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Further Reflections on SkillsUSA WorldTeam

August 1st, 2013

We held a debriefing on July 16 with national staff most closely connected to the WorldSkills Competition in Leipzig. We discussed what we learned this year and ways to improve our processes and results in the future. The contestant selection process was certainly an improvement over prior years and the team represented us well. But, the training gap between the U.S. contestants and those of other nations is large. When I met with the chief delegate from Korea, he was surprised to learn that our contestants are recent high school graduates and college students. In Korea, they train their students for up to four years, 365 days a year specifically for the WorldSkills Competition. Heidi Walsh said: “Our team gave it their best. Many of them said to me, ‘If my scores can be close to these other guys, then I’m pretty good.’”

Scott Norman, our technical delegate, and Dave Worden of our staff will survey the SkillsUSA WorldTeam technical committees for their reactions and insights. They will also conduct a survey of the Championships technical committees to see if members are interested in becoming more involved in SkillsUSA WorldTeam preparation.

Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary, Office of Vocational and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education, toured the WorldSkills Competition with me. I know she was impressed. Following is the report she sent on July 18 to every state department of education. I appreciate her giving the SkillsUSA WorldTeam this kind of coverage. Several people in the state departments sent me the link so I know it has been read. To see the report, go to: http://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USED/bulletins/83ec2c.

Staff member Craig Moore traveled with the team to Germany, and he did a great job of posting news and photos on the SkillsUSA website. Click on SkillsUSA WorldTeam results. You’ll almost feel as though you were there too. Go to: www.skillsusa.org/compete/worldteam.shtml.

SkillsUSA WorldTeam Returns from Leipzig

July 15th, 2013

2013 SkillsUSA WorldTeamWe returned this past Monday from a great trip to the WorldSkills Competition (WSC), and we traveled with one of the best, most articulate and composed teams we’ve ever taken to international competition.

I’m not going to try writing a full report right now; after all, information is still coming in but I can report that the U.S. did well with the silver medal in Welding (and best in nation award) going to Alex Pazkowski, and medallions of excellence (scoring over 500 points where all contests are based on 600) won by Marcus Cain in IT Networking and Kieron Kohlmann in Automotive Technology. Pat Klaricki, the US technical expert in Print Media Technology won the WorldSkills Sustainability Award for having the greenest competition of the week. Everything printed by the contestants was used.

Here are a few bullet points. I know there will be more to come.

  • Our delegation comprised about 60 people including contestants and experts. If we add in the industry partners and others, the whole group was about 100. It was great to see that many more U.S. flags waving in the audience.
  • I was the information tour guide on the competition floor for the U.S. delegation attending the WSC under the German Skills Initiative. Included in the delegation were top government officials from New Jersey, Maryland and North Carolina, some college presidents and representatives of Labor. I’ve already heard back from New Jersey and Maryland wanting more information about SkillsUSA.
  • While there, I met with executives from Samsung, Autodesk, Pearson, Dermalogica, Fluke and the CEO of Lincoln Electric. All are interested in supporting SkillsUSA or increasing their support.
  • It wasn’t WorldSkills all the time either. I attended two important satellite meetings as well. One was “Tackling the Global Talent Gap” sponsored by the International Skills Standards Organization. Don Whyte, president, National Center for Construction Education and Research and a great friend of SkillsUSA was one of the speakers. (NCCER also sponsored a dinner for our team and guests on Monday during the WSC.) I also attended “Skilling the Future: VET (vocational education) and Workplace Learning for Economic Success” organized by OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The keynote speech was given by Brenda Dann-Messier, assistant secretary of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education. Brenda and Sharon Miller, director of Academic and Technical Education, OVAE, are the first U.S. officials to attend a WorldSkills Competition. Brenda told me she’d be covering the event in the OVAE newsletter seen in departments of education everywhere.

WorldSkills 2013

July 11th, 2013

2013 SkillsUSA WorldTeamOur SkillsUSA WorldTeam returned home on Monday. After the rigorous four-day competition, our students received four international honors.

