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Executive Director’s Report: April 15, 2014

April 15th, 2014

Recent Board of Directors’ Meeting
The Board of Directors’ meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, March 12-13, went very well. A big thank you goes to Board President James King and Tennessee State Association Director Chelle Travis for their wonderful hospitality, great meals, transportation and meeting space at the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology-Nashville (TCAT).

We were very pleased that so many dignitaries from Tennessee state government and education attended the board kick-off dinner. Nissan sponsored the dinner and attendees included Nissan Technical Training Manager Kevin Smith; Chris Tesmer, IRWIN Industrial Tools; Chancellor John Morgan, Vice Chancellor James King, Carol Puryear and Lynn Goodman from the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR); TBR Board Members Danni Varlan and Emily Reynolds; SkillsUSA National Officers (past and present) Tony Hamblin, Jeremy Ballentine and Gildor Simplice; Representative Harry Brooks (House Education Committee Chair) and Senator Jim Tracy (Senate Education Committee Chair); Tennessee State Association Directors Brandon Hudson (high school division) and Chelle Travis (college/postsecondary division); TCAT Nashville Director Mark Lenz; and, Dr. Chip Harris from Tennessee State University’s Center for Career and Technical Education.

Modex Show
On March 18-19, I attended the Modex Show at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. I was asked by the Materials Handling Institute (MHI) to speak during the career and technical education track of the Modex Show. I provided a keynote presentation on the future skilled workforce and how SkillsUSA is a partial solution to the skills gap being experienced by this industry and many others. The show focused on transportation, distribution and logistics occupations. Other speakers were from both the companies that distribute goods (Target, Walmart, Staples, etc.) and those that build the automated equipment to move goods from manufacturing to warehousing to distribution. The entire show floor was an array of automated warehousing and distribution systems, and it demonstrated how high tech this industry has become. My track included several hundred students and teachers who were involved in the transportation, distribution and logistics education cluster.

SkillsUSA Foundation, Inc. Meeting
The SkillsUSA Foundation met in Louisville, March 25-26, and Dave Worden, Carol Lowery, Kelly Persons and I attended. The meeting was hosted by Snap-on Incorporated and Challenger Lifts. Special thanks to long-time Snap-on friends, Alicia Smales and Greg Rintala who filled in for Alicia during this meeting.

After a full-day meeting on Tuesday, March 25th, Foundation members reconvened on Tuesday, March 26th to walk the exhibit floor at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC) and help our Business Partnerships and Development (BPD) team kick off the new, volunteer-led, SkillsUSA-Louisville Advisory Council. The Council is made up of a core group of local business, industry and education leaders from Kentucky and Indiana who will help steward the growing partnership between Louisville and SkillsUSA. The purpose of the Council is to help raise local funding, build awareness and secure in-kind materials and volunteers for the 51st – 56th annual National Leadership and Skills Conferences (NLSC) to be held in Louisville.

In addition, Tim, Dave and Kelly toured the Sullivan College of Technology and Design and met with Michael Covington, HVACR Technology Department chair. Three representatives from Sullivan College joined us during the Circle of Champions Breakfast in January and were excited to talk further about how Sullivan instructors, alumni and students might support NLSC as volunteer judges and technical committee members.

More Travel
From Louisville, I flew to Rhode Island to participate and speak at the SkillsUSA Rhode Island State Leadership and Skills Conference Awards Ceremony. Josh Klemp reported a record number of more than 1,800 students, educators and parents attending. And, there were some very special guests in attendance. Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, State Education Board Chair Eva Mancuso and Deputy Education Commissioner David Talbott all spoke to the group and all were very supportive of the SkillsUSA program in Rhode Island. I was privileged to spend time with all three of them and with State CTE Director Vanessa Cooley. It was also great to see several alumni assisting with the event. Gianna Velino (Region I vice president, 2009-10) had a key role in producing the event and Sheila Vasquez (Region I vice president, 2005-06) delivered the keynote. As a national officer and a culinary student, Sheila had received a full tuition scholarship to Johnson & Wales University where she earned her BS degree. She just completed law school at Florida A&M University and will begin work within the next few weeks as prosecuting attorney in Miami-Dade County. She attributes her success to the love of service she acquired through SkillsUSA. With more than 6,000 members, SkillsUSA is the largest student organization in Rhode Island. Congratulations to State Association Director Josh Klemp and his team for an outstanding celebration for our students in Rhode Island.

We have also received word of top-level government officials attending other state conferences. The Governor will be attending the Illinois conference and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction will be attending the California conference.

On Thursday, March 27, I drove to Boston to meet with the SkillsUSA Massachusetts Board of Directors to assist them with strategic planning and financial strategy.

And, on Friday, March 28, Massachusetts State Association Director Karen Ward arranged visits for me and two executives from Dassault Systems to see two of her local SkillsUSA chapters using best practice examples of employability skills integration into STEM education classrooms. The experience provided a good snapshot into how our CTE schools teach STEM and integrate life skills training into the school day through SkillsUSA curriculum and chapter activities. More on these visits next time.

WorldSkills Americas Competition
The WorldSkills Americas Competition concluded on April 5 and the U.S. team has returned from Bogotá, Colombia with two silver medals and a “Best in Nation.” Jake Wozniak (N.Y.) won a silver medal in cabinetmaking and Mike Mullen (Calif.) won a Silver medal in automobile technology and also earned a “Best in Nation” award. There are some great photos on our website at: www.skillsusa.org/compete/worldskillsamerica.shtml.

