SkillsUSA
Search
Legal / Privacy / Index / Membership Login
StudentsEducatorsSupportersAbout UsEventsCompeteJoinConnectShopContact

Home > Tim's Blog

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.

Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2014

Happy 2014! On behalf of our national staff, Board of Directors and our wonderful team of national officers, I wish you happiness, good health and a prosperous New Year.

ACTE Convention
I traveled to Las Vegas to attend the annual Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) Convention, December 4-7. There were 3,497 in attendance and staff members Marsha Daves, Niki Clausen, Heidi Walsh and I were extremely busy there. National high school vice president Laura Gouillon, a pre-engineering student from California and college/postsecondary president, Leah Rife, a graphic arts student from Colorado, also attended and spoke at various meetings on behalf of SkillsUSA and worked very hard in the SkillsUSA booth at the Career Tech Expo. Both students made us extremely proud.

I participated in two Trade and Industrial Education Division meetings, and Laura Gouillon, Leah Rife and I presented SkillsUSA updates at both sessions. I was involved in a great ASE/NATEF meeting with instructors and administrators, a reception, and a panel discussion with the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). SkillsUSA was recognized and commended at both meetings. I also had a very positive lunch meeting with the new CEO and the new Chairman of intelitek. This company provides over a million dollars in robotics and automated manufacturing equipment annually at the SkillsUSA Championships and also hosts both our high school and college employability curricula on their Learning Management System.

On Wednesday evening, I was privileged to attend the ACTE Awards Banquet where board member and SkillsUSA Minnesota Director, Jen Polz, was honored with the ACTE Region 3 Outstanding Educator Award. We are very proud of Jen and this great accomplishment. The keynote speaker at the banquet was U.S. Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan. Jen received her award from Assistant Secretary of Education Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier.

Both staff and national officers met with a number of business partners and prospects at the Career Tech Expo. I had good meetings with Goodheart-Wilcox, Lincoln Electric, Snap-on, Channellock, Autodesk and the U.S. Army, just to name a few. We also met with several companies who expressed serious interest in getting involved. It was also great to spend time with board members Dave Milliken, Peggy Torrens and Jeff Johnson and several state CTE directors.

On Thursday evening, I hosted 28 of our state leaders at a nice dinner at Maggiano’s Restaurant. This dinner was a thank you for state association directors, corporate members and state education department officials. It was great to have Greg Rintala of Snap-on and his wife join us as well as Amelia Mitchell Powers, former national officer, and now a corporate trainer for CAT. Our two national officers also participated and thanked the group for all their support.

On Friday and Saturday, Niki Clausen and Marsha Daves made three SkillsUSA presentations for the ACTE participants. Marsha presented “The Easy Button – Teaching and Assessing Work-Ready Skills and Career-Ready Practices in the CCCS” and Niki Clausen presented great sessions on “Why SkillsUSA.”

WorldSkills Update
We will be sending a small delegation to the WorldSkills Americas competition to be held in Bogota, Columbia, April 1-6, 2014. At this time, we have sponsorship and endorsement to send, at minimum, a cabinetmaker and automotive tech student, their experts and our technical delegate and team leader. We are also working with Canada in an attempt to house both our delegation students and adults in the same hotel for safety and security purposes.

Speaking of Canada, we are in discussion with Skills Canada, and, our two countries are interested in jointly hosting the 2016 WorldSkills General Assembly. We plan to submit a letter of interest in early 2014. The major costs of this meeting are covered by registration fees paid by each member country. Our proposed venue is on the USA/Canada border at Niagara Falls. It’s a world-class destination, and we believe it would be an incredible spot for the WSI General Assembly. We believe this activity would help us continue to ramp up our WorldSkills involvement and international credibility as called for in Vision 2020.

A big thank you goes to SkillsUSA Kentucky, CTE Director Dale Winkler, the State Office of Career and Technical Education (OCTE). Thanks also to Joe Morgan and Fran Dundon for their support. The support from the Kentucky OCTE is invaluable and will help us tremendously as we transition to Louisville.

Planning for the “Circle of Champions” Breakfast in Louisville
December 1-2 were busy with several meetings centered around planning our first business/community outreach in Louisville, Kentucky. Much time was spent developing the agenda, logistical planning and guest list with leaders from Greater Louisville, Inc., the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Kentucky Exposition Center. Afterward, Louisville leadership arranged for me to meet with Mayor Greg Fischer and present how SkillsUSA members will impact the Louisville community with workforce opportunities as we plan toward the 2015 National Leadership & Skills Conference and beyond.

