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Executive Director’s Report: June 15, 2014

June 15th, 2014

Chiefs Career Readiness Initiative Launched
The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states. The Council is unquestionably one of the most influential organizations in public education. It works to gain consensus among members on major educational issues and to express those views to Congress, federal agencies and the public. As an example, the CCSSO issued a report in 2010 on transforming educator preparation and entry into the profession. That report led to policy changes and reforms in 44 states to date. The Chiefs want to promote high-quality career and technical education, and they want all of public education to recognize the importance and role of CTE. The Chiefs have pulled together a small task force of 18 people who they call “the best people in the country” to draft recommendations for their report. On May 21, we had our first meeting of the Career Readiness Task Force. The group includes six state chiefs, three state CTE directors, two state leaders of postsecondary programs –including Board Member Scott Stump– two business leaders and five national experts. (That’s where I fit in. I am the only student organization representative on the task force.) Our agenda included a discussion on the economic imperative for our work and how to identify and support high-quality career readiness programs. I served on a subcommittee that discussed what kinds of things will spark student career interests and serve as student incentives. Not surprisingly, the work of student organizations came up in that meeting, and I wasn’t the only one talking about them. The task force members will be working offline during the coming months, and we have two formal meetings scheduled for July and September. The Chiefs want to deliver the report during their national conference in November. This is a great opportunity to work at the highest levels of education policy.

“A Common Framework for Employability Skills”
On May 22, Niki Clausen represented SkillsUSA during the U.S. Department of Education Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) webinar entitled “A Common Framework for Employability Skills.” The webinar focused on why employability skills matter and featured the Employability Skills Framework and website (at http://cte.ed.gov/employabilityskills/) and implementation strategies including career and technical student organizations. In addition to Niki, other guest presenters included: Sharon Miller from OCTAE, Kim Green with NASDCTEc, Steve DeWitt at ACTE, Laura Rasmussen Foster at RTI International, Pamela Frugoli with the U.S. Department of Labor, and SkillsUSA Board Member Kathy Mannes with American Association of Community Colleges. There were 320 participants nationwide. This presentation, as well as the archived webinar, will be available online. I also received a call that week from the U.S. Department of State asking if I would be part of a U.S. Embassy speakers’ program later this year. The embassy wants to help policymakers, employers and practitioners in a faraway country understand the role of technical education in preparing youth for employment. I’m in discussion with the Department of State. It’s nice to be asked.