Highlights

  • On March 15, Kelly Horton and Carol Lowery attended a STEM conference hosted by Universal Technical Institute (UTI) in California. The objectives of the conference were to showcase STEM in automotive and diesel curriculums and to illustrate to teachers how to become intentional about marketing their CTE program as an integrated STEM classroom. Teachers from California, Montana, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming attended.
  • UTI will be hosting an “invitation only” event for teachers from across the country at NLSC with the same objectives as above. Plus, SkillsUSA facilitators will illustrate how to integrate SkillsUSA into their CTE classroom using the STEM model showcased in the workshop.
  • Christen Battaglia was in Washington, D.C. on March 18, meeting with HP LIFE (Hewlett Packard) and the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE). HP LIFE gives entrepreneurs the skills and IT knowledge they need to manage, build and grow successful small businesses.
  • The 2014-15 school year will feature two distinctly separate Membership Kits. One kit will be specific to high school needs and will include resources that a teacher working in a traditional 9th -12th grade environment or a career center will find useful. And, a college/postsecondary kit is being created in direct response to the action plans that were developed by the College/Postsecondary Task Force this past fall. This kit will contain resources and materials that are unique to the nature of a technical or community college. We anticipate that by working to better meet the needs of these two customer markets, they in turn will be able to reach, recruit and engage more members in their chapters.
  • During the recent board of directors meeting in Nashville, Tenn. the board voted to approve the SkillsUSA Middle School Constitution. This move allows the national staff to begin to structure and organize the middle school chapters that are already in existence throughout the nation. Currently, 10 states are serving the middle school market, and this latest advancement will allow the formalization of chapters and the ability for national staff to quantify and serve this membership. Resources and materials for this market will be developed as funding allows.

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

Executive Director’s Report: April 1, 2014

April 1st, 2014

Connecting STEM, Manufacturing and Technician Service
On March 7, I spent the day with our good friends at STEMconnector in Washington DC. The day-long meeting was held at KPMG, just blocks from The White House. STEMconnector continues to gain momentum and build powerful connections with top leaders from business, government and education. Just two days prior, the organization held an event for Women in STEM at the U.S. Capitol, and it was attended by 67 Congressmen, Congresswomen and Senators. Edie Fraser, STEMconnector CEO, absolutely loves SkillsUSA, and she made sure I had a speaking opportunity and was able to inform the 200-member organization about SkillsUSA. We also agreed to host a meeting of STEMconnector at the 2015 NLSC. STEMconnector has published a book “Top 100 CEOs in STEM” and has now published the “Top 100 Women in STEM.” It is a very young organization, but it has become very powerful within corporate America in a short period of time. I am excited that SkillsUSA is a partner, and we are in the middle of the conversation.

Another result of the meetings with STEMconnector has been a connection with their “Life Skills Committee.” Al Bundshaft from Dassault Systems (USA headquarters in Waltham, Massachusetts) leads this committee, and they are seeking best practices in integrating life skills (what we call employability skills) into STEM education classrooms. Al and I connected and the Dassault team, met with Karen Ward, state association director from Massachusetts and me, and we visited SkillsUSA Chapters last week in the Boston area. Our PDP and leadership program is heavily integrated in these schools, and I know they came away with a solid knowledge of how our program and curriculum fits the bill as one of the best practices they were searching for.

On March 8, National High School Vice President Laura Gouillon from California joined me in Peoria, Illinois for a whirlwind round of presentations to a variety of manufacturing and community groups. SkillsUSA Foundation member and former Board president Cameron Ferguson of Caterpillar arranged for the visit, and it was a great opportunity to inform a very diverse group of organizations about SkillsUSA. On Sunday, Laura and I spoke to the Osher Institute of Lifelong Learning (OLLI) at a gathering at Bradley University. OLLI is made up of retired executives from area business and industry, and community organizations are very supportive of the group. I provided a 20-minute overview of SkillsUSA from a national perspective, and Laura delivered an incredible presentation about her experience in “SkillsUSA, STEM and CTE.” Laura used powerful examples of how her academics have been enhanced through real-world learning and how SkillsUSA has helped her grow to the point where she now has aspirations of becoming an electrical engineer. She has applied to several top universities and has already been accepted at USC with a full-tuition scholarship. She is a great example of a SkillsUSA leader and a wonderful role model for youth.

On Monday, we had a full day with several groups at CAT. We spoke first with the global dealer support group, providing some of the same information from the previous day’s presentation. We then had a great meeting with all the CAT volunteers from the Peoria corporate offices who support SkillsUSA at the national and state levels. Our next stop was at the CAT Visitors Center where we spoke to the Specialized Manufacturing Group and several area school administrators and teachers, including the Chairman of the Peoria District 150 School Board. This was a 90-minute presentation with several questions and lots of interaction. We also had the advisor and several student leaders from our college chapter at Illinois Central College participate in the meetings. Following lunch, we traveled to another CAT facility and had a one-on-one conversation with Gwenne Henricks, CAT’s Vice President of Product Development and Global Technology. Gwenne is also CAT’s Chief Technology Officer and an electrical engineer, so she and Laura had a great conversation.

We then traveled to Illinois Central College in East Peoria where we met the SkillsUSA chapter officers and toured the campus, including the CAT “Think Big” dealer technician training program. It’s always great to see our students in action, especially when one of our key partners is supporting the school in a “Big” way. And, finally, Cameron made sure that Laura had a chance to experience the “Big Iron” as we ended our visit at the CAT equipment demonstration and training center. Laura got to see and climb aboard some of CAT’s large trucks and loaders. She was very excited to get an up close and personal view of what heavy equipment looks like. What a thrill for any teenager! You can see some of the photos of this experience on our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153892007000591.1073741901.22208255590&type=1.