Mayor Fischer agreed to reach out to the Louisville business community on behalf of SkillsUSA. His support is vital to us as we work to develop a business advisory foundation that will support national conference efforts over the next six years.

SkillsUSA created a press release, came up with a short video to share with the Louisville business community and sent out invitations to 1,500 businesses covering the Louisville, Kentucky-Clarksville, Indiana area asking for attendance at the “Circle of Champions” breakfast on Thursday, January 16, 2014, at the Kentucky Exposition Center. The event will begin with a “circle” of select SkillsUSA students who will demonstrate their skill and leadership areas as our invited guests enter the facility at 8 a.m. A brief presentation will begin at 8:30 a.m. that will include a message from Mayor Greg Fischer and other speakers currently being identified. We are confident this event is the beginning of a strong and fruitful relationship with the Louisville, Kentucky community.

Highlights

  • Kelly Horton attended the SkillsUSA Massachusetts FLC and reported the conference had over 600 members in attendance and was the largest fall conference for the state to date. She facilitated a workshop about engaging students through SkillsUSA’s educational resources, and SkillsUSA Massachusetts purchased enough educational materials so that each participating school would receive a complete set of resources to assist students in their employability skills development.
  • Kelly also reports that her presentation to the state presidents of the New England region of the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) went well. She spoke to them, at the request of Universal Technical Institute, about SkillsUSA and how it helps the student to prepare for the world of work.
  • Gayle Silvey attended the Georgia college/postsecondary FLC and facilitated a membership growth and retention workshop for about 50 instructors. Strategies discussed included ways to reach, recruit and engage college/postsecondary members in SkillsUSA to help them advance their employability skills and careers. Gayle also attended the Tennessee college/postsecondary TLTI where she facilitated three workshops for approximately 60 instructors. These workshops focused on infusing educational resources into classroom instruction, curriculum and chapter meetings.
  • Together, Gayle and Kelly hosted a Strategic Membership Advisory Committee meeting near Dulles Airport, December 10-12. The committee is comprised of senior executive business leaders and educational leaders from the CTE community, and they met to focus on scalable membership growth and development to ensure we reach our Vision 2020 goal of impacting 1 million learners. Board member, Chris Arvin from Caterpillar, and Foundation members Alicia Smales from Snap-on and Larry Teverbaugh from K2Share were among the attendees.
  • The winter 2014 issue of SkillsUSA Champions has been mailed. The electronic version (sponsored by Interstate Batteries Fundraising) is active at: www.skillsusa.org/champions/winter14.shtml.
  • Finally, Karen Beatty reports that the Skills Build America campaign has received $170,000 in corporate and personal donations since it was launched a year ago.

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

 

