Instead of the familiar high school rituals take place every spring, one school system in Virginia decided to celebrate a different life-changing moment for the seniors who were starting careers right after graduation.
In late March, in Henrico County, public school administrators held a ceremony named “Career and Technical Letter-of-Intent Signing Day.”
Mac Beaton, director of Henrico Schools’ Department of Career and Technical Education said:
“This is a celebration of students who are entering the workforce or post-secondary training with a plan. They’ve chosen to maximize their high school opportunities for career training and industry certifications, with an eye on becoming successful and financially secure much earlier in life.”
“The county held its first-ever “Career and Technical Letter of Intent Signing Day” on March 28 to celebrate those students and their imminent employment.
“Henrico Schools’ Career and Technical Education program decided that athletes weren’t the only ones who deserved to have their hard work recognized as they look to the future,” the county explained in a post on its public Facebook page.
“Students and representatives of their future employers both signed letters-of-intent outlining what students must do before and during employment, what the employer will provide in pay and training and an estimate of the position’s value.”
On this day, students had the opportunity to meet representatives from their future places of employment and both signed letters outlining their responsibilities before and during employment, the benefits of the training the employer would provide, and an estimate of the overall value of the position.
“Signing Day is a way of recognizing their hard work and the value of the career-preparation training they’ve received through Henrico Schools’ Career and Technical Education program.”
Every year, over 5,000 students earn industry-based certifications in Henrico County, which usually means a job immediately upon graduation. Therefore, this recognition ceremony was intended to emphasize the importance of this training practice.
“We’re always trying to figure out how to address the skills gap when the general mentality of parents is ‘I want my child to go to college. One way to do this is to help them see the value of career and technical education. When you start talking data that affects parents’ pocketbooks, that gets their attention.”
“With tech the way it is now when employers hire, they want someone they don’t want to have to train, and college doesn’t necessarily train you for these jobs. I wanted the students to see how the skills that they had been learning at school apply to the workforce and how they were going to use them.
I wanted to do the signing day early so the companies can invest in the students up front, and when they hit that workforce June 17, they are ready to roll.”
While students signed the letters of intent, their families and members of the media watched the event. These students put on hats and other clothing representing the companies they would soon work for.
Fans loved the celebration, as it honors students and tradesman and women. Some believe it is a great way to support those who train vocationally for the workforce and should serve as a model for every other technical school in the country.
Similarly, in San Antonio, Construction Careers Academy added an event to its annual “Academy Awards” ceremony in the spring, which prepares students for careers in the construction industry with a focus on one of six areas: architecture, construction management, engineering, carpentry, electrical/HVAC or plumbing/pipefitting/welding.
Following the example of the Henrico County in Virginia, the school’s Program Coordinator Audrey Ethridge organized a signing event for graduating students and their new employers.
The employers brought hats, T-shirts and other items and all the students signed commitment letters.
“Employers were really excited to take part and very happy to have these students come work for them. Students were smiling broadly as they sat behind long tables with their employers behind them and their proud parents in the crowd, happy that their students were being recognized.
Most schools will do some character awards, academic awards, did-you-show-up-for-school, and athletic signing awards and nobody does anything for career and tech kids and it’s about time they got recognized.”