High school graduation is one of the most significant milestones for young people heading into adulthood. Not only is a diploma a hard-earned reward for years of study and work, but it is also a prerequisite for a majority of opportunities in the workforce.
Most students complete high school without looking back. They’re much too concerned with looking ahead and trying to decide what to make of their lives going forward. Possibilities seem endless, yet they can also feel limited at the same time. Attending college after high school has increased exponentially in the past few years. But what does the future hold for students that take another route?
Signing Day Takes on a New Meaning
National Signing Day is a momentous occasion for American students. This tradition marks the day that many students and athletes receive recognition for achieving their goal of being accepted into the college of their choice. Specifically, these high school seniors sign binding Letters of Intent for a place on a college sports team, and they are publically commended by their family, friends, and future peers.
The public schools of Henrico County, Virginia believe that athletes aren’t the only ones who deserve to have their hard work recognized as they make choices to shape their future. On March 28, 2018, the Henrico Schools’ Career and Technical Education program held it’s first ever “Career and Technical Letter-of-Intent Signing Day.”
Signing Day at Henrico Schools
At this event, students of Henrico Schools’ Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs met publically with representatives of their future employers. Both signed letters-of-intent outlining details of employment after graduation. This included what students must do before and during employment, benefits, training to be provided by the employer, and an overall estimate of the position’s value.
The idea behind this new take on ‘Signing Day’ is to recognize students who chose to “maximize their high school opportunities for career training and industry certifications,” according to an official statement by Henrico County Public schools. (1) They feel students with eyes set on career success and financial security are equally worth celebrating with same level of excitement as their college-bound peers.
To accomplish this, they gave their students the full National Signing Day treatment. Families and members of the media watched students sign their Letters of Intent. The students were given hats or other clothing representing the company they would soon work for, their school, and the school division’s CTE program.
Change for the Future
Henrico County’s CTE Signing Day was met with an overwhelmingly positive reception from news outlets, media, and other schools. Even TV host Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” shared the school’s public Facebook post, with glowing commentary:
“This is the way forward.” Mike declared. “No attempt to close the skills gap will ever succeed, until or unless we celebrate those who are willing to learn a skill that’s in demand. This is not just a terrific idea, it’s a model for every other technical school in the country … Here’s hoping others will follow Henrico’s lead.”
Thankfully, other schools may have already begun to do just that. Construction Careers Academy in San Antonio held a signing ceremony to recognize students who had earned jobs after the school’s spring career fair. (2) With luck, Construction Careers Academy will be among the first of many more to follow the example of Henrico Schools and honor students who work hard to build their careers at every stage of education.