The smiles of students and instructors are everywhere during SkillsUSA state conferences this spring, along with the cheers of state student officers taking on new offices and the looks of deep concentration on the faces of student contestants. National staff is on the road cheering our students and teachers on and delighting in the work of our state associations. Attendance across all conferences appears to be level or slightly higher than last year. Something else we’ve all noticed: state dignitaries are attending our conferences as well and state directors of CTE are much in evidence. People are paying attention to what our students are doing.
On March 31, I spoke during the Rhode Island Awards and Recognition Ceremony. The featured speaker was Charles Fogarty, director of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. Vanessa Cooley, Rhode Island CTE director also attended. Josh Klemp and his team put on the high-quality conference Rhode Island is known for. The next morning, I enjoyed a great culinary program breakfast at the Providence Center and Technical Academy, an absolutely amazing school. One of the real thrills, though, was being served by two students who had won medallions the evening before. They were still wearing them, and their faces were just beaming.
From April 4 – 6, I was a special guest at the Kentucky Leadership Conference and SkillsUSA Championships in Louisville. Beth Brinly, commissioner of the Workforce Investment Cabinet was a featured speaker during the opening ceremony as was John Marks, the executive director of the Office of Career and Technical Education. Among the many things Steve Phillippi, Kentucky state association director can be proud of is the $3 million in scholarships offered SkillsUSA students every year.
Staff members have been visiting state conferences as well, including, Maine, Nevada, Texas, Virginia, Utah and Missouri. At the Missouri conference the keynote speaker was the secretary of education who said high schools should be working more closely with CTE programs.