Signing Day at Southside Tech signals bright future
Signing Day 2019 at Southside Technical Center was an exciting opportunity to mark students’ accomplishments and their bright prospects. With co-op experience behind them, the dozen or so seniors have already developed a strong work ethic and leadership qualities and secured broad knowledge of their chosen trade. The next step – toward full-time employment – is also possible thanks to community partners and businesses eager to hire local talent.
“A lot of their peers are signing to go to college (for athletics), and there’s pride in that. These students are signing straight into their career. They’re going pro right out of high school,” said Barrett Bridgewater, program manager with Adecco Staffing and Youth Employement Solutions (YES!), which coordinates with Amteck. “We’re celebrating some awesome decisions, and they have options.”
For instance, Carter Marksberry, Aaron Sturgill, and Reece Johnson signed as electrician apprentices with Amteck in the electrical contracting industry. “They want to work, they want to learn, and they’re eager to move on,” said education instructor/licensing assistant Willie Howard. The trio already got a good foundation through TRACK (Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky), which allowed them to be registered apprentices while still in high school. This background coupled with the upcoming journeyman experience can lead to licensing in three to four years. Carter, whose home high school is Paul Laurence Dunbar, recognizes the possibilities. “This is a good field to go into,” he said. “We’re getting paid to go to school and be taught the trade. We’ll be qualified and can get hired on at most any company.”
Principal Daryn Morris organized the second annual Signing Day, which also drew several proud families for photos and handshakes. “We’ve got all these worker shortages and labor gaps, so we’re trying to bring recognition and notoriety so companies can hire and fill these gaps out there. There’s a big need for people willing to get a little bit dirty in fields that pay very well,” he said. “Ultimately it’s about getting students opportunities in life with a career they deserve.”
Morris thanked Amteck, Accurate Electric (signing student Ben Bland), Walker Electric (students Erick Saldana Alvarez and Mark Lyons), Denham-Blythe (senior Joshua Leal-Gutierrez), Skelton Excavating (senior Landen Skelton), Lee’s Paving & Concrete (senior William Lee), Toyota Motor Manufacturing, and others for their support. “There’s a quality product coming from Southside, and all these fields need good people to fill these jobs,” Morris said. Bridgewater agreed. “We’re creating a different career path, and these businesses are leading the way. They do well to tap into (Southside),” he said.
One great example is Toyota’s partnership with the Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program (AMT) at Bluegrass Community & Technical College. “AMT is an earn-and-learn program. The students work three days a week at Toyota and go to school two days at BCTC in Georgetown,” said HR specialist Fenella Smith. After collecting more than 1,800 hours of practical experience during the 21-month program, the students come out with an associate’s degree, no debt, a one-year paid internship, and then full-time work on the skilled maintenance team, which takes care of plant equipment. “They really set themselves up for a good-paying job with tons of benefits,” said Smith, who serves as secretary of the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME). “There are boatloads of opportunities across the country,” she added.
Southside’s Kim Horn, Dylan Resinger, Victoria Sellers, and Luis Vazquez interviewed this spring and Toyota selected them for the AMT program. Victoria, who also attends Dunbar, said the Signing Day festivities made her decision seem more concrete and added to the anticipation level. Her advice for younger students? “Follow your best options and your passion for a career and a future,” said Victoria, who hopes eventually to go into engineering.
Electrical instructor Richard Hall, who spoke briefly during the signing ceremony, commended all the seniors and wished them well. “I trust them in the field and to represent Southside,” Hall said. “They’re going to be successful, and they’re going to make a great living.”