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Great Conference in the Badlands

September 1st, 2012

I recently returned from Rapid City, S.D., the City of Presidents and Gateway to the Black Hills, where I was attending the State Association Directors Annual Professional Development and Training Conference. The program began on August 14 for the state directors’ officers and new state association directors. There were eight new directors there and lots of young faces among them. There were 47 state directors in attendance. The program covered a wide array of national staff updates, committee meetings and presentations from outside experts on topics such as: social media, privacy, security and the law; liability coverage; and, marketing CTE. There were also best practice sessions conducted by the state directors themselves.

It wasn’t all work, though. One evening, we went out for a cowboy dinner of stew, cornbread and blueberry pudding at the Flying T Ranch and were entertained by a cowboy band—the Flying T Wranglers. Almost all of the directors brought gifts representative of their states, and they were used as fabulous door prizes. Five of the meal functions were sponsored, and all of the sponsor presentations were well received.

Two members of the board – James King and Mike Cowles joined in when we visited George, Tom, Teddy and Abe at Mt. Rushmore. It was a great week.

Highlights

September 1st, 2012
  • The Best of Brand Awards were presented during the state directors’ conference in Rapid City. Congratulations go to: SkillsUSA Georgia for capturing Best of Brand in the Website Category and Best of Innovation, Membership Recruitment Category; SkillsUSA Massachusetts for Best of Brand in the Multi-Media Category and Best of Innovation, Advocacy Category; and, SkillsUSA Wisconsin for its Best of Brand in the Print Category.
  • In early August, I had a great trip to Yakima, Wash., to do two presentations on the Skill Connect Assessments. The first was a panel discussion including other assessment providers. The second presentation was strictly on our assessments. Both presentations were packed with people. I also got to spend some great time visiting with Eleni Papadakis, the Washington state CTE director.
  • I received a nice letter from Assistant Secretary of Education Brenda Dann-Messier thanking SkillsUSA for inviting her to participate in the national conference. The part I liked best comes at the end of this paragraph (that I’ll paraphrase):  ”The Administration’s blueprint for Perkins reauthorization calls for transformation of our career and technical education programs based on our key principles: effective alignment of CTE and labor market needs … strong collaboration [among education and employers] … meaningful accountability [for academic, technical and employability skills] … and increased emphasis on innovation. Through your national skills competitions, and the many state and local competitions and activities that SkillsUSA offers throughout the year, your organization is already demonstrating the key reform principles in action!”
  • In a quick update on national conference media coverage, we’ve documented over 100 stories about conference and/or winners in the greater Kansas City region from May into August. As a matter of fact, there’s a feature on a local medalist that ran several times beginning August 22, so it keeps on going. That figure is up over the 85 stories last year. The news releases on medalists and Skill Point recipients were emailed out almost immediately after conference, arriving before the July 4 holiday. A total of 5,581 releases were sent to daily and non-daily papers. And, trade press has been very good. Some of the trade press celebrates the fact that there are more contestants in the contests they cover. They see that as a sign of increasing interest in their fields.
  • Champion of the Year invitations were delivered directly to Member offices on Capitol Hill on August 20. In all, we invited 11 Senators and 12 Representatives, including Paul Ryan who just happens to represent the district in Wisconsin where Snap-on has its headquarters. We also invited representatives from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Labor. A press conference is scheduled at the National Press Club during the morning of September 18.
  • During our staff meeting on August 8, it was reported that Skill Connect Assessment sales were up 28 percent over last year and that we are seeing much more pre- and post-testing using the assessments. Staff also reported publication sales were up three percent over last year as of the end of June and the marketing department is still crunching the numbers on a survey taken by 650 students at conference.
  • Board President, James King, was here for the staff meeting and he told the staff  ”There’s interest in CTE because we teach marketable skills. The leadership component is what was missing and that’s what SkillsUSA does. I can’t think of any organization in America that does more for students than SkillsUSA.”

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