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Executive Director’s Report: February 1, 2014

February 1st, 2014

The 14th Annual Strategic Planning Session
Staff broke into teams and analyzed data from the field and brainstormed solutions. As a result, we have a draft FY15 Strategic Plan in place. New areas of focus include strategic membership focus, building state leader capacity, focus on SkillsUSA as a skills gap solution and a connector to STEM education and SkillsUSA’s 50th Anniversary celebration. The organization’s work will center around nine macro objectives that rise to the board-mandated areas of focus and are inclusive of the new areas listed above. We took the draft plan to the State Directors’ Association Executive Council Meeting in Sarasota, Florida on January 29. Following state director input and staff review, we will develop the budget for FY15 and bring the plan and budget to the board for review and approval in March.

Meeting of National Coordinating Council
I recently attended the bi-monthly meeting of the National Coordinating Council for Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO). Several very important reports were given.

The U.S. Department of Education has released a new Employability Skills Framework and made a presentation to the career and technical student organizations (CTSOs) regarding the content and dissemination strategy. We are very pleased that our employability skills curricula and assessments are in direct alignment with the new framework. The framework is also cross-walked to the Common Core Standards and Common Core Career Technical Standards.You can view the employability skills framework at: http://CTE.ed.gov/employabilityskills/.

ACTE and state CTE directors also announced good news regarding federal funding for CTE. An omnibus bill was released Monday and $53 million was reinstated to the Perkins legislation. This is only $5 million short of the funding level prior to sequestration. SkillsUSA and the other CTSOs were commended for the advocacy work to make this funding reinstatement possible. And, thanks to board and foundation members who accompanied our students on Capitol Hill last September, for their role in this effort.

ACTE announced efforts to position CTE as key to STEM education. Again, this aligns perfectly with our strategy to position SkillsUSA in the same manner. And, we look forward to working with ACTE and other CTE associations in moving the STEM/CTE agenda forward.

There are also other advocacy opportunities on the horizon. On February 18, we will be sending a national student officer to Washington, D.C. to meet with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier. This will be a listening session called “Youth Voices” to gather student opinion on the U.S. Department of Education’s goals. And, last week, more than 50 students and advisors from Ohio visited the U.S. Department of Education and provided their input to the new employability skills framework and other department initiatives.

And, finally, a letter has been sent to President Obama and signed by each CTSO national president, requesting an appointment during CTE Month in February. This proposed meeting will allow our student leaders to discuss the importance of CTE and the technical and academic knowledge they are gaining in their training programs, as well as the life skills gained through their student leadership organizations. We are hopeful this meeting will occur. We will also be announcing SkillsUSA Week during the second week of February (9th-15th).

Highlights

  • On Monday, January 13, select staff had a good meeting with Jennifer McNelly and her staff from The Manufacturing Institute. We are working together on digital manufacturing badges for SkillsUSA students’ electronic portfolios, on a “Youth Voices” campaign for manufacturing and participation in NAM’s Dream It, Do It program and for involvement in Manufacturing Day next October.
  • Moving forward with SkillsUSA’s strategic communications audit and with the help of Stratton Publishing and Marketing Inc., SkillsUSA conducted two focus groups on Jan. 20, with the visiting state officers and their advisors from Ohio. Focus group feedback will form the basis for the next step – a questionnaire to be sent to a sampling of students and teachers. The end goal is to have timely, high-quality and valuable content for our SkillsUSA members that better aligns with student and advisor needs.
  • In an effort to meet the needs of college/postsecondary members, a college/postsecondary task force meeting was held last November in which state directors, instructors and students from five states participated. As a follow-up to the task force meeting, a separate meeting was recently held with Tennessee college/postsecondary state director, Chelle Travis. Many items from the task force meeting were fine-tuned, and an outline was developed to produce a separate college/postsecondary membership kit.
  • SkillsUSA held a Common Core Task Force meeting on January 20-22 in the Washington-Dulles area. State directors, teachers, teacher educators and CTE state directors from Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska and Rhode Island joined national staff to create a set of objectives that will lead students to become proficient in 21st Century employability skills. These objectives will also be aligned with the Common Core State Standards. 

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

Highlights

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

 

Advocacy Alert: Perkins Funding

September 12th, 2013

Since 2010, Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act funding has been cut by more than $140 million and because of sequestration, Perkins will lose an additional $58 million for the 2013-14 school year. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a funding bill that restores recent cuts made to Perkins by sequestration and provides funding at the FY 2012 level. As of late August, the House had not released its appropriations bill for education and workforce development programs.

