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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.

State Director Association Officers’ Meeting

February 15th, 2012

The officers of the SkillsUSA State Director Association met on January 25-27 in Red Rock, Nev., to review the first draft of the national FY13-14 strategic plan, advise national staff on issues in the states and to create an agenda for the state directors’ annual professional development and training conference. The annual conference will be held this year on August 14-18 in Rapid City, S.D. The officers selected Grand Rapids, Mich., as the site for their 2015 meeting.

The officers are great communicators. They’ll be holding a webinar on February 21 to update all of the state association directors on their meeting. My thanks go to Ohio state association director, Mike Cowles, the state association officers and to national staff members.

Training for State Leaders in Louisville

September 1st, 2011

Each August, we gather with our state association directors for our annual State Association Director Professional Development and Training Conference. It’s a great time of training, networking and sharing of best practices among state associations and a time that reminds us that we are about to embark on a new school year with a new crop of students to inspire. The conference started on Monday evening, August 15, with training for nine new state association directors who received two days of training on the basics of managing a quality state SkillsUSA organization. On Tuesday, our experienced state directors arrived and we were very pleased that Dr. Dale Winkler, the new state director of career and technical education for Kentucky, spoke at the opening banquet. Dr. Winkler expressed his support for SkillsUSA as an integral component of CTE instruction and his commitment to our national conference when it moves to Louisville in 2015. Over 50 state directors and support staff were there and they had the opportunity to tour the city, visit the Kentucky Expo Center and meet city officials and representatives from conference hotels and local attractions. The directors were impressed with Louisville and all it has to offer for our national conference.

The conference also featured the presentation of the 2011 SkillsUSA “Best of Brand” Awards. Congratulations to the following state associations for their excellent work and for winning the various categories: SkillsUSA Arizona and director Carrie O’Grady-Wolf for Best of Brand Online; SkillsUSA Georgia and director Gayle Silvey for Best of Brand Multi-Media; SkillsUSA Massachusetts and director Karen Ward for Best of Brand Print; and SkillsUSA Wisconsin and director Brent Kindred for Best of Brand Conferences and Events.

Training sessions included best practice workshops in social networking, conference and contest management, membership development, finance and insurance, alumni growth, program of work strategies and Vision 2020. State directors also held regional meetings, brought recommendations from standing and special committee meetings, and they held their annual business meeting on Saturday morning. On Saturday evening, during a special reception at Churchill Downs, Board President Russ Hoffbauer and State Director Chairman and Board Member Mike Cowles, conducted a listening session for state directors with the purpose of providing input and questions for the national board.

Finally, I am thrilled to congratulate three state association directors for achieving the SkillsUSA State Director Certification. The certification is based on American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) standards and demonstrated expertise in membership development, communications, image and media, conference management, industry partnerships, operations management and personnel management. Congratulations to Gayle Silvey of Georgia and Millie Perez of Puerto Rico for attaining their certification and to Mike Cowles of Ohio for attaining re-certification.


August 15th, 2011
  • On August 1, Phil and Vickie Cronin from Iowa were here to claim their SkillsUSA membership mega prize: a trip to a Washington National’s baseball game. And, it was more than just the game. We were in the N.E.W. Customer Service Companies suite overlooking home plate. We began with a tour of the National Leadership Center and a reception before boarding the bus for Washington accompanied by 12 staff members. Phil has been a construction technology teacher for 34 years and has taken his SkillsUSA membership from 15 when he started to 100 percent of the students in the school. YDF member Bill Maddox from N.E.W. was our generous host.
  •  Toward the end of July, I received a short report on the 10th annual Timberland PRO community service day held during this year’s conference. There are some impressive numbers here. A total of 385 volunteers planted 125 fruit trees and 40 blueberry bushes in an urban orchard. In addition, 1,500 backpack kits were stuffed to feed community children. And, 300 students won free footwear. That’s pretty neat too.
  • Wel have surveyed the National Education Team and the Championships technical committees. There were approximately 10 questions on each survey. The final results will be released later, but the answers to two of the questions from the technical committee survey jumped out at me. When asked if the membership of the 2011 national technical committee reflects a variety of leading companies in their industry, 71 percent strongly agreed and 24 percent agreed. When asked if the 2011 contests reflect current industry expectations for the skills and competencies of an entry-level worker in their occupational specialty, 73 percent strongly agreed and 24 percent agreed.
  • Letters accompanying the state press releases on Championships medalists and Skill Connect recipients have been faxed to all the members of Congress who had constituent winners. They’ve also gone to the governors and state CTE directors. We’ve been getting good responses from both Congress and governors requesting home addresses so they can send letters of congratulations. It makes a difference sending the letters before the congressional recess.
  • And, we’re getting ready for the State Association Directors Annual Professional Development & Training Conference and site visit in Louisville, Ky., August 15-20. I’m pleased to say that as of today, we have 46 state directors attending. That would be our largest turnout in quite some time. The officers have put together a great program. The Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau has been very supportive and has planned some great activities for the directors.