A BIG thank you goes out to Cameron Ferguson and the CAT team for such a great opportunity and experience for both one of our student leaders and for me personally!

Applying Skills Internationally in Pursuit of Access to Clean Water
The Business Partnerships and Development office is working on a project for SkillsUSA to collaborate with the World Plumbing Council to field a multi-disciplined team of three students (plumbers and engineers under the age of 26) to compete at the Water Innovation Challenge in Singapore, June 3 – 5, 2014. The theme of this pilot competition sponsored by WorldSkills Foundation is “new water–ways in which to create and control water supplies in specific international community environments.”

Teams will participate in a series of hands-on design challenges and practical tasks. The competition will take place over three days as the teams develop a series of real and innovative solutions for emerging water and sanitation problems in two developing countries: Nepal and Bangladesh.

The challenge’s impact on developing countries looks promising. Design toolkits created by winning teams during the competition will be made available to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international development organizations to support innovative individual plumbing and sanitation development projects around the world.

 

We look forward to keeping you informed as SkillsUSA college/postsecondary students are confirmed and prepare for the challenge.

Record-setting Membership Year
SkillsUSA is enjoying a record-setting membership year with 309,590 members to date. This number represents the highest level of paid membership in the organization’s history as well as the largest growth in membership since school year 2007-2008. A great deal of work has been completed over the past several years by the entire staff, and the organization as a whole that has lead to this substantial increase in membership over previous years. We believe this record-setting membership year can be attributed to working hard to understand our customers and meet their needs. We have provided a new and improved membership kit, a new hotline dedicated to answer membership questions, membership registration site enhancements, new educational resources, state association director workshops and new advisor toolkits. The following chart shows members served since 2005:

Membership Chart

 

College/Postsecondary Reach on the Rise
The College/Postsecondary Task Force met last November and the action plans developed at that time are now being put into motion. SkillsUSA’s new business partner, CBC, is organizing, filming and producing a video and poster series that will help to raise awareness in the college/postsecondary target market. The theme of the series is how SkillsUSA has been instrumental in preparing members to get jobs, a better job or to make more money. The video production will take place in Nashville, Tennessee the first week of May. Alumni members from the Tennessee college/postsecondary division have stepped up to participate. Several business partners will also be lending their voices to the cause and will appear on camera in support of hiring SkillsUSA members. Special thanks go to CBC for sharing their talents and expertise and to James King, SkillsUSA Board President and Vice Chancellor for the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT) and Chelle Travis, SkillsUSA Tennessee college/postsecondary State Director, for committing their time and energies to this project.

Highlights

  • Air Products has agreed to sponsor the 100% Advisor Session during conference.
  • The updated What is SkillsUSA? video, has been completed and is being duplicated. It will be a sales item.
  • Niki Clausen and Heidi Walsh recently returned from Kansas City where they met with the national officers to practice for the NLSC.

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

Executive Director’s Report: March 15, 2014

March 15th, 2014

Connection to the Walmart Foundation
Mike Rowe and his staff continue to be great advocates for SkillsUSA. This past fall, we were invited to participate in the USA Science and Engineering Festival in April in Washington, D.C. The Festival is billed as the largest STEM show in the nation and expected attendance is around 350,000 over a three-day period. Mike Rowe will sponsor a “Trades Pavilion” at the Festival, and he really wanted SkillsUSA students to be a part of the action. With our new focus on the skilled worker shortage and making the connection from our CTE programs to STEM education, our vision was to have SkillsUSA students perform live, hands-on skill demonstrations as part of the Festival.  However, we needed a sponsor to support student travel, housing, meals and equipment. Mike Rowe’s team stepped in and connected me directly to the Walmart Foundation and I was asked for a proposal and budget. We spent most of a weekend putting it together and SkillsUSA was approved for a grant for $11,050 to take care of student, advisor and staff expenses to showcase our students at the Festival. Walmart also joined the Festival as a major sponsor, and we will have our own space, adjacent to the Walmart booth. Most of our skill demonstrations will focus on manufacturing and we have also asked for other skills to be demonstrated. This is a great opportunity to open the door to the Walmart Foundation for future support. I know they will fall in love with our students and our program once they experience it.

The connection to the Walmart Foundation comes due to Mike Rowe’s partnership with them. Perhaps you saw it aired during the recent Winter Olympics, but you may not have seen the full version – the following link will take you to a 60-second commercial narrated by Mike Rowe entitled “I am a Factory.” It’s aired by Walmart, and they have pledged $250 billion (with a B) to American manufacturing jobs in the next 10 years! Once you view this video, I think you will see the great connection that SkillsUSA has with Walmart’s manufacturing/American jobs initiative. And Mike Rowe’s voice is not too bad on the commercial either. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OQcoDQq3-o&list=PLs6zAwIMDe3PixJhPPTT3Ks55ZoS-uxhN&index=2.

Skills Shortage Support Information
As we look forward to the FY15 strategic plan, we have developed a new focus on the skilled worker shortage and STEM education. But, we’re not waiting as work in these areas has already begun. At the 2013 NLSC, we had a top executive from The Manpower Group attend as a Special Guest. Manpower has just published the research report from the 2103 Global Talent Shortage Survey. For the seventh year in a row, skilled trades workers represent the number one category of jobs that employers worldwide are finding difficulty filling. And, technicians are, once again, in the top five, coming in at number four.

