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Executive Director’s Report: February 15, 2014

February 15th, 2014

Happy CTE Month and SkillsUSA Week!  As we celebrate the outstanding work of CTE educators and programs nationwide this month, it’s great to recognize our SkillsUSA state associations that are growing participation and opportunity for students and teachers through outstanding membership recruitment efforts.  As we all know, CTE and CTSOs change lives for the better, and we are very proud of all the great work that is being done to lift up our students.  Special congratulations to the following state association leaders:

  • Arizona, Carrie Wolf, State Association Director
  • California, Clay Mitchell, State Association Director
  • Connecticut,  Heidi Balch, State Association Director
  • District of Columbia, Ed Roebuck, State Association Director
  • Indiana, Kelley Baker, State Association Director
  • Kansas, Becky Warren, State Association Director
  • Maine, Hal Casey and Rick Thomas, State Association Directors
  • Maryland, Charles Wallace, State Association Director
  • Mississippi, Andy Sims, State Association Director
  • New Hampshire, Kate Krumm, State Association Director
  • Oklahoma, Darren Gibson, State Association Director
  • Pennsylvania, Jeri Widdowson, State Association Director
  • Rhode Island, Josh Klemp, State Association Director
  • Texas, Janet Conner, State Association Director, High School Division

As of today, February 12, we have 275,089 members on the books and that’s approximately 8,000 ahead of the same day last year. We are trending well and are optimistic the push forward will continue through the new year.

Lowe’s Meeting

On January 24, I traveled to Charlotte, N.C. and met with Lowe’s executives, Board Member Troy Dally, Mike Horn, Vice President, Commercial Sales and Tom Donoghue, Community Relations Manager. I shared some of the results of our FY13 Lowe’s Schools in Need Grant Program and an impressive video presentation put together by grant recipient schools, Carol Lowery and Tom Kercheval from staff. The video shows the impact of how Lowe’s grant dollars were spent in those schools and students and teachers thanking Lowe’s for the opportunity. I had some great meetings with Troy regarding both the altruistic connection Lowe’s has to SkillsUSA, as well as how we can enhance our visibility of SkillsUSA graduates who go on to be professionals in the construction industry. It was really great to spend quality time with Tom and review some of the history of our partnership as well as discuss the future. We’re hopeful Lowe’s support will continue for many years to come.

Louisville “Circle of Champions” Breakfast

On January 16th, SkillsUSA, in cooperation with Greater Louisville, Inc. (GLI) and the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau, held a breakfast for members of the local business community at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. About 200 attended and all of the seats were taken. Students from local CTE schools demonstrated their skills as attendees entered the building, including robotics, culinary arts, cosmetology, automotive, diesel, masonry and others. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer gave a powerful presentation welcoming SkillsUSA to the city and national officer Crystal Sandoval was the master of ceremonies and did a great job. Other presenters included the vice president of GLI, Dr. Dale Winkler from the Kentucky Department of Education, and board member Laurie Hackett from Air Products. All did a great job, and the breakfast was a huge success. The business community showed a lot of great enthusiasm for SkillsUSA’s national conference coming to Louisville. We are confident this event is the beginning of a strong and fruitful relationship with the Louisville, Kentucky community.



Youth Voices with CTSO National Officers

Daria Ferdine, national high school treasurer from New Jersey, has been selected to represent SkillsUSA at the U.S. Department of Education meeting with Secretary Arne Duncan on February 18. Students from each career and technical student organization (CTSO) will share activities with Secretary Duncan. The event will be held in the Secretary’s conference room, and the conversation will focus on how the CTSO’s are helping to advance some of the Department of Education’s key priorities (e.g., college and career readiness, STEM, technology, higher education access, great teachers and leaders, etc.). The students will also have an opportunity to share recommendations with the Secretary about how to improve CTE and the education system, in general. We are confident that Daria will do a great job representing SkillsUSA.

Partnership with Million Women Mentors (MWM)

SkillsUSA has formed a strategic partnership with Million Women Mentors, an initiative of STEMconnector, the national organization that works closely with corporations and thousands of entities to assist in STEM best practices and smart STEM investments.

