A Report from the Road
From April 24-26, I participated in the NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research) board of trustees meeting in Napa, California. It’s great to connect with some of America’s top commercial contractors. NCCER is sponsoring our national Carpentry and Masonry competitions, and companies around the table are all making contributions to the national contests. I was also part of a presentation on a new “Skills to Industry” program that will connect our construction trades graduates to contractor employment opportunities. And, I met new board members to start a dialogue about support for SkillsUSA at the state and national levels.
From California, I flew to Pensacola for the Florida State Leadership and Skills Conference at the Pensacola Civic Center. Board President, James King, met me there. The conference was a beautiful set-up with a huge stage and lots of exciting A/V and competition areas both inside and outdoors. Special tents were set up and wired for competitions from welding to TeamWorks. Another special part of the conference was a career fair called the “World of Possibilities.” About 2,000 middle and elementary school students toured the contests, business and industry displays and interactive demonstrations. From Gulf Power to Lincoln Electric, there were several partners engaged with the young students to teach them about career pathways. There was also a job fair so the public could meet with employers (while also seeing the Florida SLSC).
State Director, Tyler Kercher, and his conference team had a huge challenge when Mother Nature intervened and dumped two feet of rain in a 24-hour period. Tents had to be removed and contests moved to alternate locations. On awards night, the storm knocked out power in the arena, delaying awards by several minutes. Some schools were stranded at the convention center and conferees slept there because high waters prevented them from returning to their hotels. But, as always seems to happen in SkillsUSA, so many people stepped up to help that the awards were completed in grand fashion. Advisors, partners, Tyler, state board members and staff all pitched in to help those in need. It was indeed a great conference, and one that will long be remembered by all who attended.
From Pensacola, I flew back to Washington D.C. for a meeting on May 1 of the National Coordinating Council for Career and Technical Student Organizations (NCC-CTSO), held in HOSA’s Washington, D.C. office. Representatives from the state directors of CTE and ACTE reported that Perkins is being discussed in Congress, but it will come behind other pieces of legislation, including the Workforce Investment Act. During recent congressional testimony, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was challenged by Representatives on why the administration hadn’t requested more funding for CTE. The Coordinating Council also reviewed the CTSOS.org website that SkillsUSA has been heavily involved in and gave us good feedback. All CTSOs had positive reports on membership and conference participation, and we reviewed new criteria for the definition of a CTSO and NCC-CTSO guidelines for inclusion in the group. These guidelines will be approved at the next meeting in July.
From D.C., I flew to Boston to meet Massachusetts State Director Karen Ward and her board for the 40th SkillsUSA Massachusetts State Leadership and Skills Conference. I arrived in time to drive to Marlborough and attend an incredible opening ceremony with approximately 2,500 students and teachers in attendance. The state officer team was amazing. National Officer Brittany Velez was the keynote speaker and she did an incredible job. The production of the ceremony, the ribbon cutting and VIP reception were second to none. Karen has a great team and a great board of directors.
Thanks to Washington DC-based STEM Connector, two representatives from WGBH—the PBS affiliate in Boston — attended the conference and they will attend the national conference in June. They were thoroughly impressed with all aspects of the Massachusetts conference and especially with the poise and professionalism of the student officers and competitors. Karen and I are hopeful that the visit will result in future regional and national coverage by PBS. They see SkillsUSA as a great story on filling the jobs pipeline and our competitions as a great way for students to display their skills to employers.
On May 2, approximately 2,100 students competed in the Massachusetts SkillsUSA Championships at Blackstone Regional Technical High School. It was a full day of action with excellent contests and lots of business support. Superintendents and administrators from across the state attended. The next morning, the trade center pavilion was packed with students and their parents for a grand awards ceremony. I spoke to the group. It was great to see so many parents there to support their sons and daughters in a crowd of red coats. Thanks to Karen Ward, Assistant State Director Kevin Lopez, the SkillsUSA Massachusetts board of directors and Brittany Velez for their hospitality and the opportunity to attend their 40th.
From Boston, I flew to Kansas City on May 6 for a special tribute to the volunteers and others who have helped us with NLSC for the past 20 years. Shelly Coates organized a great “farewell party” for these special people. From the bus company, to the hoteliers and city officials from the Kansas City CVA, it was a great time to honor them for their work and friendship during our two decades in Kansas City. During the time in KC, I was also honored to serve as keynote speaker for the Kansas City Metro Schools Recognition Luncheon. Byekwaso Gilbert has managed the KC Metro project for 14 years, and it was great to also honor him for his work with these schools in Missouri and Kansas. Students attending were local Metro student officers and state gold, silver and bronze medalists. The event was held at the Kauffman Center, and it was very nicely done. A great celebration for the city and the incredible students and teachers we serve. Rick Hughes from the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association (KCCVA) said “In inimitable SkillsUSA fashion, you put on a great event last evening! Thank you for the kind words, the wonderful imagery and your hospitality. Even in the dimmed lighting, you could see many glassy eyes in the audience. You will be missed!”
- Following up on the last Executive Update, Dave Worden reported that 325,000 people — including 180,000 students and teachers — attended the USA Science & Engineering Festival, April 25 — 27 in Washington DC. Dave said the SkillsUSA exhibit was nearly overwhelmed with traffic. Six students from C.S. Monroe Tech in Leesburg, two students from Thomas Edison High School and two students from Fairfax County Schools (all from Virginia) put on demonstrations illustrating STEM education in CTE. Three national officers also participated — Cole Fallis, Ohio; Brittany Velez, Massachusetts; and, Laura Goullion, California. Dave says that Walmart executives were pleased with the results of including SkillsUSA in the exhibit, and many additional new business and industry contacts were made. Special thanks to Niki Clausen for attending all four days and to Dave Worden and Jim Kregiel for pulling SkillsUSA’s participation together for us.
- The 2014-15 membership kit will be ready to preview at NLSC.
- A SkillsUSA 50th anniversary save-the-date postcard will be mailed soon.
- A new SkillsUSA Alumni Newsletter is ready and can be found at this link.
- The SkillsUSA FY13 Annual Report is complete. Get ready for some good stories about a few of the students and a teacher who are SkillsUSA. To view it online, go to this page.
- With a little more than three weeks until our capstone event, Kelly Persons is pleased to report that nearly 50 cash and in-kind sponsorsare onboard to support SkillsUSA’s 50th annual NLSC. Welcome to our eight (to date) new partners: Delcam, FoldFactory.com Corp., NAPA, Praxair Inc., Safelite Fulfillment Inc., TIC-The Industrial Company, Walmart Foundation and Zep, Inc. A big shout out to five partners that have upgraded their support this year: 3M Company, Air Products, Asurion, Caterpillar Inc., and Hypertherm, Inc. A heartfelt thank you goes to all of our partners, cash and in-kind, we couldn’t do our work without them.
- Please remember that a great way to share your excitement about SkillsUSA with colleagues and business partners is to invite them to Kansas City for an opportunity to see SkillsUSA students in action. Please contact Karen Beatty, firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance in registering your guests.
That’s it for now. Thanks for all you do for the great students and teachers we serve.