Highlights

  • We received some nice quotes from students who were in the USA Science & Engineering Festival booth in April including this one from Laura Gouillon, SkillsUSA national high school vice president: “I am honored to have been able to give a presentation on the MikeRoweWorks Pavilion stage about how Varsity STEM, CTE, and SkillsUSA are revolutionizing the way students enter the workforce and prepare for their future careers . . . And, it was such an amazing feeling to teach individuals how 3D printers work and how our SkillsUSA members in classrooms across the country are applying our technical STEM and CTE skills through the use of such modern equipment.”
  • On May 15, Tom Holdsworth and I had a conference call with Hillary Wells, an executive producer at WGBH, the PBS Boston affiliate that produces two-thirds of PBS programming. Hillary attended the Massachusetts Leadership and Skills Conference with me earlier this month. She’s interested in many aspects of SkillsUSA including corporate support, the Championships and how it helps connect students with jobs and our membership, particularly at the high school and middle school levels. Hillary and two of her colleagues will be attending the national conference in Kansas City. She says she sees many areas for cooperation on projects and promotion. More to come.
  • Thea Phalon, the new executive director of the Pennsylvania SkillsUSA Council for Lehigh Valley, came to the national center for a visit and orientation on May 19. She met with staff during a reception first thing in the morning and then individually with department directors through lunch. She called the visit both “exhilarating and productive.” We feel the same about her.
  • On May 23, Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the co-chairs of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus sent a letter to President Obama urging him to establish a Presidential CTE Scholars Award program to recognize and value the efforts of American students who have chosen a CTE pathway. The U.S. Presidential Scholars program is 50 years old and was created by President Johnson to honor graduating high school seniors for academic excellence, artistic accomplishments and civic contributions. In the letter, the senators state: “It is our national interest to not only provide all students access to rigorous CTE programs of study, but to also encourage high attainment by CTE students.” They go on to cite successes of CTE including graduation rates “And, CTE students are competing in world class competitions to test their knowledge in ways no standardized test could.” Their sole example was the SkillsUSA WorldTeam earning a silver medal in Leipzig, Germany. On June 3, I sent an email as a constituent to Sen. Kaine thanking him for proposing the award program and telling him I’d welcome the opportunity to talk about our WorldTeam and SkillsUSA.
  • On May 27, I attended a reception for the National Research Center for College and University Admissions in Washington D.C. It was a great networking opportunity with people attending from the National Science Foundation, STEM Connector and several nonprofit organizations. The reception was hosted by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation. I persuaded several people attending the reception to join us in Kansas City for the conference.
  • Massachusetts State Association Director Karen Ward was with us here at the National Leadership Center early in June to meet with Kim Graham and Steve Lake in the Administration and Finance office. They reviewed the state association financial system and looked into ways the state could align its reporting with national reporting.
  • Kim Graham is pleased to announce that all of the national office computers have been replaced and files transferred. It’s been a lot of work and Kim’s done a fabulous job.
  • Congratulations to Business Partnerships and Development team members Christen Battaglia and Carol Lowery for securing $20,000 in ad sales for the 50th Anniversary NLSC Awards and Recognition Book. And thank you, TECHSPO partners and corporate sponsors, for your support!
  • The boxes are piling up, there are multiple meetings in offices among the staff and outside calls buzzing as we prepare for the SkillsUSA 50th National Leadership and Skills Conference. The first national staff members will set up the base of operations in Kansas City on June 14. I’ll be joining them on the 19th and activities really get underway with the national officers on the 20th. It’s going to be great!
  • National conference registration will set a new record again this year. We currently have 10,207 registrants. Last year’s registration — which was also record breaking — was 10,000. And, 6,084 contestants are registered to compete.
  • Gayle Silvey is looking for volunteers to assist with Leverage training on Monday, June 23, from 10:45 a.m – noon at the national conference. Leverage helps students learn how to make proper business introductions and engage in meaningful casual conversations. Volunteers from business and industry engage participating students in conversation to provide real-life experience and help student practice what they’ve learned. Gayle can be reached at gsilvey@skillsusa.org if you and a colleague or two can help.
  • Marsha Daves reports that we have 28 national officer candidates this year.
  • And, if you’d like a smile and a really quick look at how exciting SkillsUSA is to students, just read a few of these tweets at https://twitter.com/hashtag/skillsusa?src=hash.

That’s it for now. We look forward to seeing many of you in Kansas City. There will be

Executive Director’s Report: June 1, 2014

June 1st, 2014

A Report from the Road
From April 24-26, I participated in the NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research) board of trustees meeting in Napa, California. It’s great to connect with some of America’s top commercial contractors. NCCER is sponsoring our national Carpentry and Masonry competitions, and companies around the table are all making contributions to the national contests. I was also part of a presentation on a new “Skills to Industry” program that will connect our construction trades graduates to contractor employment opportunities. And, I met new board members to start a dialogue about support for SkillsUSA at the state and national levels.

From California, I flew to Pensacola for the Florida State Leadership and Skills Conference at the Pensacola Civic Center. Board President, James King, met me there. The conference was a beautiful set-up with a huge stage and lots of exciting A/V and competition areas both inside and outdoors. Special tents were set up and wired for competitions from welding to TeamWorks. Another special part of the conference was a career fair called the “World of Possibilities.” About 2,000 middle and elementary school students toured the contests, business and industry displays and interactive demonstrations. From Gulf Power to Lincoln Electric, there were several partners engaged with the young students to teach them about career pathways. There was also a job fair so the public could meet with employers (while also seeing the Florida SLSC).

State Director, Tyler Kercher, and his conference team had a huge challenge when Mother Nature intervened and dumped two feet of rain in a 24-hour period. Tents had to be removed and contests moved to alternate locations. On awards night, the storm knocked out power in the arena, delaying awards by several minutes. Some schools were stranded at the convention center and conferees slept there because high waters prevented them from returning to their hotels. But, as always seems to happen in SkillsUSA, so many people stepped up to help that the awards were completed in grand fashion. Advisors, partners, Tyler, state board members and staff all pitched in to help those in need. It was indeed a great conference, and one that will long be remembered by all who attended.

