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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.

SkillsUSA at the ACTE Conference

December 15th, 2011

SkillsUSA had a productive ACTE (Association for Career and Technical Education) Conference in St. Louis, November 17-19. We had three national officers with us in the trade show booth – C.J. DeHart, Veronica Senkowski and Jeremy Ballentine – and each did a sensational job of visiting with people who stopped by. Actually, they were pulling people in to visit. The booth was always busy, and according to staff, the handout materials “disappeared.”

SkillsUSA conducted three presentations during the conference. SkillsUSA staff spoke on how to energize a chapter. Chip Harris from Tennessee State University did a workshop that was an introduction to the SkillsUSA Program of Work, and I did a well-attended presentation on the Skill Connect Assessments. We were pleased that the assessments were featured in an article on credentialing in the November/December issue of ACTE’s Techniques magazine. That probably helped build attendance. I also received some great reactions from teachers who are already using the assessments, and those were nice to hear.

Highlights

December 1st, 2011
  • Staff recently attended the annual meeting of the CEWD (Center for Energy Workforce Development), a nonprofit consortium formed in 2006 of electric, natural gas and nuclear utilities and their associations. SkillsUSA has engaged in a partnership with the CEWD which was formed to help utilities work together to develop solutions of the coming workforce shortage in the utility industry. It is the first partnership between utilities, their associations, contractors and unions to team with secondary and postsecondary educational institutions and the workforce system to create workable solutions to address the need for a qualified, diverse workforce. CEWD contracted SkillsUSA to create a Skill Connect Assessment in Energy Industry Employability Skills, and it is now available. SkillsUSA’s Career Skills Education Program (CSEP) is being used by CEWD as the companion curriculum for that assessment. With help from a Gates Foundation grant, CEWD has launched the Get Into Energy Career Pathway (GIECP) featuring eight pilot sites whose goal is to attract a total of 5,000 low-income students into training and jobs for the energy workforce sector. Additional information about CEWD is at www.cewd.org.
  • Some closing media notes . . . The Champion of the Year releases – both before and after the event – were sent to 1,148 automotive trades, business and education reporters nationwide, both print and online each time, and posted in several places online including Google, Yahoo and AOL. We also produced a report of WorldTeam coverage to share with WorldSkills International and discovered we had at least 118 stories or repostings of press releases on the WorldTeam including WCBS-TV, WAGC-TV, several other TV stations, and several newspapers including the St. Petersburg Times, BodyShop Business as well as several other trade publications and, of course, Parade Magazine.

Another Banner Conference for a New Group of Students

July 15th, 2011

Or, as the post-conference correspondence has been saying: “Wow!” Students from every state in the nation, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands were together for what many of them told me was “a life-changing experience.” The weekend before conference we had 260 student officers from 36 states attending State Officer and Advisor 101/201 for leadership training. That was a big increase over last year and our largest ever. We had 15 fine new national officers elected from a field of 40 candidates. The SkillsUSA WorldTeam – which will compete in London this coming October and is the largest team in 23 years – appeared on stage for the first time together on Friday night. We had nearly 5,700 contestants on the edge of their seats during the Awards Ceremony hoping to be medalists and Skill Point Certificate recipients. There was a “wow” every day of the week, whether it was the fireworks on stage or – even more – the visible excitement of the students and instructors.

Here are just a few more figures and highlights:

  • This was SkillsUSA’s largest conference with a total registration of more than 9,600 and a total participation of nearly 15,000.
  • All contestant scores are available online and privacy is protected by contestant number and birth date.
  • Champions Night on Tuesday, sponsored by Carhartt and Pepsi in the Power and Light District set a new record for participation numbers.
  • The 100% Advisor Reception sponsored by IRWIN, also on Tuesday, had a record 375 teachers attending. Seven sponsors provided 15 mega prizes, and they were collectively valued at just under $30,000.
  • SkillsUSA Night at the Kansas City Royals game, on Thursday, was a great success. It was a thrill to see nearly 10,000 students, teachers and supporters in the stands (and SkillsUSA board President Russ Hoffbauer threw a pretty good first pitch, too).

The Opening Ceremony was sponsored by Bosch and Georgia-Pacific and featured SkillsUSA CEO Champion of the Year, John McGlade of Air Products. I have to admit, there was a moment in John’s speech when he seemed to bask in the glow of the reception he was receiving from the audience. He felt the appreciation of nearly 13,000 students and teachers for the work he and Air Products are doing on their behalf. What they didn’t know was that John had taken his advocacy up a notch by writing of Air Products’ support for SkillsUSA to President Obama, the Secretary of Labor, and two offices in the White House.