Our welding competitor received a silver medal and was named Best of Nation.

Our competitors in IT Network Administration and Automotive Service Technology each received a Medallion of Excellence.

In addition, one of our USA adult technical experts in Print Media Technology received the World Skills Sustainability Award for managing the most green competition process during the WorldSkills Competition. We are very proud of all our SkillsUSA WorldTeam students.

They represented their schools, their states and their nation extremely well.

SkillsUSA WorldTeam Prepares for Leipzig

June 1st, 2013

SkillsUSA WorldTeam

On April 27-29, all members of the SkillsUSA WorldTeam (except one) were in Leesburg for training. That included the SkillsUSA 101 course so, they’re all on the same page when talking about the work of SkillsUSA. There was also scenario training based on the experiences of team members in prior competitions, including how to handle things under the contest rules, and time and stress management.

On Monday, we went to the German Embassy for an orientation conducted by the education director on the German education system and Germany’s Skills Initiative to promote preparation and training of a skilled workforce. Presenters also talked about German culture and food. The students asked mostly about what they’d see in and around Leipzig.

By invitation, we were joined during the meeting by Sam Morgante, legislative aide to Representative James Langevin of Rhode Island and co-chair of the House CTE Coalition. During the luncheon at the Cafe Berlin in Washington, Sam spoke to the team about the importance of CTE and the support of the Coalition.

I want to commend Heidi and Jerry Walsh and Dave Worden for their work with the team. They’re an incredible group of young people and Heidi, Jerry and Dave had a big part in their preparation. I’m glad to say I believe the team really bonded during this trip.

Oh, then there’s that one missing member of the team. He’s Alex Pazkowski, our Welding contestant. Alex was attending the 2013 Global Skills Challenge in Perth, Australia, an invitational event including 10 other countries including China, Canada, the UK and France. The Challenge was to help International Team Australia Skillaroos prepare for Leipzig. Dave Worden received word that Alex took the gold medallion.

