- We can hit the membership gong! We have surpassed last year’s membership total. As of yesterday, membership is 302,720. That’s 1,337 ahead of last year and some memberships are still coming into the office. Twenty-six state associations have now exceeded last year’s totals. The most recent is Wisconsin Postsecondary Division, Dale Drees, state association director.
- The Louisiana Community and Technical College System (CTCS) has appointed a state association director, Jawan Ross, and is moving forward to reinstitute the SkillsUSA Louisiana College/Postsecondary Association. The association has been dormant for a year. Jawan was here in the national office on March 16 for some condensed and intense state director training. SkillsUSA welcomes Louisiana postsecondary back, and we’re pleased to hear the LCTCS director is talking about growing the association next year.
- State conferences are underway. The SkillsUSA Georgia conference was a webcast over two days. Representative Jim Langevin, co-chair of the CTE Caucus spoke during the Rhode Island conference. Among his remarks to the students: “SkillsUSA students are the future innovators and job creators for our country.” That’s a nice message to carry. Staff will be visiting 20 state spring conferences.
- On March 5, Bob Daly, senior vice president of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. stopped by the national office for a visit and to discuss opportunities to grow our partnership. Bob is also looking into ways Toyota and Toyota dealers can help support the CTSOs in California.
- On March 6, I was part of a panel discussion during the ACTE Policy and Planning Seminar in Washington. The topic was Measuring Career Readiness Skills: Existing Practice, New Developments and the Challenges That Remain. The concern is finding or developing assessments that are more “career ready” inclusive. Of course, I was able to say during my remarks that SkillsUSA has been teaching and assessing employability skills since 1965 and I spoke about the Skill Connect Assessments and the Professional Development Program. My presentation was well received. Johan Uvin, deputy assistant secretary of OVAE gave a presentation entitled “Perkins Act Preview: Obama Administration.” Uvin said the administration wants to “further improve CTE.” The focus seems to still be on improving postsecondary degree attainment with “at least one year of postsecondary education.” He went on to say OVAE has developed a blueprint for reform, but hasn’t released it yet and that the administration has chosen 2013 for Perkins reauthorization. There will be three major statutory reforms: strengthen alignment of high schools, postsecondary and employers; better accountability systems; and, competitive funding to promote innovation and state reform. Questions from the audience were direct and tough on all three areas, particularly on the competitive funding and Uvin’s assertion that CTE didn’t have data to back up its claims of success.
- I was the keynote speaker at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College/Caper Educator Institute’s “Education Challenge: Career and College Readiness” forum in Henrico, Virginia on March 14. My topic was “Schools Excel Through Student Leadership: Encourage, Promote and Prepare Student Leaders.” There were 210 administrators in attendance, and there was discussion about what it means to be career and college ready. I guess the speech went over well. I gave away all of my business cards.
- We secured a Google Grant for advertising on the Google website. When certain keywords are searched, our ads will appear at the top and in the column on the right of the page. The ads started running on a March 13, and by March 14, SkillsUSA had already received 40,000 impressions.
- And, I attended two outstanding state conferences in the past two weeks – Texas high school and Arizona. More details on these and others next time.
Assessment season is drawing near, and we’re excited to offer 47 industry-driven technical and employability assessments, which include 44 Skill Connect assessments and four automotive assessments offered by our co-vender Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Information on our assessments and a complete list of the assessment areas available can be found at: www.workforcereadysystem.org. At the site, there are also instructor and administrator resources to help prepare students for testing, a free 10-question demonstration of each Skill Connect Assessment, an option to purchase a 50-question sample test for $10 per assessment area and links to purchase a Skill Connect Assessment for student testing or for instructor or administrator preview.
NEW Assessment Webinars in March! Topics include “Instructor Tips for Student Success” and “Meeting Industry Demands.” For Webinar dates and times go to: www.workforcereadysystem.org/webinars.shtml
UPDATED Assessment Blueprints! The Assessment blueprints have been updated with the weighted percent of standards and competencies to help prepare the students for the assessment. Go to: www.workforcereadysystem.org/technical_areas.shtml and click on the assessment area to see the blueprint.
