Career ‘Signing Day’ for high school students shows vocational jobs have a strong future in U.S. economy

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Henrico County Public Schools decided to recognize high school students who decided to enter into a trade employment after graduation.

In April, a ceremony was held at the Libbie Mill Library in Richmond, Va. to celebrate students who selected careers over college.

Instead of signing a letter of intent that usually goes with a highly publicized signing geared towards athletes and high-academic performing students, some graduating seniors signed declarations to propsective employers that resemble an offer letter.

“This is a celebration of students who are entering the workforce or post-secondary training with a plan,” said Mac Beaton, director of Henrico Schools’ Department of Career and Technical Education. “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.”

In exchange, employers agreed to train future employees and commit to career development. A Facebook message posted by Henrico County Public Schools said the following:

In recent years, it’s become a common sight: heralded high school athletes gather in gyms to sign letters-of-intent to play for NCAA athletic programs, as their classmates cheer and members of the media look on.

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 Trade School Shortage

Deciding to enter into the workforce after formative schooling has been shunned in past decades. However, the trade shortage, along with millennials rejecting the narrative of going to college has caused an uptick in pursuits of trade.

In the past, students from lower wealth, working class neighborhoods were often pushed to go to college to achieve better employment and upward social mobility. Over the years, an increase of college attendees paralleled climbing tuition costs, which made student loan debt a reality for many of those students from modest income homes. Now, millions of college graduates face severe debt and job wages that are not sustainable in a post-2008 economic crisis.

At the same time, a decline in traditional vocational jobs brought on another issue of job security. Nonetheless, a tech industry boom has replaced some of the jobs lost in U.S. manufacturing.

Yet, the growing need to rebuild the U.S. infrastructure, shows an urgency to fill classic trade jobs, that too, experienced a drop in applicants.

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Years of disinterest in trade jobs have led to such a shortage that U.S. railroads now offer a $25,000 signing bonus.

“Employers throughout the country will start to offer higher wages than they had two years ago,” Gary Painter, a public policy and economics Professor at USC said to the Washington Post, “and you’ll see people entering these medium-sized metro areas directly because they can get similar incomes at much lower housing costs.”

Currently, the U.S. infrastructure is failing. Last year, a major engineering organization graded the condition of America’s frameworkfrom roads to water safety. The results were an almost failing assessment. Sooner or later, an overhaul estimated to be $1 trillion dollars will kick into high gear.

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