As we look at the work of SkillsUSA in helping with these pipeline issues, we also look at the reasons employers are having difficulty finding the necessary talent:  48 percent  of employers cited the lack of technical competencies (hard skills) and 33 percent cited the lack of workplace competencies (soft skills). This data comes from 40,000 employers across 42 countries and territories. Therefore, we believe it’s not much of a stretch to say that SkillsUSA is certainly a part of the solution, particularly, when we look at the hard and soft skill needs of these employers. You can see a short video summary of the report data at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iu0ADHgFeKI and the full report with other interesting facts about the global shortages at this link: http://www.manpowergroup.us/campaigns/talent-shortage-2013/pdf/2013_Talent_Shortage_Survey_Results_US_lo_0510.pdf.

Visit to Cleveland and from DC on to Baltimore
The week of February 17th, I visited the corporate headquarters of Lincoln Electric in Cleveland, Ohio. The trip was partially to assist a student member who is interested in pursuing a welding career (and I have some experience in that field from several years ago) and to also visit with Carl Peters and other Lincoln executives regarding our national partnership as well as our work with Lincoln and WorldSkills. We toured their manufacturing plant and had a great tour of the new Automation Division, a new initiative that involves custom robotic welding work cells for manufacturing and the welding simulators that Lincoln is now producing for welding training. I provided an overview of SkillsUSA for Lincoln’s newest young recruits who will lead the state and regional offices for the company.  Lincoln will also be working with the American Welding Society and participating in the USA Science and Engineering Festival in April in Washington DC.

Last week, I participated in a CTSO meeting and the ACTE National Policy Seminar in D.C. – see: https://www.acteonline.org/nps. From there, I traveled to Baltimore on Tuesday and Wednesday to work the SkillsUSA exhibit and to deliver the closing keynote address at to the HVACR and Mechanical Conference for Education Professionals at the Maritime Training Institute. There were nearly 200 of our high school and college HVACR instructors participating from across the nation. I recruited a few new instructors into SkillsUSA and continued our great partnership with all the HVACR, Plumbing and Mechanical trade associations that sponsored the event. To learn more about the event, go to http://www.instructorworkshop.org/conference+sponsors.aspx.

Highlights

  • On February 22, Kelly Persons had the opportunity to discuss how and why STEM-related education is an integral part of CTE during the Fairfax County, Va. Public Schools’ STEM H Expo at Chantilly High School.
  • Niki Clausen and Heidi Walsh recently returned from a successful visit to Kansas City, Mo. where they met with the national officers to plan for the SkillsUSA 2014 National Leadership and Skills Conference.

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

Executive Director’s Report: March 1, 2014

March 1st, 2014

SkillsUSA Week and CTE Month
During SkillsUSA Week 2014 and National CTE Month, we received several uplifting stories from our chapters about activities they were conducting as a part of the celebration. The following link shows a great tweet from our Cypress Bay Chapter in Florida and how they decorated their school for SkillsUSA Week: http://bit.ly/1cwcz9U. This link shows the state association’s visit with Florida Governor Rick Scott for a proclamation signing: http://on.fb.me/1eQcsMg. And, Ohio’s students met with the Governor and the Superintendent of Education to highlight SkillsUSA week. Our chapters do a great job of spreading the good word about SkillsUSA in their states and local communities, and we are very proud to see the great student-driven activities nationwide.

New CTSO Website
As we celebrate the final week of CTE Month across the nation, we are pleased to announce the rollout of an exciting new website.  This site was created in cooperation with all the national Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs) through the National Coordinating Council for Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO) and our affiliate organizations: The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) at the U.S. Department of Education.

The website links to all CTSOs and affiliate organizations, provides the latest CTE news feed, links to our social networks and provides several data points that support the case for CTSOs as a key component of high quality Career and Technical Education.  One of the most dynamic features of the website appears under the “Advocate” header. This link provides CTSO profiles for every state and shows the number of CTSO members in each legislative district for every state.  This is a great tool for state legislative visits and for making the case for CTE at the local, state and federal levels.

We hope you will find this site useful not only an advocacy tool, but also as a marketing and branding tool. The process to develop this website was done with an incredible cooperative spirit amongst all the CTSOs and affiliate organizations.  It offers another way to celebrate the goodness of CTE!  Visit the site at: www.ctsos.org.

U.S. Department of Education Discussions

Daria Ferdine, national high school treasurer from New Jersey, participated in a CTSO Student Voices discussion with the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary for Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (formerly the Office of Vocational and Adult Education) and Brenda Dann-Messier on Tuesday afternoon, February 18th. And, she was also one of four students who made a presentation during a U.S. Department of Education internal briefing entitled “Reflect, Transform, Lead: Preparing Students for College, Career and Citizenship.” Here is a photo taken with Secretary Duncan:

Sec. of Ed. Arne Duncan and Daria Ferdine
Sec. of Ed. Arne Duncan and Daria Ferdine.


U.S. News and World Report

A great Op-Ed article was picked up by U.S. News and World Report, written by our great friend and former board member from Caterpillar, Mary Bell. Mary also was just named as one of the top women in manufacturing, receiving a STEP award (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) from NAM/The Manufacturing Institute. The article entitled, “To Close the Skills Gap in Manufacturing, Close the Gender Gap,” can be seen here.

Educated and Skilled to Lead America Video Competition Winner Announcement
This past fall, chapters from around the country submitted their entries for the Educated and Skilled to Lead America Video Competition (based on this year’s SkillsUSA theme). Chapters were challenged to create a video that showcased how they are becoming educated (what does their classroom or lab look like/what are they learning?) and skilled (what are their skills and how do they apply them). More than 25 entries were received and congratulations go to the winners — Sydney Martin and Krystal Smoger of St. Clair TEC in Marysville, Mich. where Ms. Keely Baribeau serves as the advisor. The honorable mention was submitted by Alexia Tignor of Franklin Technology Center in Joplin, Mo. where Ms. Deonna Anderson serves as the advisor.

