Executive Director’s Report: December 15, 2014

Making New Connections in Nashville to “Meet Me in Louisville”

I recently attended ACTE’s Careertech Vision 2014 conference and I’m pleased to report that attendance was up to 3,300 people as well as increased participation in the trade show.

I was a panelist during the NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research) Construction Career Pathways Conference also in Nashville, and discussion everywhere was about ending the skills gap in the construction industry. Attendance was approximately 100 individuals from across the country. SkillsUSA was referenced as part of the solution to the skills gap by nearly everyone who took to the podium. The group said they wanted to continue the discussion, so NCCER decided to hold its next conference on the skills gap during the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville next June.

Emily DeRocco, past assistant secretary of Labor, SkillsUSA board member and currently CEO of E3 Engage Educate Employ, was the keynote speaker for the NCCER conference. She included SkillsUSA in her remarks as well. Emily is also the director of the National Network of Business & Industry Associations which includes the Business Roundtable, Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Joyce Foundation and ACT Foundation. She told me the Network is seeking best practices to promote industry-education partnerships. They developed an employability skills framework as well. Emily’s board for the Network will also meet in Louisville during our conference to hold a design lab where board members can see many of the career clusters, and they’re particularly interested in talking to students.

I also met with the marketing and media director for Country Music Television (CMT), a division of Viacom, and she told me she’d heard “a lot” about SkillsUSA, so she’s planning to attend the national conference as well. It looks as though we’re going to be busy with special guests.

On Wednesday evening, I held our annual SkillsUSA thank-you dinner for state association directors, corporate members and business partners attending ACTE. Twenty people attended. I also visited with many of our sponsors and our two national officers, Taylor Mackie and Quinel Nabors, who did a fantastic job representing SkillsUSA.


  • Here are some Washington insights from the November 10 meeting of the NCC-CTSO (National Coordinating Council – Career and Technical Student Organizations) held at ACTE headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Following the election, Senator Lamar Alexander is the likely chair of the HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee. On the House side, leadership is likely to remain the same. On the funding side, the experts from ACTE said we’re probably looking at a couple more years of tight budgets and lower discretionary funding. Perkins reauthorization may not be a priority. It’s hard to know what Senate Majority Leader McConnell will do. He doesn’t have a recent history on CTE. On the other hand, NASDCTEc (National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education consortium) says it’s seeing great support for CTE at the state level including governors, but the states do need hometown participants in CTE and business and industry to express their support for CTE to policymakers. The Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education is proposing a White House event during CTE Month. The theme for CTE Month is “Recognizing Classroom Innovators” in part to highlight the hot topic of STEM.
  • The SkillsUSA National Leadership Center was smiling on November 20 because it was doing exactly what it was designed to do: host training for outstanding young people and instructors. The SkillsUSA Pennsylvania District Fall Leadership Conference included more than 300 students and teachers, training for both the students – in subjects such as Netiquette — and advisor training in topics including the SkillsUSA Framework, the Chapter Excellence Program and the Career Readiness Curriculum. There were also sports activities and a scavenger hunt in the national center to learn SkillsUSA history. Jeri Widdowson, state association director for Pennsylvania, and her team, put on what I understand was a great conference. They even gave staff a huge basket of apples and whoopee pies.
  • The alumni executive board held its strategic planning meeting in Leesburg on November 8 and 9. Dara Dubois from California is the new board chair. The alumni association has received commitments of support for its 50K Challenge from individuals in 26 states. The alumni database is going to be cleaned up, and there are plans for developing new promotional materials.
  • And, on the numbers front, TECHSPO already has 38 registered exhibitors and we haven’t even begun promotion. Sales of Skill Connect Assessments are up 126 percent over last year this date and the assessments team is looking toward revisions of the assessments where needed.

That’s it for now. Happy Holidays! Until next time, thank you for all you do for the great students and teachers we serve.