SkillsUSA, in cooperation with the Association for Career and Technical Education, asks that our constituents write to their Members of Congress to ask them to increase funding for CTE – back to the FY2010 level.

An alert and message has been posted on the SkillsUSA CapWiz site. To send a letter to your Senators and to your Representative, go to: http://capwiz.com/skillsusa/home/. Enter your zip code and the rest is self-explanatory. Please spread the word and take a few minutes to write to your Members of Congress and help CTE regain the Perkins funding it needs.

Highlights

February 14th, 2013
  • The Youth Development Foundation Committee met through a conference call on January 30 to discuss major funding priorities. The majority of committee members participated, and we were joined by two new members, Taryn McKenzie of Delmar, Cengage Learning and John Kett of Insurance Auto Auction International. The next YDF meeting is scheduled for April 16-17 here in Leesburg.
  • I had a great telephone conversation with SkillsUSA Champion of the Year and Snap-on CEO, Nick Pinchuk, on January 31. Nick says he’ll be making some high-level contacts for SkillsUSA, and he’s willing to travel on a couple of occasions this year to visit partners and high-value prospective sponsors. I also thanked him for his generous personal contribution to the Skills Build America campaign.
  • As you may recall, I served on the National Assessment of Career and Technical Education (NACTE) Independent Advisory Panel. I recently received word that the interim report from the NACTE was sent to Congress on February 8, way ahead of any serious talk of reauthorizing the Perkins Act. The more comprehensive final report is due to be released in the fall of 2013.

Highlights

April 15th, 2012
  • SkillsUSA was invited to help prepare hearings for a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on April 17. The hearing will be about the skills gap and how to address it. Our staff met with committee staff on Monday, April 2, to discuss the overall agenda, suggest additional witnesses from among our partners and what SkillsUSA is doing that can add to the hearings.
  • On the legislative front, staff attended the National Coordinating Council meeting for the student organizations, and according to a report from the U.S. Department of Education, Perkins is not likely to be folded in with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and reauthorization of Perkins is more likely in 2015 than next year. In a related development, we also understand that Perkins funds are protected from being folded into a workforce investment fund as originally proposed. NASCTEc worked for the change and reports that Perkins is the only program that cannot be consolidated into the unified workforce plan. And, on March 30, Representative Jim Langevin, co-chair of the bipartisan CTE Caucus presented the 2012 SkillsUSA Rhode Island Outstanding Advisor of the Year award in Cranston. That‘s great visibility for SkillsUSA.
  • On March 27, we had a webinar for state association directors on the expanded curriculum and changes to the officer training seminars held during conference, formerly called State Officer 101/201 and advisor training, but now called Leverage (state officers), Activate (chapter leaders) and Engage (advisor training). Seventeen directors joined the webinar and six more have asked for a reprise. Reaction was positive. There have also been six webinars on the Skill Connect Assessments focusing on general administration of the tests and on building student success with the assessments. And, staff reports that four states are using the assessments as part of their state competitions.
  • We have 46 applications in for the SkillsUSA WorldTeam. The interview and selection process will begin soon. We also got the good news that Festo will sponsor our 2013 Mechatronics Team.
  • Staff reports that the March 23 Chapter Management Institute held here at the national center was attended by 22 teachers from Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
  • And, finally, the succession plan approved by the board last year has been reviewed by a local consultant sent our way by Tim Zilke of ASE. The consultant commended the plan overall and had some suggestions that we’ll implement soon.

Highlights

March 31st, 2012
  • 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.

CTE Month and the State of the Union

January 26th, 2012

CTE Month and SkillsUSA Week, February 5 – 11 are coming up. The news stories are already coming in. I’m seeing stories about school open houses, community service events conducted by our chapters like Fairfield Career Center in Ohio working to help homeless teenagers and examples of how CTE and SkillsUSA change lives.

Of course, CTE is even more than that. It keeps students in school. Ninety percent of CTE concentrators graduate from high school. That’s in comparison to the average national freshman graduation rate of 74.9 percent.

And, those students are preparing for the careers America desperately needs.

