Pensacola, Florida, April 28 – May 2, was the final stop on my State Leadership Conference Mega Tour. State association director Tyler Kercher and his team managed a phenomenal conference, in fact, the largest conference in Florida history. Other state associations have been experiencing their largest conferences ever, too. Membership numbers and conference attendance seem to rise together.
When I spoke to the VIP reception, I added the word “community” to our SkillsUSA core statement as a partnership of students, teachers and industry because it seemed the entire community of Pensacola stepped up to support Tyler and SkillsUSA Florida. The anchor sponsor of the conference was Pensacola State College and a veritable Who’s Who of Northwest Florida provided support. The vast majority of Championships competitions were held at the Pensacola Civic Center. It was also the venue for the Opening and Awards Ceremonies. There were approximately 2,200 competitors and 3,000 SkillsUSA attendees. Surrounding the Championships was an impressive Career Expo called “The World of Possibilities,” and over 3,000 middle school students toured the competitions and participated in the Expo. The downtown streets of Pensacola were closed down for a big block party following the Championships.
Visiting dignitaries included the Mayor of Pensacola, State Senator Greg Evers, the president of Gulf Power and officials from the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development officials. I met with Loretta Costin, vice chancellor, Division of Workforce Education. I had lunch with SkillsUSA Corporate Member Eric Owens, interim director, Career and Technical Department of Education. And, to top off my experience, I was thrilled that SkillsUSA’s 1993-94 national college/postsecondary division president – now state congressman – Jimmy Patronis attended the conference. Representative Patronis shared his SkillsUSA (VICA) story with the voting delegates.
While there, I also delivered a presentation on the Skill Connect Assessments to over 120 teachers and administrators, and I saw the Blue Angels fly over Pensacola Beach. Awesome! Big congratulations to Tyler Kercher and his team for completing his first state conference and thanks to the city of Pensacola for its wonderful support.