From Pensacola, I flew back to Washington D.C. for a meeting on May 1 of the National Coordinating Council for Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO), held in HOSA’s Washington, D.C. office. Representatives from the state directors of CTE and ACTE reported that Perkins is being discussed in Congress, but it will come behind other pieces of legislation, including the Workforce Investment Act. During recent congressional testimony, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was challenged by Representatives on why the administration hadn’t requested more funding for CTE. The Coordinating Council also reviewed the CTSOS.org website that SkillsUSA has been heavily involved in and gave us good feedback. All CTSOs had positive reports on membership and conference participation, and we reviewed new criteria for the definition of a CTSO and NCC-CTSO guidelines for inclusion in the group. These guidelines will be approved at the next meeting in July.

From D.C., I flew to Boston to meet Massachusetts State Director Karen Ward and her board for the 40th SkillsUSA Massachusetts State Leadership and Skills Conference. I arrived in time to drive to Marlborough and attend an incredible opening ceremony with approximately 2,500 students and teachers in attendance. The state officer team was amazing. National Officer Brittany Velez was the keynote speaker and she did an incredible job. The production of the ceremony, the ribbon cutting and VIP reception were second to none. Karen has a great team and a great board of directors.

Thanks to Washington DC-based STEM Connector, two representatives from WGBH—the PBS affiliate in Boston — attended the conference and they will attend the national conference in June. They were thoroughly impressed with all aspects of the Massachusetts conference and especially with the poise and professionalism of the student officers and competitors. Karen and I are hopeful that the visit will result in future regional and national coverage by PBS. They see SkillsUSA as a great story on filling the jobs pipeline and our competitions as a great way for students to display their skills to employers.

On May 2, approximately 2,100 students competed in the Massachusetts SkillsUSA Championships at Blackstone Regional Technical High School. It was a full day of action with excellent contests and lots of business support. Superintendents and administrators from across the state attended. The next morning, the trade center pavilion was packed with students and their parents for a grand awards ceremony. I spoke to the group. It was great to see so many parents there to support their sons and daughters in a crowd of red coats. Thanks to Karen Ward, Assistant State Director Kevin Lopez, the SkillsUSA Massachusetts board of directors and Brittany Velez for their hospitality and the opportunity to attend their 40th.

From Boston, I flew to Kansas City on May 6 for a special tribute to the volunteers and others who have helped us with NLSC for the past 20 years. Shelly Coates organized a great “farewell party” for these special people. From the bus company, to the hoteliers and city officials from the Kansas City CVA, it was a great time to honor them for their work and friendship during our two decades in Kansas City. During the time in KC, I was also honored to serve as keynote speaker for the Kansas City Metro Schools Recognition Luncheon. Byekwaso Gilbert has managed the KC Metro project for 14 years, and it was great to also honor him for his work with these schools in Missouri and Kansas. Students attending were local Metro student officers and state gold, silver and bronze medalists. The event was held at the Kauffman Center, and it was very nicely done. A great celebration for the city and the incredible students and teachers we serve. Rick Hughes from the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association (KCCVA) said “In inimitable SkillsUSA fashion, you put on a great event last evening! Thank you for the kind words, the wonderful imagery and your hospitality. Even in the dimmed lighting, you could see many glassy eyes in the audience. You will be missed!”

Highlights

  • Following up on the last Executive Update, Dave Worden reported that 325,000 people — including 180,000 students and teachers — attended the USA Science & Engineering Festival, April 25 — 27 in Washington DC. Dave said the SkillsUSA exhibit was nearly overwhelmed with traffic. Six students from C.S. Monroe Tech in Leesburg, two students from Thomas Edison High School and two students from Fairfax County Schools (all from Virginia) put on demonstrations illustrating STEM education in CTE. Three national officers also participated — Cole Fallis, Ohio; Brittany Velez, Massachusetts; and, Laura Goullion, California. Dave says that Walmart executives were pleased with the results of including SkillsUSA in the exhibit, and many additional new business and industry contacts were made. Special thanks to Niki Clausen for attending all four days and to Dave Worden and Jim Kregiel for pulling SkillsUSA’s participation together for us.
  • The 2014-15 membership kit will be ready to preview at NLSC.
  • A SkillsUSA 50th anniversary save-the-date postcard will be mailed soon.
  • A new SkillsUSA Alumni Newsletter is ready and can be found at this link.
  • The SkillsUSA FY13 Annual Report is complete. Get ready for some good stories about a few of the students and a teacher who are SkillsUSA. To view it online, go to this page.
  • With a little more than three weeks until our capstone event, Kelly Persons is pleased to report that nearly 50 cash and in-kind sponsorsare onboard to support SkillsUSA’s 50th annual NLSC. Welcome to our eight (to date) new partners: Delcam, FoldFactory.com Corp., NAPA, Praxair Inc., Safelite Fulfillment Inc., TIC-The Industrial Company, Walmart Foundation and Zep, Inc. A big shout out to five partners that have upgraded their support this year: 3M Company, Air Products, Asurion, Caterpillar Inc., and Hypertherm, Inc. A heartfelt thank you goes to all of our partners, cash and in-kind, we couldn’t do our work without them.
  • Please remember that a great way to share your excitement about SkillsUSA with colleagues and business partners is to invite them to Kansas City for an opportunity to see SkillsUSA students in action. Please contact Karen Beatty, kbeatty@skillsusa.org for assistance in registering your guests.

