus of our FY15 Strategic Plan.

 

Finally, it was great to see several friends of CTE and SkillsUSA recognized at this meeting for their continuous support. Representative Glen Thompson (Pa.) and Representative Jim Langevin (R.I.) were both present to receive the “Stars of CTE” Award. Thompson reminded the group there had been a $53 million restoration of CTE funding in January. And, during Representative Langevin’s awards presentation, it was mentioned how strongly he supports SkillsUSA in Rhode Island.

And two great friends of SkillsUSA were recognized as Stars of Education. Former California State CTE Director, Dr. Patrick Ainsworth, was named as a “Star” and current California CTE Director, Russ Weikle, was honored as a “Rising Star” at a special luncheon. Both spoke of SkillsUSA (and VICA) in their comments. Russ was a former VICA advisor and a former SkillsUSA director in California. Congratulations to both of these great friends!

Overall, the NASDCTEc conference was a great learning experience. It was really refreshing to hear congressional representatives, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Business Roundtable, the National Association of State School Boards and so many more praise CTE for the good work that is keeping students in school, reinforcing STEM education and helping close the skills gap.

 

Highlights

  • We have received a record total of 167 applications for the National Technical Honor Society grant awards and staff reviewed them to select the four winners.
  • The President’s Volunteer Service Award recipient applications have been reviewed and so far this year, there are 141 individual awards (representing 42,000 hours of volunteer service), 22 team awards (representing 23,000 hours in volunteer service) and two lifetime awards. Students will be recognized during the Opening Ceremony in Kansas City this year. This is a record number of PVSA winners, topping the 111 awarded in 2013.
  • Most national staff will be taking a bus to visit Louisville, September 3-5, 2014 so they can see the Kentucky Exposition Center and begin to plan for the 2015 national conference.
  • In light of discussion during SkillsUSA Foundation’s March meeting around the significance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education to career and technical education, please take a few minutes to read this interesting blog, Why Does STEM Learning Have to Be ‘Real World’? It is from the April 9, 2014 issue of Education Week.

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

 

 

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: March 15, 2014

March 15th, 2014

Connection to the Walmart Foundation
Mike Rowe and his staff continue to be great advocates for SkillsUSA. This past fall, we were invited to participate in the USA Science and Engineering Festival in April in Washington, D.C. The Festival is billed as the largest STEM show in the nation and expected attendance is around 350,000 over a three-day period. Mike Rowe will sponsor a “Trades Pavilion” at the Festival, and he really wanted SkillsUSA students to be a part of the action. With our new focus on the skilled worker shortage and making the connection from our CTE programs to STEM education, our vision was to have SkillsUSA students perform live, hands-on skill demonstrations as part of the Festival.  However, we needed a sponsor to support student travel, housing, meals and equipment. Mike Rowe’s team stepped in and connected me directly to the Walmart Foundation and I was asked for a proposal and budget. We spent most of a weekend putting it together and SkillsUSA was approved for a grant for $11,050 to take care of student, advisor and staff expenses to showcase our students at the Festival. Walmart also joined the Festival as a major sponsor, and we will have our own space, adjacent to the Walmart booth. Most of our skill demonstrations will focus on manufacturing and we have also asked for other skills to be demonstrated. This is a great opportunity to open the door to the Walmart Foundation for future support. I know they will fall in love with our students and our program once they experience it.

The connection to the Walmart Foundation comes due to Mike Rowe’s partnership with them. Perhaps you saw it aired during the recent Winter Olympics, but you may not have seen the full version – the following link will take you to a 60-second commercial narrated by Mike Rowe entitled “I am a Factory.” It’s aired by Walmart, and they have pledged $250 billion (with a B) to American manufacturing jobs in the next 10 years! Once you view this video, I think you will see the great connection that SkillsUSA has with Walmart’s manufacturing/American jobs initiative. And Mike Rowe’s voice is not too bad on the commercial either. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OQcoDQq3-o&list=PLs6zAwIMDe3PixJhPPTT3Ks55ZoS-uxhN&index=2.

Skills Shortage Support Information
As we look forward to the FY15 strategic plan, we have developed a new focus on the skilled worker shortage and STEM education. But, we’re not waiting as work in these areas has already begun. At the 2013 NLSC, we had a top executive from The Manpower Group attend as a Special Guest. Manpower has just published the research report from the 2103 Global Talent Shortage Survey. For the seventh year in a row, skilled trades workers represent the number one category of jobs that employers worldwide are finding difficulty filling. And, technicians are, once again, in the top five, coming in at number four.