You can watch both in the playlist below:

WorldSkills Americas Competition

SkillsUSA is sending two students to compete in the WorldSkills Americas Competition in Bogota Columbia, April 1-6, 2014. The students are Jacob Wozniak, Cabinetmaking, from Springville, N.Y. and Michael Mullen, Auto Service Technology, from San Luis Obispo, Calif. The WorldSkills Americas competition serves as a good benchmark for the next WorldSkills Competition to be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil in August, 2015.



2014 Regional Advisors of the Year
The regional Advisors of the Year have been chosen. Congratulations go to:

  • Ellen Coughlin, DCMO BOCES — Chenango Area Campus, New York, Region 1;
  • James Dinsmoor, Rockdale Career Academy, Georgia, Region 2;
  • Tobin Prinsen, Apollo Career Center, Ohio, Region 3;
  • Mark Sponaugle, Carthage Technical Center, Missouri, Region 4;
  • James Adamson, Central Kitsap High School, Washington, Region 5.

Highlights

  • Niki Clausen conducted a Chapter Management Institute (CMI) for 30 teacher advisors in New York City on February 3. The CMI was held in conjunction with their Career and Technical Education Summit. In addition to the CMI training, they also participated in a CTE Policy Panel discussion which included Brenda Dann-Messier, the assistant secretary of education for career, technical and adult education.
  • The national officer planning meeting in Kansas City will be held the last weekend of March.
  • Work is moving forward on the FY15 membership kit to contain a separate resource tailored specifically for college/postsecondary membership.
  • Kelly Horton is working with Ohio state association director, Mike Cowles, on a contract to serve youth in alternative education pathways who are required to be in a CTSO.
  • I’m very happy to announce that our great long-time friend, Snap-on Incorporated, has committed to a $100,000 grant for SkillsUSA in 2014. Alicia Smales, member of the SkillsUSA Foundation, contacted us on Monday with the great news. A BIG thank you to Alicia and the entire Snap-on team for their continued support. Snap-on Incorporated has been a national partner for nearly three decades. We are also very appreciative of the support they provide to our regional and state winners in a variety of competitions. Snap-on provides nearly $300,000 in donations of tools and equipment to our students and teachers annually.
  • I’m also happy to announce that another great friend, Air Products, recently contributed $52,500, giving them a total of $102,500 contributed to SkillsUSA so far this year!
  • SkillsUSA will be raffling off a Dyna Street Bob Motorcycle at the 2014 National Conference Awards Ceremony, Friday, June 27, in Kansas City. This motorcycle is made possible thanks to a generous donation by Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Inc.
  • We’re seeing some exciting new designs for the SkillsUSA website. The home page looks great, and work continues on interior pages. Web manager, Craig Moore, says technical implementation of www.skillsusa.org begins February 25.
  • Tom Kercheval, our audiovisual technology manager, just put the finishing touches on an updated “What is SkillsUSA?” video, reflecting input from the recent meeting of state association director officers.
  • The Spring issue of SkillsUSA Champions has been mailed, and the digital publication is online at: www.skillsusa.org/champions/spring14.shtml. Focus is on our student leaders, new training events, and successful alumni and SkillsUSA student competitors involved in STEM education.
  • Stratton Publishing & Marketing Inc./Stratton Research in Alexandria, Va., will be sending a questionnaire to a random sampling of approximately 1,500 advisors and students as part of a SkillsUSA’s strategic communications audit. The end goal: timely, high-quality and valuable content that better aligns with student and advisor needs. Those who participate will have the opportunity to win an iPad mini.
  • The following video was produced by Jefferson County (Ky.) Public Schools showing highlights of the January 16th Breakfast of Champions kick-off event in Louisville:

 

  • And, as you know, SkillsUSA turns 50 in 2015. The upcoming 50th conference in Kansas City marks the beginning of a year-long celebration, culminating with the 51st National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Ky. Plans are underway for the celebration to include the development of 50th anniversary logos; a 50th anniversary pin and T-shirt; a special celebration at the National Leadership Center and more. 

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

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.

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.

ACTIVE ADVISOR NEWS: February 2014

February 1st, 2014

Update from Tim Lawrence

FY 15-16 Strategic Planning
Every year in January, SkillsUSA staff spends a week in strategic planning for the next fiscal year. Staff worked diligently developing the goals, objectives and tactics for the FY 15-16 strategic plan. During this process, we always take a look back as we move forward. Fiscal Year 2013 ended August 31 and there were so many superlatives that we can all be proud of.  Thank you all for making it such an amazing year for SkillsUSA. Here is a short video clip showing a few special moments from 2013:

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/.

The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) and state CTE directors also announced good news regarding federal funding for CTE. An omnibus bill was released recently 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.

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, the week of January 19-23, more than 50 students and advisors from SkillsUSA 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).

Thank you for all you do for the great students we serve.

Work Force Ready System/Skill Connect Assessments
Available assessments
SkillsUSA assessments offers 42 technical and employability assessments in 10 cluster areas including four co-branded assessments with ASE/AYES and five co-branded assessments with PrintED/GAERF.  For a complete list of assessments and the blueprints that describe the standards, competencies, and academic skills tied to each assessment, go to: www.workforcereadysystem.org/technical_areas.shtml.

Resources to prepare students for testing
SkillsUSA offers free resources to prepare students for testing. See what’s available at: www.workforcereadysystem.org/resources.shtml. New Teacher Preparation Guides are an excellent resource and can be found at: www.workforcereadysystem.org/guides.shtml. Currently, we have 21 guides available for various assessments. We plan to have the final 12 available in the near future!

