Executive Director’s Report: December 15, 2015

Talking About a New Message from SkillsUSA

Brent Kindred and I traveled to Kenosha, Wis., to meet with board member Alicia Smales and her marketing team. Alicia and Snap-on Incorporated have continued to support our strategic direction, membership and fundraising efforts and have helped guide us toward a new approach to messaging for the organization. We spent the morning discussing our target constituencies and how to develop a message for SkillsUSA that would be attractive to executives at the highest level of corporate America. During lunch, we were honored to spend over an hour with Snap-on CEO Nick Pinchuk and get his perspective on messaging that would be impactful for corporate CEOs. Nick, Alicia and the full team provided some great ideas that we will now share with SkillsUSA staff to develop some fresh new messaging, brand awareness and image content. Bottom line, having a consistent message from the top to the bottom of the organization will help us gain higher level financial support that, in turn, will allow us to support our state leadership and their membership efforts at a much higher level.

Peer Organizations Come Together on Challenges

On Monday, Nov. 30, I led a meeting of the National Coordinating Council for Career and Technical Student Organizations at the headquarters of the National Association for Secondary School Principals in Reston, Va. We discussed joint efforts to promote CTE Month in February, including a “digital day” during which SkillsUSA and our peer organizations would mobilize students across all social networks to speak to the benefit of CTE and their student organization experiences.

And, a NASA representative presented on involving our organizations’ students in an online competition to help more young people aspire to engineering pathways. A challenge that involves 3-D printing in space would give our members an opportunity to design and build tools and other instruments for the international space station. For more information, go to: www.futureengineers.org. We were also informed that all online government challenges for students can be found at: www.challenge.gov.

We also learned about a program called Teach to Lead. Our organizations will be encouraging teachers to get involved in this program, which allows sharing of best practices and ideas and develop action plans for quality instruction. SkillsUSA will be joining the effort as a supporting organization. Limited funding is available for teachers to convene with other teachers nationwide at Teach to Lead meetings and share their ideas. For more info, go to: www.teachtolead.org.

The other executive directors and I heard reports from the U.S. Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, from the State Directors of CTE and ACTE regarding congressional activity, including an update on Perkins legislation. It appears that Perkins may be considered by one side of Congress (probably the Senate) before the November 2016 election, but reauthorization is not likely to occur until after the new administration assumes office. We may be calling on our supporters to help us communicate with Congress regarding what appears to be weakened language on the definition of career and technical student organizations. We are getting preliminary information that the definition may need to be enhanced to continue the language that makes us integral to CTE instruction. There is no action required at this point, but we will be keeping you informed as the discussions progress.

Reports were also given by all the student organizations’ executive directors, and a few trends emerged during discussion. We are all experiencing challenges with technology integration, concerns around student travel during heightened security alerts, and with finding the right space as our national meetings continue to grow. On the positive side, nearly all organizations reported membership growth and expanded recognition and support.

Getting State Association Directors on the Same Page

On Dec. 1-3, we were honored to have 43 state leaders from 38 states convene here at the National Leadership Center for training centered on SkillsUSA’s educational resources. A highlight was having Mark Reardon, from the Centrepointe Group in California, lead two sessions on leadership, facilitation and amplification for our state association programs. Gayle Silvey and Kelly Horton led directors through the integration of all of SkillsUSA’s educational resource materials and how to connect them to programming for student success. A final session focused on designing quality professional development for teachers and training for alumni and state officers, with a focus on making them better facilitators of learning. We have received great feedback from these state association directors, who said this was some of the best training they had received from SkillsUSA. A follow-up session is being planned for the spring of 2016.

A Partner Sees the Great Work of our Chapters

Mike Rowe and his mikeroweWORKS Foundation have expressed an interest in increasing their support for a small number of national organizations that they believe are making a true impact. SkillsUSA has been chosen as one of those organizations. Mike and his team want to learn more about SkillsUSA’s operations, particularly how SkillsUSA works at the local level. Thanks to our national board member Chuck Wallace, Maryland state association director, we were able to take Mary Sullivan, president of the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, to visit the Center of Applied Technology–North in Severn, Md., on Dec. 2. It was an amazing experience, and as we entered the school, we were greeted by the SkillsUSA local officer team, each of them in official attire. This chapter does a great job of promoting SkillsUSA, evidenced throughout the building with displayed images of their student leadership, national competition winners and educational resources, posters and even SkillsUSA Champions magazine in every lab and classroom. Each student described their CTE and SkillsUSA journey, then provided a tour of the school and described each lab and the work being done there. The school principal, assistant principal and head SkillsUSA advisor also provided an overview of the school history, programs offered and student success. The morning was capped off with an incredible lunch served by the culinary students. In the afternoon, we were lucky that one of the school’s industry advisory committees was meeting. Our group heard from the committee how various industries from the Baltimore area support the school. This was a perfect example to show a SkillsUSA partner the magic that happens in our local chapters.

White House Representatives Visit Headquarters

On Dec. 3, representatives from the White House Office of Social and Behavioral Sciences made a repeat visit to the SkillsUSA National Leadership Center to discuss next steps in developing an electronic application to assist people with career exploration, education and training, and eventually jobs. Eric Gearhart and Rosha Peavy met with them to begin writing a business plan to help bring the project to reality. They developed timelines and prospective funding sources to move the project forward. More to come as this process evolves.

The Loss of a Great Champion

We were informed that Elmer Gates passed away on Monday, Dec. 14. Some of you may remember Elmer. He was the very first recipient of our Torch Carrier award, was a founder of the SkillsUSA Council in Pennsylvania and he attended many national conferences. Elmer was a true champion of our mission and a great leader in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. He commanded respect and always had a very strong, yet wise, presence. He will be greatly missed by so many. Condolences can be sent to his daughter Patty Smith. Her home address is 8448 Redhaven St., Fogelsville, PA 18051.

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