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.