Tips for student testing. As you begin preparing your site for student testing please refer to the website to review testing instructions at: www.workforcereadysystem.org/testing.shtml prior to administering the assessment and ensure your hardware and software are test-ready by reviewing the requirements before beginning testing.
If you are using Internet Explorer as your browser, the requirement is Version #8. You will need to upgrade to V8 if you are running at a lower version in order for the graphics to appear correctly. If you are running V9, you must turn on compatibility mode before beginning the assessment. We suggest you test your equipment by taking the Television (Video) Production 10-question demo because it tests all question types and sound.
Accommodations are available for students with special needs. It is possible to configure your computer from text to speech and an animated voice will read the test to the student. See the Skill Connect Getting Started Guide at: www.workforcereadysystem.org/media/support/skill_connect_assessment_getting_started_guide.pdf for technical assistance to configure your computer.
To purchase a Skill Connect Assessment for student testing, go to: www.workforcereadysystem.org/purchase.shtml.
We offer 47 industry-driven technical and employability assessments, which include 44 Skill Connect assessments and four automotive assessments offered by our co-vender Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Information on our assessments and a complete list of the assessment areas available can be found at: www.workforcereadysystem.org.
There are also instructor and administrator resources to help prepare students for testing, a free 10-question demonstration of each Skill Connect Assessment, an option to purchase a 50-question sample test for $10 per assessment area and links to purchase a Skill Connect Assessment for student testing or for instructor or administrator preview.
SkillsUSA had a productive ACTE (Association for Career and Technical Education) Conference in St. Louis, November 17-19. We had three national officers with us in the trade show booth – C.J. DeHart, Veronica Senkowski and Jeremy Ballentine – and each did a sensational job of visiting with people who stopped by. Actually, they were pulling people in to visit. The booth was always busy, and according to staff, the handout materials “disappeared.”
SkillsUSA conducted three presentations during the conference. SkillsUSA staff spoke on how to energize a chapter. Chip Harris from Tennessee State University did a workshop that was an introduction to the SkillsUSA Program of Work, and I did a well-attended presentation on the Skill Connect Assessments. We were pleased that the assessments were featured in an article on credentialing in the November/December issue of ACTE’s Techniques magazine. That probably helped build attendance. I also received some great reactions from teachers who are already using the assessments, and those were nice to hear.
- Staff recently attended the annual meeting of the CEWD (Center for Energy Workforce Development), a nonprofit consortium formed in 2006 of electric, natural gas and nuclear utilities and their associations. SkillsUSA has engaged in a partnership with the CEWD which was formed to help utilities work together to develop solutions of the coming workforce shortage in the utility industry. It is the first partnership between utilities, their associations, contractors and unions to team with secondary and postsecondary educational institutions and the workforce system to create workable solutions to address the need for a qualified, diverse workforce. CEWD contracted SkillsUSA to create a Skill Connect Assessment in Energy Industry Employability Skills, and it is now available. SkillsUSA’s Career Skills Education Program (CSEP) is being used by CEWD as the companion curriculum for that assessment. With help from a Gates Foundation grant, CEWD has launched the Get Into Energy Career Pathway (GIECP) featuring eight pilot sites whose goal is to attract a total of 5,000 low-income students into training and jobs for the energy workforce sector. Additional information about CEWD is at www.cewd.org.
- Some closing media notes . . . The Champion of the Year releases – both before and after the event – were sent to 1,148 automotive trades, business and education reporters nationwide, both print and online each time, and posted in several places online including Google, Yahoo and AOL. We also produced a report of WorldTeam coverage to share with WorldSkills International and discovered we had at least 118 stories or repostings of press releases on the WorldTeam including WCBS-TV, WAGC-TV, several other TV stations, and several newspapers including the St. Petersburg Times, BodyShop Business as well as several other trade publications and, of course, Parade Magazine.