As we look at the work of SkillsUSA in helping with these pipeline issues, we also look at the reasons employers are having difficulty finding the necessary talent:  48 percent  of employers cited the lack of technical competencies (hard skills) and 33 percent cited the lack of workplace competencies (soft skills). This data comes from 40,000 employers across 42 countries and territories. Therefore, we believe it’s not much of a stretch to say that SkillsUSA is certainly a part of the solution, particularly, when we look at the hard and soft skill needs of these employers. You can see a short video summary of the report data at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iu0ADHgFeKI and the full report with other interesting facts about the global shortages at this link: http://www.manpowergroup.us/campaigns/talent-shortage-2013/pdf/2013_Talent_Shortage_Survey_Results_US_lo_0510.pdf.

Visit to Cleveland and from DC on to Baltimore
The week of February 17th, I visited the corporate headquarters of Lincoln Electric in Cleveland, Ohio. The trip was partially to assist a student member who is interested in pursuing a welding career (and I have some experience in that field from several years ago) and to also visit with Carl Peters and other Lincoln executives regarding our national partnership as well as our work with Lincoln and WorldSkills. We toured their manufacturing plant and had a great tour of the new Automation Division, a new initiative that involves custom robotic welding work cells for manufacturing and the welding simulators that Lincoln is now producing for welding training. I provided an overview of SkillsUSA for Lincoln’s newest young recruits who will lead the state and regional offices for the company.  Lincoln will also be working with the American Welding Society and participating in the USA Science and Engineering Festival in April in Washington DC.

Last week, I participated in a CTSO meeting and the ACTE National Policy Seminar in D.C. – see: https://www.acteonline.org/nps. From there, I traveled to Baltimore on Tuesday and Wednesday to work the SkillsUSA exhibit and to deliver the closing keynote address at to the HVACR and Mechanical Conference for Education Professionals at the Maritime Training Institute. There were nearly 200 of our high school and college HVACR instructors participating from across the nation. I recruited a few new instructors into SkillsUSA and continued our great partnership with all the HVACR, Plumbing and Mechanical trade associations that sponsored the event. To learn more about the event, go to http://www.instructorworkshop.org/conference+sponsors.aspx.

Highlights

  • On February 22, Kelly Persons had the opportunity to discuss how and why STEM-related education is an integral part of CTE during the Fairfax County, Va. Public Schools’ STEM H Expo at Chantilly High School.
  • Niki Clausen and Heidi Walsh recently returned from a successful visit to Kansas City, Mo. where they met with the national officers to plan for the SkillsUSA 2014 National Leadership and Skills Conference.

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

Executive Director’s Report: March 1, 2014

March 1st, 2014

SkillsUSA Week and CTE Month
During SkillsUSA Week 2014 and National CTE Month, we received several uplifting stories from our chapters about activities they were conducting as a part of the celebration. The following link shows a great tweet from our Cypress Bay Chapter in Florida and how they decorated their school for SkillsUSA Week: http://bit.ly/1cwcz9U. This link shows the state association’s visit with Florida Governor Rick Scott for a proclamation signing: http://on.fb.me/1eQcsMg. And, Ohio’s students met with the Governor and the Superintendent of Education to highlight SkillsUSA week. Our chapters do a great job of spreading the good word about SkillsUSA in their states and local communities, and we are very proud to see the great student-driven activities nationwide.

New CTSO Website
As we celebrate the final week of CTE Month across the nation, we are pleased to announce the rollout of an exciting new website.  This site was created in cooperation with all the national Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) through the National Coordinating Council for Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO) and our affiliate organizations: The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) at the U.S. Department of Education.

The website links to all CTSOs and affiliate organizations, provides the latest CTE news feed, links to our social networks and provides several data points that support the case for CTSOs as a key component of high quality Career and Technical Education.  One of the most dynamic features of the website appears under the “Advocate” header. This link provides CTSO profiles for every state and shows the number of CTSO members in each legislative district for every state.  This is a great tool for state legislative visits and for making the case for CTE at the local, state and federal levels.

We hope you will find this site useful not only an advocacy tool, but also as a marketing and branding tool. The process to develop this website was done with an incredible cooperative spirit amongst all the CTSOs and affiliate organizations.  It offers another way to celebrate the goodness of CTE!  Visit the site at: www.ctsos.org.