Highlights

June 1st, 2013
  • On May 2, I attended the Research Partner Executive Dinner and Reception hosted by the National Research Center for College and University Admissions. The NRCCUA — which is a college and career planning program and runs “myCollegeOptions” — billed it as a networking event and it certainly was. There were 30 top executives from several different organizations. As a result of our visits, I’ve invited executives from Junior ROTC and STEM Connector to attend the national conference.
  • In another outreach from the college community, Wanda Monthey, Governor Roy Romer, Karen Lanning, director of Federal Relations and two other members of the College Board Career Readiness staff came to visit SkillsUSA headquarters to learn more about our organization. The College Board (known for the SAT exam) has put together a team to see what the role of the College Board can be in working with CTE. The team will be working on policy, partnerships, guidance, assessments and curriculum. They said the CB will be “putting the student in the center of what we do and finding pathways for all students to their careers.” They showed a great deal of interest in SkillsUSA. In a follow-up email, Jean-Claude Brizard wrote: “My biggest takeaway from yesterday is your success in getting the grassroots mobilized (teachers and students). Your national convention is fantastic. We have to find a way to engage you in our work.” More to come, I’m sure.
  • Thanks to an introduction from Board Member Russ Hoffbauer, on May 2 I met in Washington with Clark Plucinski, executive director of the Collision Repair Education Foundation. In the interest of gaining “higher quality trainees and employees” in the collision repair industry, the Foundation grants as many as 200 scholarships averaging $1,000 – $2,500 annually for students’ continuing education. The foundation also awards mini-grants and many other things to support collision repair instruction. Clark said he’s open to the option of adding travel scholarships for SkillsUSA students and perhaps adding SkillsUSA membership as a criterion for receiving a scholarship.
  • Worldwide, SkillsUSA is featured as one of 14 model public-private partnerships “that have enabled innovation and technology advancement and promoted talent development” in a recently released global report from the World Economic Forum prepared by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited entitled “Manufacturing for Growth.” Deloitte has been acquainted with SkillsUSA for quite some time — due in part to our partnership with the Manufacturing Institute — but it was still quite an honor to be selected and highlighted on an international scale. Here is a link to the news release about the report (and citing SkillsUSA). To view or download the three-volume report, go to this link. SkillsUSA is featured on page 25 of the second volume.
  • And, more coverage. SkillsUSA was included in an independent supplement from Media Planet to USA Today entitled “Employing America” and featuring Mike Rowe. An article entitled “Who will take over for the retiring baby boomers?” is about SkillsUSA in part and includes quotes from Joe Pietrantonio of Air Products, Nick Pinchuk of Snap-on and Don Whyte of the National Center for Construction Education and Research. The insert was in Midwest editions of USA Today. Here’s a link to the story (and no, we didn’t supply the photo). Another story being picked up by many places is on students who built a robotic locker for a classmate with Muscular Dystrophy. Here it is on the Huffington Post.
  • In other news, staff travelled to California for a meeting with ALCOA to create a program for ALCOA employees to promote manufacturing careers to students. Dave Worden spoke to a committee of the IEC (Independent Electrical Contractors) about the WorldSkills Competition and the WorldTeam. Staff also conducted an “Enhance Your Chapter” training session here on May 9 for four teachers from Virginia and other staff members met with intelitek to discuss online programs including the Skill Connect Assessments.
  • And, finally, three-person SkillsUSA 2012 Engineering Technology/Design competition team national gold medalists were chosen to visit the White House for President Obama’s Science Fair in April. The students, Grant Feldhege, Neil Molitor and Tyler Tran, from Tech High School in St. Cloud Area School District, Minn. designed, created, and manufactured a new product called Dolly-to-Trolley. It is a device that clamps onto a two wheel dolly and allows a person to move and maneuver trailers easily. The students are working on having their product patented. President Obama celebrated the remarkable achievements of student science fair winners and extraordinary kid innovators from across the nation in the third White House Science Fair.

WorldTeam in Leesburg

May 15th, 2013

On April 27-29, SkillsUSA had 19 of our 20 competitors in Leesburg (our Welding competitor was in Australia competing) for team training and coaching as we continue to prepare for the WorldSkills Competition to be held in Leipzig, Germany, July 2-7, 2013. The training was designed to help them get to know their fellow team members, team leaders and staff and feel confident about the entire WorldSkills event.

During our time together, we provided them with information and training about traveling abroad, representing the United States, being a leader and managing time and stress. We also conducted scenario training based on actual events/issues competitors have experienced at prior WorldSkills Competitions. Competitors were able to talk about any issues, technical training, etc., that they may have. In addition, we visited the German Embassy to get a feel for German culture and learn about the country and then had lunch at a German restaurant. During lunch, Sam Morgante, representing Congressman Jim Langevin (RI-02), joined us and addressed the team. (Representative Langevin is one of the co-chairs of the CTE Caucus.)

SkillsUSA is grateful for the WorldTeam training that is being conducted by the experts and for the tremendous support from our industry sponsors: Lowe’s, Snap-on, 3M, Festo, AWS, AWI, ASE, Carhartt, John Deere, Toyota, Lincoln, Miller, Pivot Point, Unilver Foods, WOW Web Professionals and the state associations from Fla., Mass., Mich., Wis., N.C., S.C., Ohio and Pa.

Firing on All Cylinders at Daytona 500

March 15th, 2013

We had an amazing opportunity to talk about SkillsUSA, skilled trades and welding from February 20-24 during a week of racing at Daytona Beach, Florida. This was the SkillsUSA WorldTeam final Weld-Off  -  a competition taking 22 hours over four days – to select the final member of the WorldTeam. We had three finalists, Andrew Cardin of Massachusetts, Tanner Tipsword of Wyoming and Alex Pazkowski of Michigan. All of them did fantastic work, and Alex was named the winner on Sunday evening.