Speaking of advocacy, this year’s Wednesday morning Call to Action for instructors and administrators was attended by over 800 people, and it appears over 200 signed up to be added to our Active Advisor list. Steve DeWitt of the Association for Career and Technical Education spoke on the budget in Washington. Our newest board member, Mark Williams representing the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education consortium, spoke on the importance of advocacy and on the new brand for CTE. Dave Camden represented Toyota, which sponsored the Call to Action, and as a member of the Youth Development Foundation, Dave spoke of how important industry support is for SkillsUSA and CTE. Thanks to their support, this was truly a call to action at a time when SkillsUSA and CTE really need it.

The SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference has often been called “the showcase of career and technical education.” That’s what it was again this year. The final VIP list included 365 names. Even better, during the YDF Awards Luncheon, when asked for a show of hands of people attending the conference for the first time, at least 40 percent of the attendees responded. There were also significant delegations of executives at conference from Air Products, Harley-Davidson, Autodesk, John Deere, Lowe’s, State Farm and mikeroweWORKS Foundation. The entire board of the National Center for Construction Education and Research attended as well. Representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Education Association attended and were well cared for by our VIP Host Committee and partners. Kansas City Mayor, Sly James, spoke at the VIP Breakfast on Thursday morning and Sharon Hoge, assistant commissioner of the Office of College and Career Readiness, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spoke during the VIP reception on Wednesday evening.

More than 500 students and teachers participated in the Timberland PRO community service projects planting trees and helping at the Kansas City food bank. The Community Blood Center registered 45 volunteers and collected 32 units of blood. There were 42 first-time donors. This was the most successful blood drive at conference.

Media coverage was up again this year. At the most recent count, there were 70 stories about SkillsUSA in the Kansas City news media including appearances on all four network affiliates and the front page of the Kansas City Star on Thursday and Saturday. News releases on all of the medalists, Skill Point recipients and honorees have gone to the media and I’ll report on those later.

The Opening Ceremony and the Awards Ceremony were both carried on streaming video thanks to the underwriting of Lowe’s. The Opening Ceremony had 2,548 unique viewers (a single computer with a unique IP address) while the ceremony was live. Since then 2,891 viewers have watched it in the archived version. For the Awards Ceremony, there were 6,495 viewers live streaming 7,907 hours of content. Since then, 3,496 viewers have looked at the archived footage for part one of the ceremony and 1,796 have watched part two. You can watch here.

Consistent with the strategic plan, SkillsUSA is conducting customer-satisfaction surveys including surveys about conference. We begun with the state association directors and have added more participants. Give your feedback here.

The new student center at conference also gathered responses from 722 students on 10 questions including: “How would you most like to be communicated with?” and “How often do you go to the website and what information are you seeking?”

Photos and videos from the 2011 NLSC are archived here.

Highlights

May 15th, 2011
  • The final official membership total is 320,287. That includes 300,302 student and teacher members and 19,302 alumni members.
  • On April 27, SkillsUSA staff and Gayle Silvey, Georgia state association director, did a test drive of the SkillsUSA chapter registration software with a group of teachers from Middletown Middle School in Maryland. They also spent time on the website comparing SkillsUSA’s site to others and deciding what organization to join based upon their online experiences.
  • Staff projects sales of Skill Connect Assessments might well reach 15,000 in May.
  • Lowe’s has invitations out to 20 of its vendors to attend national conference. Staff reports some have already spoken of support.
  • I’m sorry to report that Milt Ericksen from the Arizona Department of Education and representing NASDCTEc on the board has announced a job change, and he will be moving to the Arizona state agency that represents health and nutrition. As a result, NASDCTEc will be naming a new representative to our board. I expect to hear shortly. I personally thank Milt for all he’s done for SkillsUSA through the years, and I wish him well in his new endeavor.
  • April 29 – 30, I attended ProStart, the competition of the National Restaurant Association in Overland Park, Kan. SkillsUSA and ProStart are going to be aligning our standards for competitions, and I hope doing much more together.
  • And, I just returned from my final state conference visit to Florida. Carl Miller did a great job managing Florida’s largest state conference ever. SkillsUSA Florida also achieved the highest membership ever this year. Brandon Mullings, 2009-10 national officer, served as a keynote speaker, and it was great to spend time with him during the conference. SkillsUSA Florida ran 110 contests and over 3,000 attended the event.

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