This is an engagement campaign and national call to action that mobilizes corporations, government entities, nonprofit and higher education groups, around the imperative of mentoring girls and young women in STEM fields. MWM will support the engagement of one million science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) mentors (male and female) to increase the interest and confidence of girls and young women to persist and succeed in STEM programs and careers.

Women comprise nearly half of the U.S. workforce, yet just 24 percent of the STEM workforce. However, the good news is that women in STEM careers earn 92 cents for every dollar male STEM counterparts earn versus 75 cents in other fields. What’s more, 80 percent of the fastest growing occupations in the United States depend on mastery of mathematics and scientific knowledge and skills. 

SkillsUSA invites its business and industry partners and its member educators to sign on as a mentor of a girl or young woman aspiring to a future in the skilled/technical workforce. Any SkillsUSA instructor mentoring a female student(s) qualifies as a mentor. Virtually all SkillsUSA occupational programs possess important elements of STEM. In fact, 68 of our national competitions are directly related to STEM. You can sign up as an individual or you can sign up as a company or as an educational institution and enumerate your colleagues who are serving or will serve as mentors. Simply go to MWM’s website, and click on the “Pledge to Mentor” button on the lower right. 

SkillsUSA believes the Million Women Mentors initiative can be an important national asset in helping to close the “skills gap” that has become a focus of concern for nearly all of our partners.

Highlights

  • Work continues on the www.SkillsUSA.org redesign. We’ve seen initial designs for the new look of our home page and have made revisions to the design concept. The next design compositions will include the revised home page as well as three interior pages. Programming and coding for the new site begins on February 24.
  • Niki Clausen just returned from running a successful “Enhance Your Chapter” training in Sarasota where 36 educators participated.
  • Kelly Horton and Gayle Silvey ran a very successful state director webinar on January 27 to show them the enhancements to the membership system. Twenty-eight state association directors participated and follow-up comments have been very positive.
  • Heidi Walsh just returned from traveling to the American Association of Community College’s Workforce Development Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida with national officer, Dustin Cagle. It was a good visit, and she reports they received a lot of interest in SkillsUSA’s programs.
  • Patty Duncan and Lana Ford have been running a series of webinars to inform our customers about the Work Force Ready System, and they have been well attended.
  • And, last week Kelly Persons joined a morning News Talk Radio program serving listeners from Indiana and Kentucky who live and work in and around the greater Louisville metro area. She did a great job educating the listeners about SkillsUSA and the NLSC. I’ll send you a link to the archived broadcast when it becomes available.

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

SkillsUSA Board of Directors Meets in North Carolina

April 1st, 2013

The SkillsUSA board of directors met on March 12-13 in Huntersville, N.C. The meeting was hosted by IRWIN at their corporate offices and Learning and Development Center. IRWIN kicked off the board meeting with dinner at the Peninsula Club on Lake Norman and Rich Wuerthele, president of IRWIN, spoke to the group and brought the official welcome. Six IRWIN staff members participated in the evening event, including our host and board member, Nick Mastrone and YDF member Cheryl Mehrmann.

The morning of March 13 began with an overview of the Newell Rubbermaid family of brands by Rich and an overview of the IRWIN operations and workforce awareness programs by Nick. The board then toured the Learning and Development Center and learned how product research, development and testing are performed on a variety of products. Our main tour guide, Doug Nelson, IRWIN’s senior prototype manager, told us at the beginning of the tour that he was a SkillsUSA member back when it was VICA and he is still involved assisting with SkillsUSA competitions. It’s always great to see success in former members.

The board’s business meeting was March 14 and we were pleased that Peyton Holland, N.C., college/postsecondary state association director joined us for the day. A big thank-you goes to Nick Mastrone and the entire IRWIN team for their incredible hospitality and for a high quality experience for the board and staff at their corporate offices.