If you have used one of our guides, please take a short survey to help us determine content for future guides and periodical updates. Provide feedback at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/TeacherPrepGuides.

To order Skill Connect Assessments, go to http://www.workforcereadysystem.org.Log-on to the test platform with your username from last year or click “Don’t have an Account” to create one. Click “Course Catalog”, type the assessment area in the search box and click on the assessment name. Select your quantity and click “add to cart”. Follow the prompts to complete your order.

Enroll students and grade books
Detailed instructions on how to enroll students, distribute voucher tests and how to access the grade report can be found at: www.workforcereadysystem.org/testing.shtml.  Also see our training webinar “”Assessment Ordering and Management Tools” to learn how to access the full line of reports available.

Training Webinars Available
Training webinars on our assessments were held in January and another one is scheduled for March. View the archived webinars for topics; “Teacher Tips for Student Success” and “Meeting Industry Demands” or join us in March for the live webinar “Assessment Ordering and Management Tools”. For a complete schedule and to view the archived webinars go to: www.workforcereadysystem.org/webinars.shtml.

Assessment Support
Please note our new phone number, email address and hours of operation.

Direct: 1-866-444-7779
Email: support@skillconnect.org
Help Desk Support Hours: Mon.- Fri. 8 a.m.-6 p.m. EST

CTE Month and SkillsUSA Week Events and Activities
February is Career and Technical Education Month and February 9-15 is SkillsUSA Week. SkillsUSA Week activities are a great way to highlight the good work your state association and local chapters are doing. For SkillsUSA Week ideas, see the chapter management section on the SkillsUSA website. SkillsUSA offers downloadable public service announcements at: www.skillsusa.org/educators/skillsusaweek.shtml.

SkillsUSA is also launching a video competition during SkillsUSA Week for members to showcase their skills. Here is their opportunity to tell the story that CTE programs are preparing students for the 21st Century. Entries should be between 2-3 minutes in length and uploaded to YouTube by May 1, 2014. For details, go to: www.skillsusa.org/educators/skillsusaweekvid.shtml. If you have questions, email Stephanie Bland at sbland@skillsusa.org.

2014 Lowe’s Grant Winners
The focus for this year’s Lowe’s grant program was to identify schools, classrooms or students who have a basic need to improve the quality of the students’ educational experience. The grant winners have been selected. There were 21 winners and a total of $352,643 grant dollars given. Congratulations go to the following schools:

Arkansas – Dumas New Tech High School; Arizona – Kofa High School; California – Hanford West High School and Weber Technical Institute; Colorado – Woodland Park High School; Florida – Lake Technical Center and Washington-Holmes Technical Center; Georgia – Lanier Charter Career Academy; Illinois – Waubonsie Valley High School; Indiana – Area 31 Career Center; Kentucky – Kentucky Tech-Floyd County Area Technology Center and Millard Area Technology Center; Maine – Tri-County Technical Center; Mississippi – Prentiss County Vocational Technical School; Montana – Dodson Public School; Nebraska – Bryan Senior High; Ohio – Collins Career Center; Oregon – Logos Public Charter School; Pennsylvania – Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center (EWCTC) and Lawrence County Career and Technology Center; and, West Virginia – Mercer County Technical Education Center.

Competition Central
The SkillsUSA Store is here to help your students look their best this conference season. Visit our “Competition Central” section at: www.skillsusastore.org/skillsusa/welcome.asp today to find the full line of SkillsUSA work uniforms, official blazers and wind jackets, along with everything else they need to succeed. And, please reference the official competition uniform chart for photos and descriptions of the uniform components needed for each competition.

Collision Repair Education Foundation Scholarship and Grant Opportunities
High school and college/postsecondary collision repair technology and automotive refinishing students attending career and technical schools and colleges have the opportunity to apply for the over $200,000 in available scholarships and tool grants available through the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) and the organization’s industry supporters.  For more information about the scholarship and grants available, go to www.CollisionEducationFoundation.org.

ACTE National Policy Seminar: March 3-5, 2014
Registration is open for the 2014 ACTE National Policy Seminar (NPS). This year, NPS will feature the latest information from Capitol Hill staff and Members of Congress on the reauthorization of Perkins, as well as ongoing reauthorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Higher Education Act and Workforce Investment Act. For more information, go to: www.acteonline.org.

2014 SkillsUSA University
We are currently accepting proposals from high-quality presenters of innovative, timely and dynamic educational topics to present at the 2014 SkillsUSA University. This year SkillsUSA University is sponsored by 3M. All sessions will take place at the Downtown Marriott Hotel or the Kansas City Convention Center on June 25, 26 and 27.

We ask instructors who would like to present to send emails with proposed topics to Niki Clausen at nclausen@skillsusa.org.

Possible topics: local chapter activities; fundraising; community service; SkillsUSA Program of Work success stories; business etiquette; communication skills for students; local industry partnerships, etc. These can be best practices (with a local advisor presenting) or an expert in the subject area. If you do not want to present, but you have suggestions for workshop topics, please feel free to forward them to us.

The deadline for proposals is February 28. For more information and a Request for Proposal (RFP), go to: www.skillsusa.org/events/skillsuniv.shtml.

