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Last stop on the State Conference “Mega Tour”

June 1st, 2012

Pensacola, Florida, April 28 – May 2, was the final stop on my State Leadership Conference Mega Tour. State association director Tyler Kercher and his team managed a phenomenal conference, in fact, the largest conference in Florida history. Other state associations have been experiencing their largest conferences ever, too. Membership numbers and conference attendance seem to rise together.

When I spoke to the VIP reception, I added the word “community” to our SkillsUSA core statement as a partnership of students, teachers and industry because it seemed the entire community of Pensacola stepped up to support Tyler and SkillsUSA Florida. The anchor sponsor of the conference was Pensacola State College and a veritable Who’s Who of Northwest Florida provided support. The vast majority of Championships competitions were held at the Pensacola Civic Center. It was also the venue for the Opening and Awards Ceremonies. There were approximately 2,200 competitors and 3,000 SkillsUSA attendees. Surrounding the Championships was an impressive Career Expo called “The World of Possibilities,” and over 3,000 middle school students toured the competitions and participated in the Expo. The downtown streets of Pensacola were closed down for a big block party following the Championships.

Visiting dignitaries included the Mayor of Pensacola, State Senator Greg Evers, the president of Gulf Power and officials from the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development officials. I met with Loretta Costin, vice chancellor, Division of Workforce Education. I had lunch with SkillsUSA Corporate Member Eric Owens, interim director, Career and Technical Department of Education. And, to top off my experience, I was thrilled that SkillsUSA’s 1993-94 national college/postsecondary division president – now state congressman – Jimmy Patronis attended the conference. Representative Patronis shared his SkillsUSA (VICA) story with the voting delegates.

While there, I also delivered a presentation on the Skill Connect Assessments to over 120 teachers and administrators, and I saw the Blue Angels fly over Pensacola Beach. Awesome! Big congratulations to Tyler Kercher and his team for completing his first state conference and thanks to the city of Pensacola for its wonderful support.

Highlights

May 14th, 2012
  • The official membership number is 330,703. That’s 10,416 more members than last year! Official membership includes students, instructors, alumni and honorary life members. It is now available for download at: www.skillsusa.org/downloads/PDF/membershipreport.pdf.
  • Another record was broken a couple of weeks ago. We not only surpassed the total number of Skill Connect Assessments sold all of last year, we’re already 13 percent over that total, and there is still more testing season ahead.

 

Work Force Ready System/Skill Connect Assessments

May 14th, 2012

The Skill Connect Assessments are still available to order for end-of-year testing for this school year. To order online, go to: www.workforcereadysystem.org/purchase.shtml.

Once your order is placed the tests will be available to use within 24 to 48 business hours. Contact us directly if you need your order expedited. A complete list of available assessments can be found at: www.workforcereadysystem.org/technical_areas.shtml.

Assessment License Expiration Date
Assessment tests/licenses can be administered anytime from the time you purchase up until July 31, 2012. Unused licenses are not refundable and cannot be carried over to the following school year or transferred to another assessment area.

Reports and Certificates
The instructor’s name provided on the initial order has immediate access to grades, certificates and reports in the test system. A secured username was created and provided to the instructor. Contact our support desk if you need assistance with accessing the reports or go to: http://www.workforcereadysystem.org/media/GradeReports.pdf for online instructions.

Access to Grade Reports Expire online on July 31, 2012. Grade reports can be downloaded into Excel and saved to your hard drive for future reference by clicking the “export” button in the grade report. Please save your reports before July 31st!

Support Desk
Peak test season (March- May):
Mon – Fri, 8 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. EDT
Contact us at 703-737-0633 or email us at skillconnect@skillsusa.org

Thank you to those who have already used the Skill Connect Assessments this testing season. We look forward to serving you next year!

 

Highlights

May 1st, 2012

On April 2, SkillsUSA briefed staff of a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee subcommittee preparing for hearings to discuss ways to address the skills gap. Staff was particularly interested in things done by and with our partners, such as the CAT ThinkBig program. The staff also appreciated our helping them to secure potential witnesses from among our sponsors. One of the witnesses on April 17 was from the American Welding Society.

More in the “it’s nice to be asked”category. Staff and I had a conference call with the Boston Consulting Group on Monday. The Group is working with Harvard Business School on the topic of U.S. competitiveness. The goal of the project is to identify a set of actions that companies can take to improve competitiveness, and they thought SkillsUSA would be a good source. We were also called for an interview on the increasing popularity of “trade schools” by “Fox Business.” (We can’t correct everything in the news.) Here is the link to the story: www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2012/04/06/going-to-trade-school-should-do-it. And, staff member Eric Gearhart and Bob Skodzinsky of Haas Technical Education Center Network were the primary sources for a tremendous three-page feature article entitled “Student Journey: From SkillsUSA to WorldSkills”printed in the March 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering published by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. The article really ties together the need for skilled workers, SkillsUSA, the Championships and the WorldTeam.

During the first week of April, we signed an agreement to coordinate where we can with Rebuilding Together (formerly known as “Christmas in April”), an organization dedicated to renovating homes owned by the poor and elderly. They do 10,000 projects every year. We’ll encourage our members and partners to work with Rebuilding Together and serve on their local affiliate boards. For their part, they have several major partners and several excellent visibility opportunities every year, including the Super Bowl.

