When many think about schools holding a signing day, they typically think about the athletes -- like the all-state quarterback or MVP basketball player -- not the students from the Area Technology Center.
But on Wednesday morning, five students, along with thousands around the nation, got to participate in National Signing Day, sponsored by SkillsUSA and Klein Tools, where they were recognized for their dedication to pursue a career in the skilled trades. The Madison County ATC students received a Klein Tools signing kit, which included a hat, t-shirt, and a pair of Klein Tools pliers.
Additionally, students will also have the opportunity to purchase a full Klein Tools starter set at a discounted price, thanks to Home Depot.
"This generosity reinforces The Home Depot's commitment to outfitting and training 20,000 new tradespeople by 2028 to help fill the U.S. labor and skills gap," Klein Tools Co-President Mark Klein.
The five students, Niklas Fogelgren, Calvin Waller, Dalton Henson, James Short and Levi Taylor, will all graduate May 24/25, and on May 28, the group of guys will enter one of many doors towards their futures.
On Wednesday, the five students signed a letter of intent to work at Babcon Electric in Richmond.
"Their futures at Babcon are unlimited," Bryan Hale of Babcon said. "We give them a job, and we pay for their apprenticeship and books for four years. We give them a trade or a skill that they can use anywhere, not just in Richmond, KY, but anywhere in the United States."
Taylor said that at his high school, he has always been taught that going to college was the only option after graduation, but after going to ATC, he realized he could be both career ready and still go to college or obtain higher education through employment opportunities.
While at Babcon, the five soon-to-be graduates will take part in an apprenticeship that will, upon completion, open more doors for employment and learning advancement. Their careers will be progressive and they won't find themselves stuck in a dead end position.
The school offers nine different programs, including automotive technology, business education, carpentry, computer aided design, computerized manufacturing and machining, electrical technology, health science, marketing and welding.
"Those baseball signings are like 'Congrats, you're going to college!' and this signing is 'Congrats, you're going to work and you're going to have your education paid for through this,'" Michael Sandlin, the electrical technology instructor at ATC, said. "So you're looking at two different scenarios that revolve around the same thing. This is our scholarship."
Beth Engle, principal at Madison County ATC, said the national signing day was meant as a way to recognize the students hard work and achievements in completing the career pathway they chose while in high school.
The programs students enter into are meant to utilize and apply the math, science and arts classes they are currently taking. Students in some programs are required to know a higher level of math than most, such as trigonometry, which can be daunting for some students who don't feel they are capable of learning and applying those skills.
"I think the difference is you're being taught something that interests you instead of being stuck in a classroom thinking you'll never use it," Taylor said. "But there's a motivation behind it to learn it," Taylor said.
Engle also noted the importance of the programs at schools like ATC, as the nation is currently facing a skill gap with more than 600,000 unfilled jobs.
"We are an important resource, because as a resource for the five schools (Madison Central, Southern, Berea Community, Model and Estill County High schools), we are able to provide students skills that are going to be necessary for the future," Engle said. "These are the skills that are in high demand, these are the skills careers demand and it opens up so many opportunities for the students to begin a career, and progressing that and move into positions that didn't seem possible when they were in high school."
Last Friday, other students at ATC were recognized for their hard work, achievements and career readiness, Engle said as well.
Reach Kaitlyn Brooks at 624-6608; follow her on Twitter @kaitlynsbrooks.