National Youth Safety Video Contest Reminder
CareerSafe, Safety Education for America’s Future, is sponsoring the 2013-2014 National Youth Safety Video Contest. Students across the country are challenged to create a two-minute video demonstrating safety in the workplace. The contest kicked off on October 15, and all submissions should be sent into CareerSafe by March 1, 2014. The winning students will receive a SkillsUSA Prize Pack as well as a scholarship up to $2,500, and the winning school will receive a prize up to $5,000. For more information on the contest, please visit the CareerSafe website at: www.careersafeonline.com.

Executive Director’s Report: December 15

December 15th, 2013

It’s Fall Leadership Development Time
Each fall, we kick off leadership development activities for our students and teachers with the annual Washington Leadership Training Institute (WLTI) in D.C. in September and then look to our states to continue the leadership momentum with fall leadership conferences happening in nearly every state and territory during October and November. WLTI 2013 set new participation records with nearly 380 SkillsUSA students and teachers participating and each of them making visits with their elected representatives in Congress.

Several states are setting new records at their fall events as well and on November 13-15, I participated in a dynamic Ohio Fall Leadership Conference (FLC) in Columbus. If I could use one word to describe the experience it was “inspiring.” Whenever I spend time with state and regional student officers, great advisors and administrators and state association directors like Mike Cowles, it truly drives home the work we do. These kinds of SkillsUSA events always remind me why our work is so important to schools, communities and our nation, and it never fails to be inspirational when I see our mission in action.

As a part of my visit to Columbus, I was honored to be invited as the keynote speaker for approximately 80 CTE administrators from across Ohio at the Fall OTIESA Conference. My topic was “Building Better Lives — One at a Time.” I shared updated workforce development numbers and the latest poll data on our students nationwide. The administrators asked for the data and my presentation so they could use it for presentations in their local school divisions. I left behind the full presentation and supporting video to be posted with Web access for all of them to use. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) was also very well represented at both the OTIESA meeting and at the fall leadership conference, and it was great to spend time with our Ohio corporate member, Linda O’Conner, and several other ODE representatives.

Later on the morning of November 14, I was the opening ceremony keynote speaker for over 1,100 students at teachers at the fall leadership conference, held at the Hyatt Columbus. It’s always awesome to see that many students in red blazers in the audience! Following the opening, students and teachers rotated through a series of leadership workshops and presentations by student officers and outside experts. Following the student sessions, I presented a national update to approximately 100 advisors and provided them the latest on our strategic direction. SkillsUSA Ohio is doing a very nice job of aligning their vision and strategy with that of Vision 2020 and national strategic objectives.

On November 15, SkillsUSA Ohio had 121 regional officer candidates campaign for just over 40 regional leadership positions. There were hundreds of voting delegates from each Ohio region in place to hear campaign speeches and vote for their new leadership. The delegate sessions ended with election results and a full formal candlelight installation ceremony for the newly elected officers. Also, during the day, over 400 students participated in mock job interviews with 38 business professionals and military officers who volunteered to interview the students (modeled after our national TAG Tuesday event at NLSC). This entire event was an impressive display of student leadership and participation in the core leadership component of SkillsUSA. I want to commend state director, Mike Cowles, and his team from ODE for inspiring so many students to be actively involved.

My next stop was at the Central PA FLC in Gettysburg, Pa. On November 21, I accompanied 235 students and 60 advisors on visits to the state capitol and education department in Harrisburg. Some state officials and legislators attended the opening dinner, and I delivered the keynote address, reinforcing the importance of leadership and advocacy at all levels. Again, it was great to see our state and district leaders follow our national model (this advocacy event has been patterned after WLTI).

And, Ohio and Pennsylvania weren’t the only states reporting strong participation. We asked state associations how their fall leadership conferences are going, and, so far, we’ve received 25 responses. Many are seeing an increase in attendance. Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington postsecondary and West Virginia all report increases. Many have reported that participation is about the same — and a few have reported a decrease. Here are a couple highlights to note: Kathy Gillman from West Virginia reported that they held their first fall leadership conference in more than 15 years, and she said, “It was fabulous!,” and Andrew Sims from Mississippi saw a participation increase from 330 to 730 — a 127 percent increase.

Forum to Raise Awareness about the Need to Prepare Students
Kelly Horton traveled to the Rhode Island Fall Leadership Conference and then on to Massachusetts for their fall leadership event. While in Massachusetts, she participated in a forum on November 21 at the Norwood, Massachusetts campus of Universal Technical Institute. The purpose of the forum was to help raise awareness about the need for greater collaboration between industry and education in creating curricula that prepare students with the relevant skills needed to achieve employment. To view a PR Newswire article about the forum, go to: www.fox54.com/story/23996133/universal-technical-institute-norwood-campus-hosts-new-england-skills-gap-expo-solutions-through-stem.

Congressional Briefing on Perkins
On November 12, Eric Gearhart, director of Research and Foundation Relations at SkillsUSA, Kim Green, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) and Johan Uvin, deputy assistant secretary of education for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education participated in a Congressional briefing on the Carl D. Perkins Act. The hearing was hosted by the bipartisan Congressional Career Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, and provided information on Perkins and CTE. Policymakers, their staff and other relevant stakeholders attended, totaling about 50 people.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Uvin began the discussion by framing his remarks around a recent OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) which found that adults in the United States are lagging behind their peers internationally for literacy, numeracy, and problem solving. Uvin argued that CTE is one of the best ways to address this problem. He contended that improving the delivery system and ensuring consistent quality of CTE programs throughout the United States was an important task that the reauthorization process for Perkins must address.

Eric organized his remarks through the perspective of the students SkillsUSA, along with other Career Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs), serve on a daily basis. He pointed out that CTE is a great strategy for student engagement and “is essential to enfranchising students throughout the country.” He emphasized the mutually beneficial relationship between businesses and CTE programs and argued for tax incentives for the private sector to help encourage these connections.