Skill Connect assessment sales are brisk. SkillsUSA University has 75 classes confirmed and eight more pending. We have a record number of President’s Volunteer Service Award winners with 122 individual awards representing 34,251 hours of service and 11 team awards totaling 19,097 service hours.

Big State Conferences in the Southwest

April 15th, 2012

Following the board meeting, I was off to Corpus Christi on March 22-24 for an outstanding Texas high school division conference. There were 5,600 registrants and 6,000 attending overall. The event filled the entire Corpus Christi Convention Center and several contests were held at the Craft Training Center. The Texas conference had some special features such as a competition for projects – in categories such as furniture or outdoor grills – built back at the school and then taken to conference to be judged and awarded ribbons. There were 2,000 projects and there were 1,000 contestants in the Technical Information Contest which used the Skill Connect Assessments. Texas also held exploratory competitions for middle school students.

It was great to spend time with John Ellis, statewide CTE coordinator at the Texas Education Agency and Tom Pauken, chairman of the Texas Work Force Commission. Both were tremendously impressed by the conference. It was also great to see Larry Rabalais, state director of SkillsUSA Louisiana. Congratulations go to high school state director, Janet Conner, and husband, Pat, for running an outstanding conference.

On March 27-28, I was in Phoenix for the 45thannual SkillsUSA Arizona Championships which took up the majority of the floor space of the Phoenix Convention Center. There were more than 2,000 participating and over 60 contests. One of the most outstanding features of the conference was how professional everything looked with eye-catching banners and signs. The Arizona Skills Standards Commission and the Arizona Stakeholders Committee held a joint meeting in conjunction with the conference. Commissioners did a “walkabout” of the Championships.

I had the pleasure of visiting long-time SkillsUSA friend, Carolyn Warner, co-chair of the Skill Standards Commission and spending the afternoon meeting with John Huppenthal, co-chair of the Arizona Skills Standards Commission and the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Arizona Department of Education. It was also great to see long-time friend Mark Hamilton, deputy associate superintendent of CTE (and a former SkillsUSA state director) and Dennis Fiscus, team leader for the student organizations in the state department. Congratulations go to Arizona state director, Carrie Wolf.

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.

More Recognition for Students in Manufacturing

March 31st, 2012

Students can now earn additional recognition for their participation in SkillsUSA under a grant from the MacArthur and Mozilla Foundations. The Manufacturing Institute led the proposal with input from SkillsUSA and Project Lead the Way to earn digital badges credentialing students who have attained skills through learning organizations. Over 500 teams applied for the grants and only four were selected. Other winners include Disney/Pixar and NASA’s Robotics and STEM System.

SkillsUSA students in manufacturing programs will earn the badge by doing two of the following: earning a Skill Connect certificate; winning a medal in a state-level Championships; earning levels one and two in the Professional Development Program; and, receiving a manufacturing certification.

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.

New and Updated for Skill Connect Assessments

March 14th, 2012

Assessment season is drawing near, and we’re excited to offer 47 industry-driven technical and employability assessments, which include 44 Skill Connect assessments and four automotive assessments offered by our co-vender Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Information on our assessments and a complete list of the assessment areas available can be found at: www.workforcereadysystem.org. At the site, there are also instructor and administrator resources to help prepare students for testing, a free 10-question demonstration of each Skill Connect Assessment, an option to purchase a 50-question sample test for $10 per assessment area and links to purchase a Skill Connect Assessment for student testing or for instructor or administrator preview.

NEW Assessment Webinars in March! Topics include “Instructor Tips for Student Success” and “Meeting Industry Demands.” For Webinar dates and times go to: www.workforcereadysystem.org/webinars.shtml

UPDATED Assessment Blueprints! The Assessment blueprints have been updated with the weighted percent of standards and competencies to help prepare the students for the assessment. Go to: www.workforcereadysystem.org/technical_areas.shtml and click on the assessment area to see the blueprint.

 Tips for student testing. As you begin preparing your site for student testing please refer to the website to review testing instructions at: www.workforcereadysystem.org/testing.shtml prior to administering the assessment and ensure your hardware and software are test-ready by reviewing the requirements before beginning testing.

If you are using Internet Explorer as your browser, the requirement is Version #8. You will need to upgrade to V8 if you are running at a lower version in order for the graphics to appear correctly. If you are running V9, you must turn on compatibility mode before beginning the assessment. We suggest you test your equipment by taking the Television (Video) Production 10-question demo because it tests all question types and sound.

Accommodations are available for students with special needs. It is possible to configure your computer from text to speech and an animated voice will read the test to the student. See the Skill Connect Getting Started Guide at: www.workforcereadysystem.org/media/support/skill_connect_assessment_getting_started_guide.pdf for technical assistance to configure your computer.

To purchase a Skill Connect Assessment for student testing, go to: www.workforcereadysystem.org/purchase.shtml.

Work Force Ready System and Skill Connect Assessments

February 1st, 2012

We offer 47 industry-driven technical and employability assessments, which include 44 Skill Connect assessments and four automotive assessments offered by our co-vender Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Information on our assessments and a complete list of the assessment areas available can be found at: www.workforcereadysystem.org.

There are also instructor and administrator resources to help prepare students for testing, a free 10-question demonstration of each Skill Connect Assessment, an option to purchase a 50-question sample test for $10 per assessment area and links to purchase a Skill Connect Assessment for student testing or for instructor or administrator preview.


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