Highlights

April 1st, 2013
  • Staff made development visits in Texas on Monday, March 11. First stop was at Burlington Northern and Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway in Ft. Worth. BNSF Railway operates more than 1,000 trains a day on one of the largest freight rail transportation networks in North America. BNSF will have an outdoor display at SkillsUSA TECHSPO. The second visit was with The Dwyer Group in Waco where they discussed women in the trades scholarships for our students. The Dwyer Group offers franchise business opportunities including Air Serv, Mr. Appliance, Mr. Rooter, Mr. Electric, Rainbow International, The Grounds Guys and Glass Doctor.
  • Staff traveled to Reno, Nev. with associates from the Ringenburg Group to conduct the last of four high school and college/postsecondary focus group sessions. The research was conducted with teachers and students of both membership levels. Staff facilitated educational resource and skill development training for the participants when they were not in the focus group meetings. A report compiling the focus group findings will be provided to the SkillsUSA marketing team in May and will be used to direct the membership and marketing plan for the organization.
  • Speaking of alumni success stories. Staff reports that the summer issue of SkillsUSA Champions magazine will feature a former SkillsUSA member who is now a successful food stylist for a major home shopping network.
  • On March 14-15  I travelled to Louisville, Ky., where we met with executives from Ford Motor Company and General Electric. We also met with the new president of the Kentucky State Fair Board and toured some potential storage facilities. We also met with staff at the Kentucky Department of Education, including Fran Dundon and new state association director, Larry Johnson.

Atlanta Meeting with State Association Directors

February 14th, 2013

Mike Cowles chaired the annual meeting of the State Association Directors’ Executive Committee, January 23-26. I was joined by several staff members. The committee devoted much of its agenda to planning the state directors’ summer conference to be held this year in Portland, Maine. We also had a frank discussion on both this year’s national conference registration fee increase and about states signing up under the national liability insurance policy.

We received good feedback on the first draft of the FY14 strategic plan. They were enthusiastic about proposals for outreach such as a monthly e-newsletter to school administrators. They also strongly supported our working to engage with state departments of education to make SkillsUSA a priority. They want us to emphasize the importance of training advisors in chapter management when we meet with departments of education and state CTE directors. There was also a great deal of interest in cross-walking SkillsUSA curriculum to the Common Core Standards. They specifically recommended an instructor guide on how the Professional Development Program can reinforce teaching the Common Core. Speaking of core, they recommended that SkillsUSA develop an easily understood framework that helps teachers deliver the SkillsUSA core program that creates student success. They were enthusiastic about the Skills Build America individual giving campaign saying they want to be more involved and do more to promote it at the state level.

Thanks go to all involved and particularly for the chair leadership of Ohio state association director, Mike Cowles.

 

Highlights

December 27th, 2012
  • Staff met recently with representatives of the ALCOA Foundation on future support. ALCOA is a past SkillsUSA partner. And, staff met in Washington, D.C. with superintendent of Arizona Public Instruction and his chief of staff to discuss the Skill Connect Assessments.
  • Janet Conner, state association director for the high school division of SkillsUSA Texas visited the National Leadership Center on December 5 to review new SkillsUSA conference management software. Because of the association’s size, Texas is often a driver of association services that benefit other state associations.
  • We recently finalized a new partnership with the Gates Corporation (automotive division and a manufacturer/supplier of automotive hoses, belts, tensioners, pulleys and a variety of other parts). A Gates representative serves on our national auto service technical committee and came in at the official sponsor level ($25,000 minimum). We are thrilled to have them on board. We will be sending out information on how Gates would like to work with state associations and local chapters.
  • And, in the “it’s nice to be asked” category, we’re pleased that a congressional office has consulted SkillsUSA to ask what our priorities for CTE are in the 113th Congress and what we would recommend to promote CTE. Discussion included the administration’s blueprint for CTE, Perkins, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, high school and postsecondary CTE, SkillsUSA WorldTeam and the importance of industry involvement. There will be further discussion in the weeks ahead.

 