The other big winner was SkillsUSA. Thanks to an outdoor booth valued at $58,000 and donated by Larsen Motorsports, we had tens of thousands of people come by to talk, meet the students and examine their welding projects. Larsen Motorsports is owned by Chris and Elaine Larsen, and she’s one of only four female jet fuel dragster drivers in the world. She was in the booth signing autographs right along with the students when they were on break. The SkillsUSA flag was flying and the SkillsUSA and AWS logos were prominently displayed on a racing trailer in the booth. Crowds got progressively larger through the week. By Sunday, the crowds were four and five deep. See the photos at: www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152585499225591.959256.22208255590&type=1.

The connection to Larsen was made through Youth Development Foundation Committee member Paul Cleveland of Miller Electric Mfg. Co., Inc., and members of the Welding contest technical committee. The American Welding Society (AWS) was the main sponsor and, on awards night had a beautiful white tent with lights and a sound system right down on Daytona Beach. It was a beautiful setting and event to announce the winner and recognize each of our contestants. Thanks go to Brandon Muehlbrandt of Lincoln Electric Co., Nick Peterson of Miller and all the other participants for pulling this whole event together. I know Alex will do a wonderful job of representing the United States in Germany this July.

Highlights

March 15th, 2013
  • A staff member attended a meeting at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) on February 28 called by the Alcoa Foundation, who wanted to put SkillsUSA, Project Lead the Way, The Manufacturing Institute and Junior Achievement officials together to brainstorm on challenges in developing the manufacturing workforce and in combating negative public and educational perceptions of manufacturing. Later that day, staff engaged The Manufacturing Institute and PLTW officials in discussions on administration of and criteria for awarding digital manufacturing “badges.”
  • And, looking ahead a little bit, the SkillsUSA WorldTeam has an appointment to visit the German Embassy during the team’s Washington, D.C. training program, April 26-29.

Making the Case for Manufacturing Careers

February 15th, 2013

Mike Rowe and Tim Lawrence

Three corporate representatives from Caterpillar – including Youth Development Foundation (YDF) member, Cameron Ferguson – met on January 28 at National Association of Manufacturing (NAM) headquarters with YDF member, Jennifer McNelly, president of The Manufacturing Institute and her communications team, Mike Rowe of mikeroweWORKS, another SkillsUSA staff member and me. The overarching topic was the public image of manufacturing and how to engage all four organizations in a national movement to educate youth about the benefits and opportunities of careers in manufacturing. Jennifer and her team are working on an action plan including media outreach featuring Mike Rowe.

The following day, Mike Rowe and his team met with Cameron and his team and me in Washington, D.C. Mike is a corporate spokesman for Caterpillar as well as a scholarship underwriter for SkillsUSA. We spoke with him about participation in the national conference, doing some promotion for SkillsUSA including the WorldTeam and promotion to recruit students into technical pathways. He’s interested! He loves the SkillsUSA Creed and was happy to hear that of the 50 students who received mikeroweWORKS travel scholarships to conference last year, four took medals and 13 finished in the top ten of their contests. He also enjoyed hearing from Cameron and friends about the students they’d met that morning from Washington County Technical High School in Hagerstown, Md. The students said what they believe is important is to do something for others and leave the world a better place. I believe Mike Rowe liked that as much as he liked the SkillsUSA Creed.

WorldTeam Debriefing

January 15th, 2013

We held a WorldTeam conference call on December 19th including the technical experts, competitors and some state association directors. The experts and competitors who attended WorldSkills Americas in Brazil gave overviews of what they experienced. The key take away was that the competition was intense and that this is actually “a very big deal.” Sharing their insights with those experts and competitors who could not attend will help set the stage for the rest of the training and meetings the team will be undergoing.

We also discussed what materials and other things experts and competitors will need. We will do all that we can to accommodate their needs based on budget. And, we talked about getting the whole WorldTeam to the national office for additional training and visits to D.C. this coming spring. A decision will be made in February pending budget.


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