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Tennessee was the Next Stop on the State Conference “Mega Tour”

May 15th, 2012

I attended a wonderful Tennessee state conference that filled the downtown Chattanooga Convention Center and several satellite sites, April 23-25. The high school and college/postsecondary associations run parallel conferences in the same facility, but hold separate opening banquets and awards ceremonies. On Monday evening, Carol Myers, SkillsUSA Tennessee high school association state director, and corporate member, Sue Tucker, managed a banquet for nearly 1,400 high school participants. The state officer team did a great job running the show. Carl Creasman, college/postsecondary state association director and his officer team hosted an opening banquet the following evening for nearly 500 participants. Board member James King, and national officer, Jeremy Ballentine, were both key parts of the ceremonies. James King certainly had everyone’s attention when he presented a brand new car to the outstanding student of the year.

I keynoted both banquets. Also speaking was Bill Prince, a native of Tennessee, a former national staff member and special advisor to President Reagan. Bill spoke about his participation at the founding of VICA in Nashville in 1965 and the founding of the postsecondary division in 1969. He was truly inspirational. It was also great to hear Danielle Mezera, the new assistant commissioner for CTE, speak at the high school division banquet. I had dinner with her and then toured the Championships floor – a mini national Championships in an exhibit hall – with her the following day. She promised to come to NLSC.

It was great to see Chip Harris at the conference. He is recovering well and promises to be at NLSC to chair the national Quiz Bowl contest. And, a giant thank you goes to Carol Myers and Carl Creasman for the excellent job at this year’s conference.

I also visited Columbus, Ohio for SkillsUSA Ohio’s 60th anniversary state conference. Mike Cowles said it was Ohio’s largest conference ever with 5,000 attending – including 2,200 competitors – and the event takes up the entire Ohio State Fair Grounds. I had lunch and great conversation with Steve Gratz, Ohio state CTE director, and met with Stan Heffner, state superintendent of education. Stan said the SkillsUSA Ohio conference is the “number one event on his calendar every year.”

Ohio had 50 state officer candidates and a huge delegate assembly. The election process was exciting and very intense. Ohio also had a run-off for several national officer candidates. Being elected as a state officer in Ohio is a very prestigious position and one that garners a lot of attention. The current state and national officers on the Ohio stage did a magnificent job of running the show. A big thank you goes out to State Association Director, Mike Cowles, and his management team for their leadership and for such a high quality event.

YDF Takes to the Hill

May 15th, 2012

The Youth Development Foundation Committee held its spring meeting at the N.E.W. Customer Service Companies headquarters in Sterling, Va., on April 18 and then in Washington, D.C. on April 19. Twelve members attended the first meeting in person and by phone. The meeting was chaired by Greg Rintala of Snap-on. The meetings were productive, and the day wrapped up with a great evening in the N.E.W. suite at Nationals Park for a Washington Nationals baseball game (and the Nationals won).

We were up early Thursday morning for visits to Congress. The message carried by the YDF Committee members started with the issues of workforce shortages, skills gaps and middle-class occupations. Their message then went on to say “Policymakers should pay attention to – and build upon – what works to address these issues. We know SkillsUSA and career and technical education work. Here’s what we do to support them.” Then, the members would fill in their own stories on needed skills and the work they and their companies do with SkillsUSA. Two delegations of YDF members visited with staff from the House Manufacturing Caucus and staff from the Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee. Members also met with nine additional congressional offices during the course of the morning. We held a debriefing of our meetings at the offices of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) just two blocks from the Hill. All visit reports were positive.

This was Greg Rintala’s last meeting as chair of the YDF. Dave Camden from Toyota is picking up the gavel. My thanks go to both of them for their tremendous leadership. And, thanks to Bill Maddox and Wanzel Jessie of N.E.W. for hosting the meeting.

 

New Strategies Forum in Charleston

May 15th, 2012

On April 15-18, I was in Charleston, South Carolina for the New Strategies Forum, a three-day training session on governance, direction and development for nonprofit organizations. Organizations must have corporate sponsorship to attend. SkillsUSA’s nomination came from Newell Rubbermaid, thanks to Jackie Parker of the Newell Rubbermaid Foundation.

Only 30 top nonprofit organizations were invited to participate. The training was led by Curt Weeden, a former executive with Johnson & Johnson. Curt led Johnson & Johnson’s philanthropy arm, and then became an advisor to several Fortune 500 companies. He now works with nonprofits nationwide and conducts training on building better corporate relations, board leadership and strategic direction. He reviewed SkillsUSA’s financials and our FY11 IRS Form 990. He also reviewed our annual report. I’m rather proud to say that Curt told the entire group how impressed he was with SkillsUSA and our business model.

Among the organizations participating: Junior Achievement; The Arbor Day Foundation; Feed the Children, Komen for the Cure; Project Lead the Way and many others. The networking opportunities were incredible, and I took home ideas on how to make a stronger and more dynamic case for corporate support.


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