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

Executive Director’s Report: May 15, 2014

May 15th, 2014

STEM Demonstrations by SkillsUSA in Washington, D.C.
SkillsUSA students demonstrated aspects of their occupational programs during the third annual USA Science & Engineering Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C., April 25-27, 2014. More than 325,000 people attended, including 180,000 students and teachers. Six students from C.S. Monroe Tech in Leesburg, two students from Thomas Edison High School (Md.) and two students from the Edison Academy in Fairfax (Va.) put on demonstrations illustrating STEM education in CTE. There were demonstrations of 3D Printing/Advanced Manufacturing, Culinary Arts, Dental Assisting, Robotics and Welding. Three national officers were also in the booth – Cole Fallis (Ohio); Brittany Velez (Mass.); and, Laura Goullion (Calif.). Our national officers were featured on the Mike Rowe stage Saturday morning of the Festival where they delivered the 9 a.m. keynote presentations. Headliners at the Festival included Bill Nye the Science Guy and Mike Rowe.

It was nice that the opportunity for SkillsUSA to participate came through Mike Rowe and mikeroweWORKS. His office started talking to us about participating shortly after the June national conference. They thought we should be there. Our 10×40 exhibit space was next to the Mike Rowe booth. Mike also helped us make a connection with Walmart Foundation which gave SkillsUSA an $11,050 grant to cover expenses for the Festival and floor space in its exhibit. In the same pavilion were other valued SkillsUSA partners including CAT, Lincoln Electric, the American Welding Society and Universal Technical Institute.

Dave Worden said that Walmart executives were pleased with the results of including SkillsUSA in the exhibit and many additional new business and industry contacts were made. Particular thanks to Niki Clausen, Dave Worden and Jim Kregiel for participating and pulling the team together for SkillsUSA. Here are some photos from the event.

Highlights

  • On Tuesday, April 22, Natalie Crede and Malinda Lindimore, two HR executives from Safelite, an auto glass replacement company, visited the SkillsUSA National Leadership Center for a reception with staff in the morning. A little later, we took them on a tour of the Frederick Career and Technology Center in Maryland. Martha Lowry, the SkillsUSA school advisor, had her leadership team meet us at the door. We met with the principal, the culinary students served hors d’oeuvres, we toured the school and then students spoke on how SkillsUSA participation had changed their lives. It was a moving experience for all concerned. Safelite presented SkillsUSA with a sponsorship-level $25,000 check in what they said they hoped would be the first of many donations. The company is particularly interested in customer-relations skills because a lot of its work is done in customers’ driveways. Natalie and Malinda were very complimentary of the SkillsUSA brand and our leadership curriculum. Thanks go to Don Hermanek of IAA (Insurance Auto Auctions) and Russ Hoffbauer of State Farm for the introduction. Check out these photos from the visits.
  • On the evening of April 22, I addressed the GAERF (Graphic Arts Education and Research Foundation) board of directors during its meeting in Washington, D.C. I spoke on our partnership with GAERF on the Skill Connect Assessments (which GAERF has now recognized as certifications for the printing industry), the skills gap and workforce shortages. Board members asked if there are ways we can work together on advocacy. They’re concerned because they’ve been seeing graphic communications programs closing. On a brighter side, I had a former CEO of a major printing company ask if there was anything he might do to support us in Ohio. Mike Cowles has already had his first meeting with the company in Dayton.
  • On April 10 and 11, I was in Jacksonville, Fla. to introduce Mike Horn of Pro Services at Lowe’s to Boyd Worsham, chair of our Carpentry contest technical committee and vice president of Haskell Company, a national contractor. We were joined by Don Whyte, president and Steve Green, vice president of NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research). The topic was how best to work with commercial contractors. This is one of those instances where SkillsUSA was happy to make the introductions.
  • While there’s no specific movement on Perkins reauthorization, we’re pleased to note that 94 members of the House of Representatives and 25 Senators have helped champion federal funding for CTE. In separate letters to House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittees, the large bipartisan coalition urged a strong federal investment in Perkins in upcoming appropriations bills. Thanks go to ACTE and NASDCTEc for their leadership and to Representatives Thompson (Pa.) and Langevin (R.I.) and Senators Blumenthal (Ct.), Baldwin (Wis.) and Kaine (Va.) for leading in their respective chambers.
  • Sales of Skill Connect Assessments are up by over 3,600 tests at this point in the year. We understand our customers are very happy with the support desk at K2Share and with the new delivery system.
  • We’ve heard great things about state association spring conferences including those in Ohio and Maryland. I attended conferences in Florida and Massachusetts (more in the next issue). And, you might like to see how Gwinnett Technical College in Georgia used their medallions and winners to get lengthy TV news coverage and demonstrations. See it here – http://tinyurl.com/kvzl9la.
  • I just returned from the NCCER board of trustees meeting in San Francisco, and I’ve had it confirmed that one of our students will speak during their Construction Industry Institute meeting this summer. Present will be owners of major construction companies.

