The importance of celebrating students in skilled trades

11 December 2023

Schools and educational institutions have started hosting events or ceremonies that resemble signing days.

“National Signing Day” primarily refers to the first day of the signing period for college-bound student-athletes in the U.S., whereby they sign an official letter of intent. It’s most commonly associated with high school football players committing to play at the collegiate level, and in modern times, with the help of all-things social media, has become a very celebrated and public event for high school hopefuls across the country.

Photo: Joe Holland

But amid increasing popularity in recent years, a focus has similarly emerged that celebrates students who choose to pursue careers in the skilled trades. Some schools or educational institutions have started hosting events or ceremonies that resemble signing days, which celebrate and recognize students committing to apprenticeships, vocational programs or specific trades as an alternative to a traditional four-year college education.

The specific dates for these signing-day events for students entering trades can vary by region, school or organization, but ultimately, they’re most often organized by high schools, vocational schools or trade organizations to highlight the importance and value of skilled labor and trades as a viable career path.

Moreover, these events not only honor and celebrate the students entering these programs, but also aim to increase awareness about the opportunities available in the skilled trades. The idea is to provide these students with recognition and support, just like their peers who commit to traditional four-year colleges and/or related sports programs.

Long-term health

But similar to their athletic counterparts, blue-collar signees don’t simply go from full-time students to full-time employees. It’s a longer process, and for many seniors enrolled in their schools’ CTE (career and technical education) classes, apprenticing with local companies or ABC chapters – or even working for contractors in some capacity after class – the final year of high school is a matchmaking year. Companies talk to area high schools about which students would be a good fit. After students have studied their trade, interviewed and matched with different companies, they sign offer letters on a day of fanfare and celebration, agreeing to enter the workforce after graduation.

That said, not every person is on the same path. But career signing day programs reveal various paths to potentially thousands of young people that often exist under the radar. All across the country, statistics reveal that school systems and companies participating together in career signing days have consistently seen number increases in student participation each year. As a result, more schools are eager to host more signing days, and companies are eager to sign more students.

Something to consider for companies taking part in such events is the cash incentive. Around 70 percent of participating companies offer cash incentives for qualified students at signing – ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. Some might think that’s too high, but consider the cost and time spent on recruiting blue-collar workers for your company. According to recruitment tracking agency, Talentlyft, companies on average save around $7,500 by utilizing referral programs – many of which incorporate signing day events.

Additionally, this month (December 8th), you and your employees can celebrate National Blue-Collar Day. And one way to maximize this annual opportunity is to either host or align your company with a career day of some type. And while you’re at it, why not lean into a trend that has seemingly grown in popularity with young potential workers – while also showcasing the importance of these professions and the individuals dedicating themselves to the trades.

Get them to sign a letter of intent. Make sure their family is there. Take the pictures. Spread the word. You might find that this seemingly small gesture has an enormous impact on the long-term health of your workforce.


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