U.S. Department of Education Discussions

Daria Ferdine, national high school treasurer from New Jersey, participated in a CTSO Student Voices discussion with the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary for Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (formerly the Office of Vocational and Adult Education) and Brenda Dann-Messier on Tuesday afternoon, February 18th. And, she was also one of four students who made a presentation during a U.S. Department of Education internal briefing entitled “Reflect, Transform, Lead: Preparing Students for College, Career and Citizenship.” Here is a photo taken with Secretary Duncan:

Sec. of Ed. Arne Duncan and Daria Ferdine
Sec. of Ed. Arne Duncan and Daria Ferdine.


U.S. News and World Report

A great Op-Ed article was picked up by U.S. News and World Report, written by our great friend and former board member from Caterpillar, Mary Bell. Mary also was just named as one of the top women in manufacturing, receiving a STEP award (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) from NAM/The Manufacturing Institute. The article entitled, “To Close the Skills Gap in Manufacturing, Close the Gender Gap,” can be seen here.

Educated and Skilled to Lead America Video Competition Winner Announcement
This past fall, chapters from around the country submitted their entries for the Educated and Skilled to Lead America Video Competition (based on this year’s SkillsUSA theme). Chapters were challenged to create a video that showcased how they are becoming educated (what does their classroom or lab look like/what are they learning?) and skilled (what are their skills and how do they apply them). More than 25 entries were received and congratulations go to the winners — Sydney Martin and Krystal Smoger of St. Clair TEC in Marysville, Mich. where Ms. Keely Baribeau serves as the advisor. The honorable mention was submitted by Alexia Tignor of Franklin Technology Center in Joplin, Mo. where Ms. Deonna Anderson serves as the advisor.

You can watch both in the playlist below:

WorldSkills Americas Competition

SkillsUSA is sending two students to compete in the WorldSkills Americas Competition in Bogota Columbia, April 1-6, 2014. The students are Jacob Wozniak, Cabinetmaking, from Springville, N.Y. and Michael Mullen, Auto Service Technology, from San Luis Obispo, Calif. The WorldSkills Americas competition serves as a good benchmark for the next WorldSkills Competition to be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil in August, 2015.



2014 Regional Advisors of the Year
The regional Advisors of the Year have been chosen. Congratulations go to:

  • Ellen Coughlin, DCMO BOCES — Chenango Area Campus, New York, Region 1;
  • James Dinsmoor, Rockdale Career Academy, Georgia, Region 2;
  • Tobin Prinsen, Apollo Career Center, Ohio, Region 3;
  • Mark Sponaugle, Carthage Technical Center, Missouri, Region 4;
  • James Adamson, Central Kitsap High School, Washington, Region 5.

Highlights

  • Niki Clausen conducted a Chapter Management Institute (CMI) for 30 teacher advisors in New York City on February 3. The CMI was held in conjunction with their Career and Technical Education Summit. In addition to the CMI training, they also participated in a CTE Policy Panel discussion which included Brenda Dann-Messier, the assistant secretary of education for career, technical and adult education.
  • The national officer planning meeting in Kansas City will be held the last weekend of March.
  • Work is moving forward on the FY15 membership kit to contain a separate resource tailored specifically for college/postsecondary membership.
  • Kelly Horton is working with Ohio state association director, Mike Cowles, on a contract to serve youth in alternative education pathways who are required to be in a CTSO.
  • I’m very happy to announce that our great long-time friend, Snap-on Incorporated, has committed to a $100,000 grant for SkillsUSA in 2014. Alicia Smales, member of the SkillsUSA Foundation, contacted us on Monday with the great news. A BIG thank you to Alicia and the entire Snap-on team for their continued support. Snap-on Incorporated has been a national partner for nearly three decades. We are also very appreciative of the support they provide to our regional and state winners in a variety of competitions. Snap-on provides nearly $300,000 in donations of tools and equipment to our students and teachers annually.
  • I’m also happy to announce that another great friend, Air Products, recently contributed $52,500, giving them a total of $102,500 contributed to SkillsUSA so far this year!
  • SkillsUSA will be raffling off a Dyna Street Bob Motorcycle at the 2014 National Conference Awards Ceremony, Friday, June 27, in Kansas City. This motorcycle is made possible thanks to a generous donation by Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Inc.
  • We’re seeing some exciting new designs for the SkillsUSA website. The home page looks great, and work continues on interior pages. Web manager, Craig Moore, says technical implementation of www.skillsusa.org begins February 25.
  • Tom Kercheval, our audiovisual technology manager, just put the finishing touches on an updated “What is SkillsUSA?” video, reflecting input from the recent meeting of state association director officers.
  • The Spring issue of SkillsUSA Champions has been mailed, and the digital publication is online at: www.skillsusa.org/champions/spring14.shtml. Focus is on our student leaders, new training events, and successful alumni and SkillsUSA student competitors involved in STEM education.
  • Stratton Publishing & Marketing Inc./Stratton Research in Alexandria, Va., will be sending a questionnaire to a random sampling of approximately 1,500 advisors and students as part of a SkillsUSA’s strategic communications audit. The end goal: timely, high-quality and valuable content that better aligns with student and advisor needs. Those who participate will have the opportunity to win an iPad mini.
  • The following video was produced by Jefferson County (Ky.) Public Schools showing highlights of the January 16th Breakfast of Champions kick-off event in Louisville:

