Official Statement from SkillsUSA Executive Director Chelle Travis – June 12 Update
June 12, 2020
Dear SkillsUSA members and supporters,
Last week, I delivered an official statement reflecting SkillsUSA’s position on longstanding racial inequities and injustice in our country. Words alone, however, quickly ring hollow without specific, measurable actions to support them. With that in mind, I want to share some of the specific actions SkillsUSA has already taken related to our commitment to inclusion and diversity, along with some of the actions we’re currently preparing to take.
- Multicultural Sensitivity and Awareness is one of the 17 Essential Elements that make up the SkillsUSA Framework. As part of the revision of our Washington Leadership Training Institute (WLTI) curriculum last fall, it was determined that Multicultural Sensitivity and Awareness would be one of the three Essential Elements addressed as part of WLTI’s week of intense leadership training. The revised curriculum will launch during this year’s event.
- Training modules that directly address Multicultural Sensitivity and Awareness are implemented within our Career Essentials online curricula. Some of the competencies covered are “Demonstrate awareness of issues important to different cultures,” “Demonstrate a willingness to learn about the perspectives of others,” “Proactively address potential sources of cultural conflict” and many more.
- SkillsUSA recently commissioned a research project designed to help us address gaps and next steps in creating innovative student programming in the area of Multicultural Sensitivity and Awareness. Those results will help shape the next generation of SkillsUSA programming.
- We are forming an advisory committee — made up of a diverse group of SkillsUSA alumni — to ensure that we address Multicultural Sensitivity and Awareness within all our programs.
- We are working right now to develop a holistic and comprehensive organizational plan designed to strengthen and better reflect our commitment to inclusion, diversity and equality. The first stage of that development will incorporate facilitated discussions with our board, staff, students, alumni, partners, instructors and state directors. Further steps will involve reexamining and revising our internal strategic planning, program review process, organizational policies, professional development opportunities and more.
- We are reexamining our board structure and hiring practices to ensure that our organization better reflects the diversity of the membership we serve.
- We are taking more aggressive action to develop and sustain SkillsUSA membership and its associated experiences in communities of color through developing programs like SkillsUSA Works.
- We are currently engaging with a national organization that focuses on addressing equity issues in education. This relationship is in the early stages, but it is our intention for this relationship to lead to transformative, far-reaching action. We’ll report on more specific details as they develop.
The impetus for these and other actions to come springs from one source: the understanding that we can, must and WILL do better. As always, I welcome your comments, feedback and suggestions as we commit ourselves to creating an organization where every member feels equally valued, appreciated, respected and heard. In the meantime, SkillsUSA will continue to add its voice to the declaration of acknowledgement spreading across our country that Black Lives Matter, and I assure you that our actions will ultimately speak louder than our words.
Statement from June 4, 2020
Dear SkillsUSA Family,
The painful events of the last two weeks — which represent a far longer history of social injustice to members of the Black community — should remind each of us of our shared responsibility to stand against the cruel and debilitating impact of racism and discrimination in all its many forms. To our SkillsUSA members who are part of the Black community, your lives matter, and we stand with you in solidarity and support.
I want you to know that I fully embrace my responsibility as the leader of this organization to provide a safe, empathetic, respectful, and supportive SkillsUSA work and learning environment for each one of you every day.
SkillsUSA has been inspiring positive life changes for members since 1965, but sometimes societal situations like those we’re now witnessing call for a renewed commitment and expression of our core values. Those values form the foundation of SkillsUSA’s mission: to empower our members to become world-class workers, leaders and responsible American citizens. That empowerment begins when our members know — beyond a shadow of a doubt — what the organization they’re a part of stands for. That’s why it’s our responsibility to make it irrefutably clear that SkillsUSA utterly rejects racism in all its forms.
We reject — and stand against — any behaviors that fuel the vicious and self-defeating cycle of discrimination, hatred, oppression and violence, as well as practices that perpetuate systemic and structural inequities.
Making that position clear is where the empowerment begins, but it continues through our programs and curricula. An essential element of the SkillsUSA Framework, for example, is multicultural sensitivity and awareness. We must make it clear these are indeed “essential elements” of our core value system as an organization. As builders of tomorrow’s workforce and shapers of our future citizens and communities, it is our responsibility to ensure that our actions are intentional in creating an environment where the seeds of racism and discrimination cannot find fertile ground in which to grow.
My commitment to you, our members, is that we will continue to proudly embrace that responsibility. Further, we will commit ourselves to identify areas where we can improve as an organization, from how the national office operates internally to the types of programs and experiences we deliver to our students and advisors. We will hold ourselves accountable for ensuring — through actions, not just words — that we are living up to our diversity and inclusion statement, which is as follows:
“In keeping with a tradition of respect for the individuality of our members and our role in workforce development, SkillsUSA strives to ensure inclusive participation in all of our programs, partnerships and employment opportunities. SkillsUSA’s diversity encompasses differences in ethnicity, gender, language, age, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, physical and mental ability, thinking styles, experience and education. We strive to make all members, partners and employees feel welcomed and valued in the SkillsUSA family. SkillsUSA believes in treating all people with respect and dignity. We want SkillsUSA to be regarded as a ‘membership organization of choice’ — one that encourages all individuals to be involved.”
True change will only come when, one-by-one, we accept our responsibilities to create positive environments of inclusion and support wherever we are and whenever we can. I assure you that SkillsUSA will live up to its responsibility, and we welcome your ideas and suggestions along the way. With your help, we will continue to change lives for the better as we build a diverse, highly skilled workforce all Americans can be proud of and communities where we all feel safe, empowered, valued, and respected.