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

Executive Director’s Report: May 1, 2014

May 1st, 2014

STEM Tour in Massachusetts
On Thursday, March 27, I was honored to work with Karen Ward and her SkillsUSA Massachusetts board of directors during their board meeting at Tri-County RTHS in Franklin, Mass. The state association has an impressive board made up of top school administrators, advisors and business leaders. I worked directly with the finance committee and with strategic planning for the coming fiscal year.

On Friday, we had an amazing experience at Minuteman and Diman Regional Vocational Technical High Schools in Massachusetts. Our friends at Dassault Systems got to see high quality CTE STEM programs with the SkillsUSA life skills training process directly integrated into the classroom and lab during their tours.

Thank you to the three executives from Dassault who spent the day with students, instructors and administrators in these two incredible schools. The experience provided a good snapshot of how our CTE schools teach STEM and integrate life skills training into the school day using SkillsUSA curriculum and chapter activities.

A big thank you to Karen Ward for organizing the visits and for all she and Assistant Director Kevin Lopez did to make it an outstanding experience for all of us. To the administrators who hosted us and the faculty and staff at Minuteman and Diman, thank you so much for taking the time to organize such an outstanding demonstration of real work learning, coupled with student professional development in action. It’s days like Friday that ground us and remind us of the incredible potential our students possess and how leaders lift up our students to be their very best.

And finally, our National High School Secretary, Brittany Velez, and all the student leaders we met on both campuses were the stars of the day. Thanks to each and every student who demonstrated their technical, academic and professional skills. They were all amazing. I hope this experience will help create stronger business/education relationships, and I hope it also gave the Dassault executives a good perspective on how professional, employability or “life skills” can be a key component in a STEM program.

Spring Conferences are in Full Swing
Shelly Coates and I attended the 50th Virginia State Leadership and Skills Conference recently, and State Director Deb Tripp did an excellent job of running it. Illinois State Director Don Bauc reported the Governor of Illinois attended his conference. Rhode Island State Association Director Josh Klemp reported the largest attendance ever with Governor Chafee and the chair of the state education board attending and speaking during the awards ceremony. SkillsUSA Foundation member Cameron Ferguson and past Foundation member Greg Rintala attended the California state conference and the state superintendent of public instruction in California participated. We’ll have more reports on state conferences as staff continues to participate in conferences across the country in the coming weeks.

NASDCTEc Spring Meeting
I attended the Spring National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education consortium (NASDCTEc) meeting in Washington D.C. March 31 – April 3. Assistant Secretary Brenda Dann-Messier was a guest speaker at the opening general session. She announced she is leaving the U.S. Department of Education in mid-May. During public comment, I thanked Brenda for her service and for giving our students the opportunity to be heard by the administration. And, I encouraged her to ask U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan to continue listening to our students’ voices. Board member Scott Stump thanked Brenda and stated: “We have moved the bar as a solution to employment and workforce development in the country.” Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier has been a good friend of CTE and SkillsUSA and will be missed.