The 2011-12 SkillsUSA membership kits have been mailed to all chapters that affiliated with SkillsUSA last year. Extra kits will be mailed to all state offices soon. The kit includes enrollment instructions, programs, scholarship and recognition opportunities, membership cards, a recruitment poster, a SkillsUSA Creed poster, an affiliation sticker and fliers on the Work Force Ready System and new products. The kit also includes the 2012 SkillsUSA Championships overview flier. This year’s membership incentive is the book, “Leveraging Your Leadership through Effective Chapter Meetings,” for all chapters that register 20 or more students plus one professional, by the November 15 full services deadline.
- The final official membership total is 320,287. That includes 300,302 student and teacher members and 19,302 alumni members.
- On April 27, SkillsUSA staff and Gayle Silvey, Georgia state association director, did a test drive of the SkillsUSA chapter registration software with a group of teachers from Middletown Middle School in Maryland. They also spent time on the website comparing SkillsUSA’s site to others and deciding what organization to join based upon their online experiences.
- Staff projects sales of Skill Connect Assessments might well reach 15,000 in May.
- Lowe’s has invitations out to 20 of its vendors to attend national conference. Staff reports some have already spoken of support.
- I’m sorry to report that Milt Ericksen from the Arizona Department of Education and representing NASDCTEc on the board has announced a job change, and he will be moving to the Arizona state agency that represents health and nutrition. As a result, NASDCTEc will be naming a new representative to our board. I expect to hear shortly. I personally thank Milt for all he’s done for SkillsUSA through the years, and I wish him well in his new endeavor.
- April 29 – 30, I attended ProStart, the competition of the National Restaurant Association in Overland Park, Kan. SkillsUSA and ProStart are going to be aligning our standards for competitions, and I hope doing much more together.
- And, I just returned from my final state conference visit to Florida. Carl Miller did a great job managing Florida’s largest state conference ever. SkillsUSA Florida also achieved the highest membership ever this year. Brandon Mullings, 2009-10 national officer, served as a keynote speaker, and it was great to spend time with him during the conference. SkillsUSA Florida ran 110 contests and over 3,000 attended the event.
- Membership now stands at 299,879 paid student and professional members and 30 states have now exceeded their membership last year. Memberships continue to come in slowly, and we now have 18,969 alumni members. . A reminder – professional and alumni memberships count; so, be sure to add yours as soon as possible and encourage others too. Here’s another reminder of the Web link that has simplified the process for individuals joining SkillsUSA as professional members (non-advisors/instructors): www.skillsusa-register.org/reports/JoinAsProfessional.aspx.
- On March 8, we received a “Sustainability Post-Occupancy Evaluation” (what we call an “energy audit”) on the SkillsUSA National Leadership Center conducted by Second Eden Studio. The draft report looks at eight areas including energy, carbon, water, and building materials. A nice feature of the audit is that suggestions for improvements are ranked in three categories: low or no cost, moderate cost and then the big one, investment. That’s language we understand. The final report is due June 2011.
- Nicholas Pinchuk of Snap-on was honored as the Business Leader of the Year by the Association of Career and Technical Education during the Policy and Planning Seminar on March 8. I was honored to attend, along with SkillsUSA Board Member, Greg Rintala of Snap-on.
- Staff spoke recently to trainers of the International Training Institute for union apprentices. She said of the 150 trainers in the audience, only 10 had ever heard of SkillsUSA; but, they thought they needed to know a lot more now.
- On March 16, I taped a radio interview with “The Money Pit” Home Improvement Media. It was broadcast on Sunday, March 20, and was nationally syndicated to 210 stations including WABC AM in New York City. I covered information on the need for skilled workers in construction and what it means for students to be career ready. The Money Pit connection came about through the CEO Champion of the Year program for John McGlade of Air Products last fall. Tom Kraeutler, president, was one of the invited news media guests for that event.
- It was reported to the staff on March 16 that we now have orders for 6,200 Skill Connect Assessments, double last year’s orders. She said three states have already ordered assessments for their state competitions and two more are to come.
- And, finally, we already have 60 SkillsUSA University presentations booked, and the Championships office has held six webinars with technical committees and national education team members to get ready for conference.