July 15th, 2011

At the end of June, we received news that three SkillsUSA projects won Awards of Excellence in the annual APEX program which recognizes graphic design, editorial content and the success of the entries in achieving overall communications effectiveness and excellence. For 23 years, APEX (Awards for Publication Excellence) has judged and presented these awards to professional communicators. The SkillsUSA publications staff received Awards of Excellence in the following categories: –Member and Customer Materials: 2010-2011 SkillsUSA Membership Kit, submitted by Ann Schreiber; Marketing and Public Relations Electronic Media and Video Publications: A Week of Champions, submitted by Tom Kercheval; and, Tom Hall entered our 2010 Official Conference Program in the Brochures, Manuals and Reports category – and we won a Grant Award, the highest honor. This is the first Grand Award our staff has won in 14 years. The judges said: This is what a conference program should be.” Other Grand Award winners this year included familiar names such as Walt Disney Co., Toyota, Lockheed Martin, Ford Motor Co., City of Baltimore, Merrill Lynch, TD Ameritrade, FedEx and AARP.

And, on Friday during conference, new officers were elected to serve on the SkillsUSA State Association Director Executive Committee. Their offices will become effective after the August meeting. Gayle Silvey, Georgia, will be chair-elect. Josh Klemp, Rhode Island and Bruce McBurney, Washington, were both reelected to represent Regions 1 and 5 respectively. Tammy Brown, Michigan, was elected to represent Region 3. Carrie Wolf, Arizona, is the new secretary and Pete Carey, New Jersey, is the new parliamentarian.

Webinars are a Wonderful Way to Travel

March 1st, 2011

SkillsUSA is very big on communications, and the national office has been “webinar central” the past month. We’ve held four online conferences: two for state association directors; another for alumni; and, the webinar for SkillsUSA members during SkillsUSA Week.

On February 8, students and teachers from 18 schools nationwide tuned into the SkillsUSA Week inclusion and diversity webinar on “Respecting All Perspectives.” Board President Russ Hoffbauer addressed the group saying how pleased he is that SkillsUSA is discussing inclusion and diversity because this is also an important issue to business.

The February 4 webinar with 16 state association directors was a discussion on SkillsUSA’s online conference registration system. During their August meeting, the state directors asked us to make our registration system more user-friendly, and our consultant, Mark Williams, has been doing just that. He’s even created a series of online training modules to walk users through the process. Reactions from the participants were extremely positive including posted notes that said: “Love the changes.”

On February 17, the state association directors’ executive committee conducted an hour-long webinar for the 18 directors who signed in. This was a follow-up report on their meeting in January including: minutes; proposed Constitutional amendments; the improvement of services to states by the SkillsUSA Store and stock of core products; and, the August Professional Development Conference. There were also updates from national staff on Vision 2020, state association insurance, national conference updates, membership mega prizes and an April membership registration task force to include some non-SkillsUSA instructors to help us improve online registration by next school year.

And, on February 15, the SkillsUSA Alumni & Friends Association held its first membership service webinar on enhanced communications. Three of our alumni members served as the expert speakers on topics including job interview techniques, communication and asking questions and serving as a mentor. There were 18 participants, and it seemed a propitious start to this kind of membership service.

All the webinars have been archived, so we strongly encourage those who could not participate “live” to go to our website to view them.

Super State Director Meeting in Las Vegas

February 15th, 2011

The expression may be “what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas” but we plan to do some exporting. The SkillsUSA state association directors’ executive committee met January 26 – 28 to discuss a wide range of issues and to plan the state association directors’ August meeting in Louisville. Mike Cowles, state association director for Ohio, officially took over as chair of the committee during this meeting. Mike will be joining the board of directors during its March meeting.

A consistent theme throughout was the need for open communications, both inside state education agencies and within the SkillsUSA association. Mike and the other directors spoke of how state agencies are changing, and the student organizations’ need to change right along with them to meet education goals. That means showing how the student organizations work with career clusters, career pathways and how they align with the common core education standards developed by the National Governors Association and now adopted by 42 states.

To increase communications within SkillsUSA, the committee proposed a series of webinars for state directors beginning with a webinar on February 17 so the committee can discuss with the other directors nationwide, the outcomes of this meeting. They would also like to have webinar meetings on topics such as the strategic plan and training sessions on how to use SkillsUSA tools and programs, such as the membership mega prizes. By scheduling regular webinars during the year, we won’t be trying to put so much information into our two annual face-to-face meetings.

The committee approved the draft of the FY12 strategic plan – they’re eager to get some of the things sooner – and they also discussed major initiatives, financial reports, state liability insurance and the SkillsUSA Store.

I stayed in Nevada on Saturday, the 29th, to conduct board training for the Nevada association. It was a pleasure to work with Mike Pointer, our new association director, and his board. He had 100 percent attendance.

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