Secretary Duncan is visiting a CTE school each month. Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier and Secretary Duncan recently visited Worchester Tech in Massachusetts, a school with a very strong SkillsUSA chapter and the national principal of the year. President Obama will speak at only one high school commencement ceremony this year, and that school is Worchester Tech.

A report at the NASDCTEc meeting showed that 31 states had made a higher investment in CTE in 2013. And, 41 states had some type of legislation supporting CTE last year. This data came from a report co-produced by ACTE and NASDCTEc. It includes significant actions that took place last year and is categorized by state. Here is the link.

Regarding Perkins funding, representatives from both sides of the aisle and from the House and Senate spoke during the meeting. Some in Congress see early movement to get Perkins re-authorized (as early as October 2014) and others see a much longer timeframe, possibly even a continuing resolution that carries funding into the next election. Both agree it’s unlikely there will be a major overhaul of Perkins and that the funding amount will likely not be increased. There are many programs competing for federal funds – from medical research to job training – and new money will not be available, according to one appropriations committee member from the Senate. And, there is the philosophy (to which we agree) that funding should follow labor market demand and be aligned with business. We believe local business and industry advisory committees are critical to program alignment with business needs and credentialing – that is where SkillsUSA has always stood – and, where our hundreds of business partners have always stood with us.

There was substantial discussion about assessments and credentials for CTE completers. It was announced that national level assessments are priced from as low as $10 (Skill Connect is there) to hundreds of dollars. One state reporting over $2 million in their state budget for assessment/credentials, and several states are requiring CTE instructors to be certified in their field of teaching in order to maintain employment. And finally, a national clearinghouse for assessments and credentialing was discussed.

There was a constant stream of meetings and discussions of CTE and STEM. A wide array of federal legislation is moving forward to encourage students to enter STEM courses and several STEM organizations are emerging at national and state levels. It was mentioned that STEM in CTE is clear to us, but it is not always clear to those outside our education community. The CEO of “Change the Equation” spoke on behalf of the business community and stated that, in the current job market, there are 3.8 people looking for one job. But, there are 1.9 STEM jobs available for each job seeker. STEM occupations make up 11 percent of the workforce. (The Brookings Institution says 20 percent of all U.S. jobs.) SkillsUSA has STEM alignment as a major focus of our FY15 Strategic Plan.

 

Finally, it was great to see several friends of CTE and SkillsUSA recognized at this meeting for their continuous support. Representative Glen Thompson (Pa.) and Representative Jim Langevin (R.I.) were both present to receive the “Stars of CTE” Award. Thompson reminded the group there had been a $53 million restoration of CTE funding in January. And, during Representative Langevin’s awards presentation, it was mentioned how strongly he supports SkillsUSA in Rhode Island.

And two great friends of SkillsUSA were recognized as Stars of Education. Former California State CTE Director, Dr. Patrick Ainsworth, was named as a “Star” and current California CTE Director, Russ Weikle, was honored as a “Rising Star” at a special luncheon. Both spoke of SkillsUSA (and VICA) in their comments. Russ was a former VICA advisor and a former SkillsUSA director in California. Congratulations to both of these great friends!

Overall, the NASDCTEc conference was a great learning experience. It was really refreshing to hear congressional representatives, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Business Roundtable, the National Association of State School Boards and so many more praise CTE for the good work that is keeping students in school, reinforcing STEM education and helping close the skills gap.

 

Highlights

  • We have received a record total of 167 applications for the National Technical Honor Society grant awards and staff reviewed them to select the four winners.
  • The President’s Volunteer Service Award recipient applications have been reviewed and so far this year, there are 141 individual awards (representing 42,000 hours of volunteer service), 22 team awards (representing 23,000 hours in volunteer service) and two lifetime awards. Students will be recognized during the Opening Ceremony in Kansas City this year. This is a record number of PVSA winners, topping the 111 awarded in 2013.
  • Most national staff will be taking a bus to visit Louisville, September 3-5, 2014 so they can see the Kentucky Exposition Center and begin to plan for the 2015 national conference.
  • In light of discussion during SkillsUSA Foundation’s March meeting around the significance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education to career and technical education, please take a few minutes to read this interesting blog, Why Does STEM Learning Have to Be ‘Real World’? It is from the April 9, 2014 issue of Education Week.

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

 

 

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.


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