 

  • And, as you know, SkillsUSA turns 50 in 2015. The upcoming 50th conference in Kansas City marks the beginning of a year-long celebration, culminating with the 51st National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Ky. Plans are underway for the celebration to include the development of 50th anniversary logos; a 50th anniversary pin and T-shirt; a special celebration at the National Leadership Center and more. 

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

Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2014

Happy 2014! On behalf of our national staff, Board of Directors and our wonderful team of national officers, I wish you happiness, good health and a prosperous New Year.

ACTE Convention
I traveled to Las Vegas to attend the annual Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) Convention, December 4-7. There were 3,497 in attendance and staff members Marsha Daves, Niki Clausen, Heidi Walsh and I were extremely busy there. National high school vice president Laura Gouillon, a pre-engineering student from California and college/postsecondary president, Leah Rife, a graphic arts student from Colorado, also attended and spoke at various meetings on behalf of SkillsUSA and worked very hard in the SkillsUSA booth at the Career Tech Expo. Both students made us extremely proud.

I participated in two Trade and Industrial Education Division meetings, and Laura Gouillon, Leah Rife and I presented SkillsUSA updates at both sessions. I was involved in a great ASE/NATEF meeting with instructors and administrators, a reception, and a panel discussion with the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). SkillsUSA was recognized and commended at both meetings. I also had a very positive lunch meeting with the new CEO and the new Chairman of intelitek. This company provides over a million dollars in robotics and automated manufacturing equipment annually at the SkillsUSA Championships and also hosts both our high school and college employability curricula on their Learning Management System.

On Wednesday evening, I was privileged to attend the ACTE Awards Banquet where board member and SkillsUSA Minnesota Director, Jen Polz, was honored with the ACTE Region 3 Outstanding Educator Award. We are very proud of Jen and this great accomplishment. The keynote speaker at the banquet was U.S. Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan. Jen received her award from Assistant Secretary of Education Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier.

Both staff and national officers met with a number of business partners and prospects at the Career Tech Expo. I had good meetings with Goodheart-Wilcox, Lincoln Electric, Snap-on, Channellock, Autodesk and the U.S. Army, just to name a few. We also met with several companies who expressed serious interest in getting involved. It was also great to spend time with board members Dave Milliken, Peggy Torrens and Jeff Johnson and several state CTE directors.

On Thursday evening, I hosted 28 of our state leaders at a nice dinner at Maggiano’s Restaurant. This dinner was a thank you for state association directors, corporate members and state education department officials. It was great to have Greg Rintala of Snap-on and his wife join us as well as Amelia Mitchell Powers, former national officer, and now a corporate trainer for CAT. Our two national officers also participated and thanked the group for all their support.

On Friday and Saturday, Niki Clausen and Marsha Daves made three SkillsUSA presentations for the ACTE participants. Marsha presented “The Easy Button – Teaching and Assessing Work-Ready Skills and Career-Ready Practices in the CCCS” and Niki Clausen presented great sessions on “Why SkillsUSA.”

WorldSkills Update
We will be sending a small delegation to the WorldSkills Americas competition to be held in Bogota, Columbia, April 1-6, 2014. At this time, we have sponsorship and endorsement to send, at minimum, a cabinetmaker and automotive tech student, their experts and our technical delegate and team leader. We are also working with Canada in an attempt to house both our delegation students and adults in the same hotel for safety and security purposes.

Speaking of Canada, we are in discussion with Skills Canada, and, our two countries are interested in jointly hosting the 2016 WorldSkills General Assembly. We plan to submit a letter of interest in early 2014. The major costs of this meeting are covered by registration fees paid by each member country. Our proposed venue is on the USA/Canada border at Niagara Falls. It’s a world-class destination, and we believe it would be an incredible spot for the WSI General Assembly. We believe this activity would help us continue to ramp up our WorldSkills involvement and international credibility as called for in Vision 2020.