Highlights

September 30th, 2012
  • On September 11, Don Hermanek and Rita Figi of IAA (Insurance Auto Auctions) came by the national office to discuss the launch of a partnership to reach out to support SkillsUSA state associations and chapters and to offer training and employment opportunities to SkillsUSA students from many training program areas. They expressed particular interest in students competing in the leadership contests. They started the meeting with the presentation of a $25,000 check. We are to get back together in early October to further develop our strategy.
  • Along similar lines, staff and I met on September 13 with NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research). They’re predicting an uptick in construction hiring and so they’re looking for ways to hire our construction graduates.
  • Thanks to Bill Maddox and Wanzel Jessie of YDF member N.E.W., we were able to take the Mega Prize winner John Lee and his wife, Samantha, to the owner’s box at a Washington Nationals baseball game September 7th and then I took them on a Segue tour of the Washington monuments on the 8th. Both John and Samantha are big baseball fans so they were just over the moon about the prize. John teaches diesel equipment technology at Tennessee Technology Center in Elizabethton. He’s also a state certified trainer, he’s had national contestants, has a national officer this year and he was a Virginia state officer many years ago.
  • And, finally, the WorldTeam had its first webinar on August 3. Most of the contestants, experts, management team and a few state association directors participated. It was an orientation for the team and to check on how we’re doing on communications and training. We met with state association directors Karen Ward and Mike Cowles on September 10 to discuss several topics including state director certification, new training structures and registration procedures and the hotel lottery at national conference among others. The staff values their input. Past national officer, national staff member and all-around good friend to SkillsUSA, Bill Prince and his wife Patty came by to visit with the national staff on September 12. Bill addressed the staff meeting on the early history of SkillsUSA and exciting moments he recalled such as the appearance of President Reagan at our national conference.

Highlights

September 15th, 2012
  • A big thank you to our state association directors who attended the Professional Development and Training Conference in Rapid City, S.D. Here are just a few more highlights from the conference. Tiffany Sanderson, team leader, Perkins Career and Technical Education in South Dakota – equivalent to the state CTE director – was a featured speaker during the opening dinner. The states held regional meetings before the business meeting and all ran very well. Mark Williams, SkillsUSA’s chief IT consultant, did an outstanding job of demonstrating the conference management system. At least half of the directors attending participated, and Mark did a separate training for new state directors. The Mount Rushmore nighttime lighting ceremony was wonderfully patriotic. Jen Polz, state association director from Minnesota is the new executive committee chair-elect and all of the executive committee did a phenomenal job of running the conference.
  • On August 23, I flew to Chicago to meet with the CEO and executive staff of IAA (Insurance Auto Auctions) and the CEO and president of ADESA (a leading provider of vehicle remarketing services). Board member, Russ Hoffbauer, made the introduction by inviting the president and vice president of IAA to the conference last June. Needless to say, they were impressed by what they saw. During our meeting, Kaila O’Farrell, national high school vice president, talked about the value of SkillsUSA to students and then Russ Hoffbauer talked about why State Farm is involved in SkillsUSA. I’d say they were both persuasive because both organizations signed up to be SkillsUSA official sponsors effective this year. Executives from each organization met with us in Leesburg on September 11. Thanks go to Russ Hoffbauer for his support.
  • We have 311 people registered to attend the Washington Leadership Training Institute (WLTI) and it starts tomorrow. They’ll be representing 27 states and Puerto Rico and 31 state associations. I believe this is the largest WLTI in history. All of the national officers will be attending.
  • Preparations for the Champion of the Year dinner are reaching a feverish pace. An announcement news release went out on September 6, and Snap-on has really stepped up efforts to get coverage during a news conference scheduled at the National Press Club. Staff is following up on the invitations to the administration and Congress. We’ve had good sponsorship responses from the Youth Development Foundation and members of the board, and we’re looking forward to having 100 students and teachers from WLTI join us for the dinner.
  • We’re getting ready to send 13 students and 12 technical delegates from the 2013 SkillsUSA WorldTeam to Brazil for the WorldSkills Americas in mid-November 2012. We sent two contestants to the 2010 WorldSkills Americas competition and found it was a great way to prepare the contestants for international competition and – even more important – to help prepare the technical experts. Thank you to the state associations who are stepping up to support these contestants in their quest for excellence on the world level.

That’s it for now. Until next time, thank you for all you do for the great students and teachers we serve.

 

Great Conference in the Badlands

September 1st, 2012

I recently returned from Rapid City, S.D., the City of Presidents and Gateway to the Black Hills, where I was attending the State Association Directors Annual Professional Development and Training Conference. The program began on August 14 for the state directors’ officers and new state association directors. There were eight new directors there and lots of young faces among them. There were 47 state directors in attendance. The program covered a wide array of national staff updates, committee meetings and presentations from outside experts on topics such as: social media, privacy, security and the law; liability coverage; and, marketing CTE. There were also best practice sessions conducted by the state directors themselves.

