By Dave Milliken, National SkillsUSA Board Member and Skilled and Technical Sciences Education specialist at the Utah State Office of Education
As one who has been to the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference (NLSC) for the past 15 years, I came away from this year’s conference excited and wowed. The opening session featured Nick Pinchuk, Chairman and CEO of Snap-on Incorporated, and Mike Rowe, host of Dirty Jobs. They both gave excellent speeches with messages just right for our students today – prepare yourself to work smart and hard. This means simply, it’s okay to have a job in the skilled trades.
Nick Pinchuk received the 2012 SkillsUSA CEO Champion of the Year Award. At this year’s conference he expressed his enthusiasm for SkillsUSA stating, “Just like in the space race, we need to make skilled workforce training a national priority. And, we need to make skilled careers a national calling. Technical education must possess that kind of priority focus. That’s one reason why I’m so enthusiastic about student organizations like SkillsUSA. They enable young people with the capabilities they need to win the global competition, and they create an excitement so that these young men and women readily embrace technical learning and avidly pursue those careers with pride.”
From my vantage point on the floor of Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mike Rowe was larger than life and his impact was fantastic. Mike is a great advocate of the skilled trades. As the creator, executive producer, and host of Discovery Channel‘s Dirty Jobs he has been the apprentice on 300 jobs throughout the U.S. In 2011, when Mike testified before the U.S. Senate about the skilled trades gap in the United States he stated, “As the host of a TV show about hard work (Dirty Jobs), people often assume I speak for tradesmen and skilled workers. In reality, I don’t. I can only speak for myself and anyone else who shares my addiction to paved roads, reliable bridges, heating, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing.”
At the conference, Mike told about an experience he had in high school when he met with his school counselor. “Back in the late 70s, a poster just like this was hanging in my high school. It was part of a college recruitment campaign called “Work Smart NOT Hard.” In the long history of bad advice, you’d have to look pretty hard to find something dumber than this. And yet, the expression is still with us.” READ MORE
As a result of this experience, at the conference Mike presented “a new platitude with a different attitude.” Mike said, “Wouldn’t it make more sense to promote “Work Smart AND Hard.” The mikeroweWorks Foundation and Caterpillar Inc. (a leader in building the world’s infrastructure) has launched an initiative to promote alternative education and skilled trades called “Profoundly Disconnected.” Mike makes a case for the skilled trades and encourages parents, teachers, and students to consider the many benefits of an education that balances knowledge and skill. Mike Rowe and SkillsUSA are working together through a shared passion to promote Career and Technical Education and America’s skilled workforce.
In my mind, this was the best SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference I have ever attended. Let’s keep up the great work and prepare our students to be leaders in this great land. Encourage students in your school to become a member of SkillsUSA and to participate in a Skilled and Technical Sciences Education Pathway. By doing so, students will develop essential career and life skills that will prepare them for the future.
WATCH the 2013 SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference “Week in Review” video.