During his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday, President Obama spoke of the need for training and the need for education. I hope federal and state policymakers wake up to the fact they’ve got the answer on their doorstep. It’s called CTE. It needs their support through the Perkins Act and appropriations in Washington and in statehouses across this country.

CTE Month and SkillsUSA Week are great opportunities to tell your community and policymakers that CTE is learning that works for America. I’ll be sending more on that soon. Happy CTE Month.

Efforts for Perkins Paying Off; Still Work To Do

November 15th, 2011

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have released their allocations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. Due to the advocacy efforts of the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), NASDCTEc and the entire CTE field, Perkins funding has been maintained in both bills. This is a great victory for the CTE community. However, level-funding for Perkins is not “in the bag,” according to ACTE. Negotiations on how to complete work on the appropriations bills are still taking place and we have to remind Congress how crucial Perkins funds are to our students, communities and businesses.

Read the full message by going to the SkillsUSA advocacy site, and we encourage you to send a letter to your senators and representative. Log on to the SkillsUSA advocacy and legislative website. Fill in your zip code and then click on compose your own message, and please construct a letter to send to your senators and representative to encourage their support of Perkins and other education and workforce programs.

National Assessment Meeting at the U.S. Department of Education

September 30th, 2011

On September 12 and 13, I met in Washington, D.C. with the Advisory Committee for the National Assessment of Career and Technical Education (NACTE). The committee is charged with research and reporting on the impact of Perkins IV legislation. The NACTE Final Report to Congress will be released in a few weeks. I wrote a significant portion on the impact of education reform on CTE and was also responsible for including language in the report about employability skills in reform efforts through career and technical student organizations.

Highlights

June 15th, 2011
  • At the recommendation of Frank Carroll, former SkillsUSA board member, president, Bosch Power Tools North America and full-time SkillsUSA champion, we held a meeting here in Leesburg on May 26 with Larry Teverbaugh, CEO of K2Share and Robert Wagner, senior VP, Lowe’s and SkillsUSA board member. The agenda revolved around Vision 2020 and how we can employ the talent and influence of top corporate executives to reach those goals by tapping into their business acumen for strategic guidance – such as developing appropriate and responsive business models for SkillsUSA – and using their leverage appropriately for financial development. It was an excellent half-day meeting and gave the invited staff plenty to think about.
  • Here’s the latest national conference by the numbers. Conference registration – even in these tough financial times – is up over last year to 9,647. A good sign is that state associations are asking for more hotel rooms. And, we have 5,745 contestants registered That’s more than last year even though we have two fewer contests. We have 79 SkillsUSA University seminars scheduled (74 last year) and there are 144 TECHSPO exhibitors, 30 of them are new. The 101 and 201 State Officer and Advisor Training registration is way up (over 70 more participants) this year to 269 participants from 25 states. SkillsUSA’s partners are giving away $100,000 in travel scholarships related to students attending conference.
  • Stephen Gold, CEO of the Manufacturing Alliance, came by for a visit on the morning of May 16. Staff and I provided an overview of SkillsUSA and Gold oriented us to the Alliance. Several of our partners serve on the Manufacturing Alliance board of directors, including CAT, Air Products and Snap-on. Emily DeRocco and I presented to the Manufacturing Alliance board in Washington, D.C. on June 9. Gold sees SkillsUSA as part of the solution for the manufacturing pipeline issue facing the nation’s manufacturers. The Alliance has over 300 manufacturing companies as members. He will also be attending the NLSC.
  • On May 18, I participated in the inaugural meeting of the National Youth Safety Advisory Council. Led by CareerSafe and supported by federal OSHA, the council is comprised of leaders from industry and education. Friends of SkillsUSA on the Council include CAT, FFA, Chad Maclin of Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools, Dr. Chip Harris from Tennessee State University and Mike Raponi, former SkillsUSA board member and CTE director from Nevada. The Council will be sponsoring the first National Young Worker Safety Day in conjunction with our NLSC on Tuesday, June 21. The goal of NYSAC is to review current and future safety regulations and policies set forth by OSHA and to help determine the best ways to train and educate young workers including methods and data collection processes.
  • Membership in the Alumni & Friends Association is close to 20,000.
  • Lowe’s will have 13 vendor companies attending conference this year.
  • There were 49 signatures on the “Dear Colleague” letter to support Perkins funding when it was sent to the chairman and ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Service and Education in mid-May. It will probably be one of many letters in the months ahead.

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