It wasn’t all work, though. One evening, we went out for a cowboy dinner of stew, cornbread and blueberry pudding at the Flying T Ranch and were entertained by a cowboy band—the Flying T Wranglers. Almost all of the directors brought gifts representative of their states, and they were used as fabulous door prizes. Five of the meal functions were sponsored, and all of the sponsor presentations were well received.

Two members of the board – James King and Mike Cowles joined in when we visited George, Tom, Teddy and Abe at Mt. Rushmore. It was a great week.

Highlights

September 1st, 2012
  • The Best of Brand Awards were presented during the state directors’ conference in Rapid City. Congratulations go to: SkillsUSA Georgia for capturing Best of Brand in the Website Category and Best of Innovation, Membership Recruitment Category; SkillsUSA Massachusetts for Best of Brand in the Multi-Media Category and Best of Innovation, Advocacy Category; and, SkillsUSA Wisconsin for its Best of Brand in the Print Category.
  • In early August, I had a great trip to Yakima, Wash., to do two presentations on the Skill Connect Assessments. The first was a panel discussion including other assessment providers. The second presentation was strictly on our assessments. Both presentations were packed with people. I also got to spend some great time visiting with Eleni Papadakis, the Washington state CTE director.
  • I received a nice letter from Assistant Secretary of Education Brenda Dann-Messier thanking SkillsUSA for inviting her to participate in the national conference. The part I liked best comes at the end of this paragraph (that I’ll paraphrase):  ”The Administration’s blueprint for Perkins reauthorization calls for transformation of our career and technical education programs based on our key principles: effective alignment of CTE and labor market needs … strong collaboration [among education and employers] … meaningful accountability [for academic, technical and employability skills] … and increased emphasis on innovation. Through your national skills competitions, and the many state and local competitions and activities that SkillsUSA offers throughout the year, your organization is already demonstrating the key reform principles in action!”
  • In a quick update on national conference media coverage, we’ve documented over 100 stories about conference and/or winners in the greater Kansas City region from May into August. As a matter of fact, there’s a feature on a local medalist that ran several times beginning August 22, so it keeps on going. That figure is up over the 85 stories last year. The news releases on medalists and Skill Point recipients were emailed out almost immediately after conference, arriving before the July 4 holiday. A total of 5,581 releases were sent to daily and non-daily papers. And, trade press has been very good. Some of the trade press celebrates the fact that there are more contestants in the contests they cover. They see that as a sign of increasing interest in their fields.
  • Champion of the Year invitations were delivered directly to Member offices on Capitol Hill on August 20. In all, we invited 11 Senators and 12 Representatives, including Paul Ryan who just happens to represent the district in Wisconsin where Snap-on has its headquarters. We also invited representatives from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Labor. A press conference is scheduled at the National Press Club during the morning of September 18.
  • During our staff meeting on August 8, it was reported that Skill Connect Assessment sales were up 28 percent over last year and that we are seeing much more pre- and post-testing using the assessments. Staff also reported publication sales were up three percent over last year as of the end of June and the marketing department is still crunching the numbers on a survey taken by 650 students at conference.
  • Board President, James King, was here for the staff meeting and he told the staff  ”There’s interest in CTE because we teach marketable skills. The leadership component is what was missing and that’s what SkillsUSA does. I can’t think of any organization in America that does more for students than SkillsUSA.”

State Board Training in Minnesota

August 15th, 2012

On July 29 I traveled to Fargo, N.D., and then drove across the border into Detroit Lakes, Minn. to work with the SkillsUSA Minnesota board of directors in a training session on the role of non-profit board members. Jennifer Polz, state association director, and Marlys Bucher, SkillsUSA corporate member, and immediate past national board member representing Region 4, put on an outstanding training conference for board members and advisors over a three-day period.

The conference was held on the beautiful lake front of Detroit Lake and featured cookouts, picnics and outdoor games for the participants and families. Following board training, I took the board through a strategic planning exercise, and we developed a quality two-year plan with measurable objectives for the state association. Marsha Daves also attended and did an excellent job conducting a Chapter Management Institute for teachers, including five new advisors getting their first exposure to SkillsUSA. I heard nothing but great comments about the training and the conference overall. Congratulations to Jennifer Polz for her excellent work.


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