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State Association Directors Conference in Maine on August 13-17

September 1st, 2013

State Association Director Chair Mike Cowles, his officer team and the national staff facilitated an outstanding Professional Development and Training Conference in Portland, Maine. A total of 47 states participated and – including state assistants, special guests and support staff – a total of 100 people participated.

The conference kicked off on Tuesday evening with association management training for 12 new state directors. On Wednesday, experienced directors arrived and the opening dinner officially started the main event. Two SkillsUSA state officers from Maine, the high school president and the college vice president, delivered a passionate welcome and told moving stories about how involvement in SkillsUSA had an impact on their lives. Their stories included the positive impact of their state directors. It’s always great to start a national training event by featuring the true product of our organization: bright and motivated students for whom SkillsUSA made a true difference.

Day three started with my overview of recent accomplishments and a look at the 2014-15 strategic plan. Our focus on “core,” state association support and student engagement as the centerpiece of the plan was extremely well received by the directors. And, because the conference program and training sessions were primarily built around these three areas, they became our focus for the week. Directors received training from our staff and other experts on our membership and conference registration technology, member recruitment and engagement, SkillsUSA Championships and new contest updates, NLSC updates (including the latest Louisville transition information) and Activate, Leverage, Engage and TAG Tuesday reports. Each day included best practice sharing sessions among the states. We also had outstanding industry sponsors who underwrote and spoke during meal functions and there were great industry updates as well as proposals for some exciting new competitions. Our SkillsUSA Store representatives from E Group presented some great new products and introduced an exciting new website for our students.  And, they engaged student leaders in website naming, design and product ideas. This will be a brand new initiative that connects directly with students and allows student purchases. State directors were also allowed to pre-order their state medallions and awards banners and E Group sponsored a hospitality suite containing a display of the latest products and promotional items offered to SkillsUSA state associations and local chapters.

And, in perfect alignment with our strategic focus on our core, student engagement and state association support, our staff rolled out a full portfolio of materials and resources for our state directors. These included a new state officer personal guidebook, a series of lesson plans for conducting state workshops, a state officer training facilitator guide and a state director marketing kit containing a full arsenal of resources from PowerPoint presentations for all stakeholder audiences and custom logos, posters and art for conferences, new Web tools and advocacy tools to help directors promote and inform educators, parents and industry about SkillsUSA and the good work of the state associations. Needless to say, the state directors were extremely excited and appreciated receiving these great new resources!

Other training included the introduction of a proposed new framework for chapters that rises to the SkillsUSA Program of Work, financial management, alumni, future middle school involvement and best use of the SkillsUSA brand. Another big hit was the rollout of a new chapter quality standards and recognition/rewards program. And, of course, state directors participated in committee meetings centered on operations and strategy, and we closed the conference on Saturday with the annual business meeting.

Finally, the directors participated in social activities that included a dinner cruise and lobster boil, a night on the waterfront in Portland and a tour of the coastline including the Portland Light, and shopping at L.L. Bean. All in all, this was a very positive meeting with great feedback for the national staff as we move forward.


September 15th, 2012
  • A big thank you to our state association directors who attended the Professional Development and Training Conference in Rapid City, S.D. Here are just a few more highlights from the conference. Tiffany Sanderson, team leader, Perkins Career and Technical Education in South Dakota – equivalent to the state CTE director – was a featured speaker during the opening dinner. The states held regional meetings before the business meeting and all ran very well. Mark Williams, SkillsUSA’s chief IT consultant, did an outstanding job of demonstrating the conference management system. At least half of the directors attending participated, and Mark did a separate training for new state directors. The Mount Rushmore nighttime lighting ceremony was wonderfully patriotic. Jen Polz, state association director from Minnesota is the new executive committee chair-elect and all of the executive committee did a phenomenal job of running the conference.
  • On August 23, I flew to Chicago to meet with the CEO and executive staff of IAA (Insurance Auto Auctions) and the CEO and president of ADESA (a leading provider of vehicle remarketing services). Board member, Russ Hoffbauer, made the introduction by inviting the president and vice president of IAA to the conference last June. Needless to say, they were impressed by what they saw. During our meeting, Kaila O’Farrell, national high school vice president, talked about the value of SkillsUSA to students and then Russ Hoffbauer talked about why State Farm is involved in SkillsUSA. I’d say they were both persuasive because both organizations signed up to be SkillsUSA official sponsors effective this year. Executives from each organization met with us in Leesburg on September 11. Thanks go to Russ Hoffbauer for his support.
  • We have 311 people registered to attend the Washington Leadership Training Institute (WLTI) and it starts tomorrow. They’ll be representing 27 states and Puerto Rico and 31 state associations. I believe this is the largest WLTI in history. All of the national officers will be attending.
  • Preparations for the Champion of the Year dinner are reaching a feverish pace. An announcement news release went out on September 6, and Snap-on has really stepped up efforts to get coverage during a news conference scheduled at the National Press Club. Staff is following up on the invitations to the administration and Congress. We’ve had good sponsorship responses from the Youth Development Foundation and members of the board, and we’re looking forward to having 100 students and teachers from WLTI join us for the dinner.
  • We’re getting ready to send 13 students and 12 technical delegates from the 2013 SkillsUSA WorldTeam to Brazil for the WorldSkills Americas in mid-November 2012. We sent two contestants to the 2010 WorldSkills Americas competition and found it was a great way to prepare the contestants for international competition and – even more important – to help prepare the technical experts. Thank you to the state associations who are stepping up to support these contestants in their quest for excellence on the world level.

That’s it for now. Until next time, thank you for all you do for the great students and teachers we serve.


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.

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