Kim Green spoke about the history surrounding the Perkins Act, areas in current law that are being considered for improvement and other insights into the reauthorization process. She also highlighted NASDCTEc’s recent national report  on individual state CTE standards. Green linked the report’s findings to the overall discussion on how to leverage federal investments from the Perkins Act to continue promoting innovation and improving the quality of CTE programs throughout the country.

Staffing Changes at the National Office
Finally, there are some staffing changes at the national office. I am very pleased to report that, after releasing the job announcement for a new director of our Business Partnerships and Development (BPD) Office, SkillsUSA has hired Kelly Persons as our new BPD director. Kelly has an amazing background in fundraising, grant and foundation work. Her experience includes work with Habitat for Humanity, the AARP Foundation and the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation. Kelly will bring a dynamic new perspective to our staff and development efforts.

And, sadly, Eric Gearhart, director of Research and Foundation Relations at SkillsUSA will be leaving to explore some other career interests and opportunities on January 1. He will continue to manage a couple ongoing BPD projects for us on a consulting basis, so we will see Eric in our building from time to time, after the New Year, but not as a full-time staff member.

Other Highlights

  • Julie Kantor, chief partnership officer at STEMconnector, who attended the 2013 NLSC, has written many times since about SkillsUSA. She has written another article, published in the Huffington Post. See it here : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-kantor/teachers-its-time-to-make-it-real_b_4239780.html. I especially like the following quote from the article—”It’s so basic. When you make it real, applicable to real life, you touch the hearts and minds of America’s youth and young workforce. Make it hands on, and show young people the correlation to real life and they will learn way more and advance academically.”
  • On November 16-17, I was invited to visit Haskell Company in Jacksonville, Fla. and meet with Vice President Boyd Worsham (national technical committee chairman for carpentry) and others from the commercial construction industry, including Steve and Diane Greene and SkillsUSA Foundation member, Ed Prevatt, from NCCER. It was also a great time to socialize over dinner aboard the Haskell Company boat “Casamia” and cruise the St. John’s River and see a Jacksonville Jaguars football game from the Haskell Suite. Haskell was the designer and builder of this NFL stadium as well as several high-rise buildings that make up the Jacksonville skyline.
  • In preparation for the move to Louisville, Ky., Dave Worden reports that their department has met with some of local groups like the IBEW, the Carpenters Apprenticeships Training Council and the Teamsters about their potential support for the 2015 conference in Louisville; a warehouse has been secured in Louisville about five miles from the Expo Center; and, the Louisville contest floor locations mapping is approximately 75% complete.
  • The next WorldSkills Competition will be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil from August 11-16, 2015 and the first two members of WorldTeam have been chosen. They are Jacob Wozniak in Cabinetmaking from Springville, N.Y. and Michael Mullen in Auto Service Technology from San Luis Obispo, Calif.
  • Work continues on the www.SkillsUSA.org redesign. The website inventory process is now complete, and a preliminary site map is being reviewed. Wireframes (the skeletal framework of the website) will be ready soon. Usability testing is scheduled for Dec. 16-17 and Jan. 6.
  • We’re moving ahead quickly with the strategic communications audit that covers all print and electronic vehicles for our members. The research firm is reviewing many items to understand what we’re currently doing, including SkillsUSA’s mission statement, strategic plan, organizational structure, research reports, business plans for communications, membership data and, of course, samples of everything all our departments send out. Interviews with staff directors were conducted to review our communications/marketing structure and develop the research instrument used with local members. The end goal: timely, high-quality and valuable content that better aligns with student and advisor needs.

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

Million Women Mentors Initiative

November 29th, 2013

SkillsUSA has signed on as a partner to the “Million Women Mentors” initiative co-sponsored by STEMconnector and the National Girls Collaborative Project. The goal is to engage one million male and female Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics mentors from business, academe, government and non-profit sectors to increase the interest and confidence of girls and young women to persist and succeed in STEM programs, coursework, degrees and careers.

Other partners include Google, Accenture, Cisco, Walmart and 4-H. There are no financial obligations involved in the partnership. At some point, SkillsUSA will be counting and reporting on our female students in STEM-related curricula, national contests and the teachers and business partners that work with them. I will be attending the announcement of this initiative at an event at the National Press Club on December 8.

 

Making the STEM Connection

October 15th, 2013

Immediately following the closing ceremony of WLTI, on September 25th, I traveled to the headquarters of Deloitte Consulting in Arlington, Va., where I was invited by the STEM Council to participate in a panel discussion on best practices and STEM skills. Edie Fraser, CEO of STEMconnector and Julie Kantor, Chief Partnerships Officer, had attended our NLSC in June and their excitement about SkillsUSA’s work in STEM inspired them to invite us to be a part of the very important meeting. I served on the panel with representatives from Sally Ride Science, Accenture, Mind Research Institute, American Association for University Women and CIO Magazine. SkillsUSA was recognized for our best practices in engaging students in actual application of STEM skills. The response to my presentation was a bit overwhelming (in a very positive way) and I had keen interest from companies like Dow Chemical, CIO Magazine and Qualcomm.

A highlight for me was during the questions and answer session following the panel presentation. The first question came from an audience member from Wisconsin, who asked me if I knew how many SkillsUSA alumni were in the audience. When I asked for any alumni to respond, the same gentleman stood and stated that SkillsUSA had kept him from dropping out of high school in Wisconsin, inspired him to pursue a college degree and he now had a PhD in engineering serving as the chief academic officer for the STEM Academy. I could not have asked for a better testimony.

 


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