A big thank you goes to SkillsUSA Kentucky, CTE Director Dale Winkler, the State Office of Career and Technical Education (OCTE). Thanks also to Joe Morgan and Fran Dundon for their support. The support from the Kentucky OCTE is invaluable and will help us tremendously as we transition to Louisville.

Planning for the “Circle of Champions” Breakfast in Louisville
December 1-2 were busy with several meetings centered around planning our first business/community outreach in Louisville, Kentucky. Much time was spent developing the agenda, logistical planning and guest list with leaders from Greater Louisville, Inc., the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Kentucky Exposition Center. Afterward, Louisville leadership arranged for me to meet with Mayor Greg Fischer and present how SkillsUSA members will impact the Louisville community with workforce opportunities as we plan toward the 2015 National Leadership & Skills Conference and beyond.

Mayor Fischer agreed to reach out to the Louisville business community on behalf of SkillsUSA. His support is vital to us as we work to develop a business advisory foundation that will support national conference efforts over the next six years.

SkillsUSA created a press release, came up with a short video to share with the Louisville business community and sent out invitations to 1,500 businesses covering the Louisville, Kentucky-Clarksville, Indiana area asking for attendance at the “Circle of Champions” breakfast on Thursday, January 16, 2014, at the Kentucky Exposition Center. The event will begin with a “circle” of select SkillsUSA students who will demonstrate their skill and leadership areas as our invited guests enter the facility at 8 a.m. A brief presentation will begin at 8:30 a.m. that will include a message from Mayor Greg Fischer and other speakers currently being identified. We are confident this event is the beginning of a strong and fruitful relationship with the Louisville, Kentucky community.

Highlights

  • Kelly Horton attended the SkillsUSA Massachusetts FLC and reported the conference had over 600 members in attendance and was the largest fall conference for the state to date. She facilitated a workshop about engaging students through SkillsUSA’s educational resources, and SkillsUSA Massachusetts purchased enough educational materials so that each participating school would receive a complete set of resources to assist students in their employability skills development.
  • Kelly also reports that her presentation to the state presidents of the New England region of the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) went well. She spoke to them, at the request of Universal Technical Institute, about SkillsUSA and how it helps the student to prepare for the world of work.
  • Gayle Silvey attended the Georgia college/postsecondary FLC and facilitated a membership growth and retention workshop for about 50 instructors. Strategies discussed included ways to reach, recruit and engage college/postsecondary members in SkillsUSA to help them advance their employability skills and careers. Gayle also attended the Tennessee college/postsecondary TLTI where she facilitated three workshops for approximately 60 instructors. These workshops focused on infusing educational resources into classroom instruction, curriculum and chapter meetings.
  • Together, Gayle and Kelly hosted a Strategic Membership Advisory Committee meeting near Dulles Airport, December 10-12. The committee is comprised of senior executive business leaders and educational leaders from the CTE community, and they met to focus on scalable membership growth and development to ensure we reach our Vision 2020 goal of impacting 1 million learners. Board member, Chris Arvin from Caterpillar, and Foundation members Alicia Smales from Snap-on and Larry Teverbaugh from K2Share were among the attendees.
  • The winter 2014 issue of SkillsUSA Champions has been mailed. The electronic version (sponsored by Interstate Batteries Fundraising) is active at: www.skillsusa.org/champions/winter14.shtml.
  • Finally, Karen Beatty reports that the Skills Build America campaign has received $170,000 in corporate and personal donations since it was launched a year ago.

That’s all for now. Happy New Year! 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.

Connecting and Engaging our Stakeholders

December 1st, 2013

We’ve recently had some good opportunities to make some important connections with groups of SkillsUSA stakeholders from across the country.

On November 4-5, I traveled to Houston, Texas and participated in a meeting with Insurance Auto Auctions (IAA) and four of our state association directors. This was one of several regional meetings IAA is holding to connect their local and regional managers with SkillsUSA in the states where they do business. We met at IAA’s Houston facility and were joined there by state directors Stacy Scott and Pat Conner (Texas), Larry Rabalais (La.) and Darren Gibson (Okla.). IAA was represented by their corporate HR director and a corporate vice president (both from their Chicago headquarters), and a branch manager and three managers from the aforementioned states. IAA became an official sponsor last year, and they are very impressed with our students. They are developing strategies to hire our students, and this meeting was a wonderful opportunity to bring our state leaders together face-to-face with the industry leaders who will be doing the hiring. IAA is working with us to plan a similar meeting on the west coast early in 2014.


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