Executive Director’s Report: December 15

December 15th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Highlights

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

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

Highlights

August 29th, 2013
  • I’ve met twice with a local management consultant – and another meeting is scheduled for early in September – to discuss creation of a human resources plan. We’ll begin by conducting an analysis of SkillsUSA’s structure and processes, including staffing and staff succession, so we know we are appropriately aligned to meet the goals in Vision 2020.
  • We held a staff meeting on August 6 and the chief topic was the 2013 National Leadership and Skills Conference. Small cross-departmental teams reviewed the national conference and offered up their five best superlatives and five major challenges. Among the superlatives: excellent general sessions, particularly the quality of the speakers; good news media coverage; the registration process went well with improvements implemented during the past two years; addition of TAG Tuesday for delegates; and YDF Breakfast and Challenge Fund. We also did some brainstorming for the 50th anniversary celebration.
  • The Challenge Fund held during conference raised $140,000 from corporate and individual contributions. All monies were dedicated to the Skills Build America Campaign.
  • We’re finding SkillsUSA appearing more frequently in papers and books focusing on skill gaps and worker shortages. One of the most recent is in the book The U.S. Technology Skills Gap: What Every Technology Executive Must Know to Save America’s Future. The central thesis by author Gary Beach is that the widening “skills gap” in math and science is a threat to America’s future, and business should get involved. The very first example of a public-private partnership — in the chapter entitled “Let’s Build Some Arks” — is SkillsUSA, 1965. He wrote in the chapter: “Do your homework and learn more about CTE.” Beach called our offices last week to say “SkillsUSA was way ahead of the game.”
  • SkillsUSA will be featured in a nationwide PBS broadcast entitled “American Graduate Day” on Saturday September 28. The program is about community organizations that are successful in preventing dropouts. SkillsUSA will be both an example of a community organization and of CTE. We have been compiling stories of students who stayed in school and have gone on to greater things thanks to SkillsUSA, their instructors and others. There will be much more to tell in the coming weeks.
  • Bob Baird of the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC), chair of our Industrial Motor Control contest and long-time friend of SkillsUSA, came to visit on August 7 to discuss ways IEC and SkillsUSA can support each other at local, state and national levels. Support from IEC would include work by its chapters in training, contests, and advocacy. We also spoke of possible support from some of IEC’s corporate members. Bob expressed interest in the Professional Development Program as a curriculum for apprentices.
  • I attended a meeting between youth organizations and the Army at Ft. Myer to discuss the Army’s SAY Program (Strengthening America’s Youth) The Army involved us in a discussion of STEM education and recruiting the best youth with technical skills into the military. I suggested, and it was well received, that the Army give preference through rank and pay to students who come to them with technical and leadership credentials such as being a SkillsUSA officer or a leader in another student organization. The dialogue continued the following day when the representatives of the Army visited our office to discuss our 2014 partnership.
  • Jacob Wozniak of Springville, New York won the qualifying trial in Cabinetmaking for a spot on the 2015 SkillsUSA WorldTeam. Jacob will compete in Sao Paulo, Brazil in August 2015. He is a graduate of the Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES program and he won the 2012 high school Gold medal in Cabinetmaking. Jacob competed against Caleb Floyd, the 2012 high school Silver medalist from Kathleen, Ga. and Warner-Robins High School, and Brett Sidesinger of Topeka, Kan. and Washburn Tech, who was the highest scoring age-eligible contestant from the 2013 Cabinetmaking contest. The Cabinetmaking Qualifying Trial was conducted at the biennial AWFS Fair in late July at the Las Vegas Convention Center, thanks to the generous in-kind sponsorship of the Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Suppliers (AWFS).  WorldTeam Cabinetmaking technical expert Rob Tobias of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster, PA, served as the chief judge.
  • I recently received a note from Daniel Berrios, our 2013 WorldSkills Cabinetmaking competitor about his experience in Germany. “The WorldSkills competition was one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences I have ever had. It felt like the Olympics. The mixture of cultures, languages, and people really brought about a sense of unity and equality among all competitors. The confusion and excitement are hard to put into words, but in the end it was all about a good friendly competition; no politics nor boarders, just people doing what they love to do with a focus on winning a medal. The competition itself was intense, and the cabinet was one of the most difficult projects I had ever done, with lots of complex angles, cuts, and joints all while thousands of people watched my every move. Every cut had to be perfect and nothing less would suffice, although, I do admit I did make a few mistakes on my cabinet. But, I have no regrets on how I built my project, and if I had the opportunity again, I would do it in a heartbeat.”
  • Speaking of quotes, here’s an excerpt from an email by Judy Rambert of Pivot Point, a long-time supporter of SkillsUSA and the WorldTeam. She wrote after listening to my remarks during the recent Congressional Roundtable: “I sat listening to your speech on Capitol Hill tonight, and it reminded me why Pivot Point cherishes our involvement with SkillsUSA. Your message captured our commitment to the youth of our profession. Students involved in SkillsUSA chapters have superb statistics of completing their education. You all must be so proud!”
  • And, the Best of Brand Awards were presented during the state directors’ conference in South Portland, Maine. Congratulations go to Best of Innovation: Advocacy – Tennessee college/postsecondary; Best of Innovation: Membership Growth and Engagement – Michigan; Best of Brand: Print – Wisconsin; Best of Brand: Multi-media – Arizona; and, Best of Brand: Website – Oregon.

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.

NCCER Board Meeting

May 15th, 2013

On April 23-24, I attended the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) Board of Trustees meeting in Indianapolis. SkillsUSA continues to become more involved with NCCER and their globally-recognized contractor members. NCCER CEO Don Whyte provided an update on the state of the association and announced a pre-pilot of a Skills-to-Industry Recruitment Alliance that will involve potential hiring of SkillsUSA students by these contractors. He also announced a $40,000 fundraising goal for support of our national Carpentry contest and new sponsorship of our national Masonry contest. NCCER Vice President Steve Greene announced new scholarships for SkillsUSA members and more connection to the NCCER Build Your Future initiative. Don Whyte and board member Boyd Worsham (also our national carpentry tech committee chair) will be traveling with us to Germany in July in support of our WorldTeam. In another piece of positive news, our BPD staff has been working with NCCER member Fluor Construction to gain support from the corporation. It’s always good to be a part of the governance of trade associations, but also a great opportunity to network with top executives from the industries represented.


%d bloggers like this: