Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating Trades Students With Career Signing Days

High-school signing days turn the decision to commit to a career in the trades into a public celebration—and a high-profile spotlight on opportunities in the craft workforce.
By Grace Calengor
August 4, 2023

National Signing Day is when high-school athletes from across the country celebrate their next step in life by signing an official letter of intent to compete in their sport at their dream college or university. This annual tradition is a single day anticipated by thousands of students and their families. Many schools similarly encourage graduating seniors to share what colleges they’ll be studying at in the fall on social media.

But what about those students who don’t play sports? What about the ones who aren’t going to college?

Over the last few years, high schools and businesses have begun hosting career signing days for students who are pursuing careers in the trades. During these public events, high-school seniors sign an offer letter of employment to work for a construction company right after graduation. To go from simple student to full-time employee takes more than the swoop of a pen, though; it’s a year-long process.

For many seniors enrolled in their schools’ CTE 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.

While trades such as auto mechanics, carpentry, welding, electrical and more have been taught in middle and high schools for generations, the pathway for turning these craft classes into a career is evolving. “Work-based learning has been around forever,” says Todd Lynn, principal of Triplett Tech in Mt. Jackson, Virginia, “but the youth-registered apprentice has really come around the last three years or so.”


During the last few years, the ramifications of COVID-19 required stronger communication among companies, schools, students and parents, as well as shift in mindset on craft training versus college. Thanks to this shift, on May 4, 2023, Triplett Tech’s signing day saw 15 students signed with 15 different companies.

Similarly, while Mike Rooney, account manager for New Orleans operations with Triad Electric & Controls Inc. in Harahan, Louisiana, has been promoting the trades in Louisiana schools for 16 years, recently he’s seen growing interest from students and parents. “Schools are really getting involved now with training,” Rooney says. “It used to be that parents wanted their kids to go to college, and a lot would go and fail, or try and get lost. Now, we tell them you can come and be an electrician or a pipefitter and make more and more money. [Schools and parents] didn’t know all that; they weren’t pushing that before. I never went to college; I learned a trade coming up, and I learned it well.”

The son and grandson of professional pipefitters, Rooney exemplifies the benefits of having a strong support system when entering the trades and the importance of advocating for them in schools, where for many students, stories like Rooney’s are what they need to feel confident enough to pursue their passions. For its inaugural signing day on May 3, 2023, St. Charles Parish Public Schools hosted three companies and signed eight students; Triad welcomed two students and, Rooney says, is eager to welcome more in the years to come.


One recent graduate from Bay City High School in Brazoria County, Texas, hopes he can become a similar inspiration for the school’s underclassmen. Diego Mendoza, who took welding classes as part of Bay City's CTE program, says, "As soon as my senior year was ending, I knew I needed to choose a career. Then I saw the BCPC [Brazoria County Petrochemical Council] signing career fair. Four companies wanted to interview me, and every single company was great. I enjoyed my time learning about the different companies and opportunities.”

Mendoza signed with Wood Group USA Inc. as a helper, training to become a welder. Like Rooney, he is also following in family footsteps by pursuing welding. However, an opportunity he never thought he’d have is to attain a two-year degree in process technology, which Wood Group will help him pursue.

After starting work in early June, Mendoza has this message for the future generation of craft workers: “If you’re confused about what you do or don’t want to do, this is the perfect opportunity for anybody. There is always good money in the field; there is always something you can learn to better yourself throughout the year. If someone can get a job with BCPC, I say take it. You don’t lose anything by trying.”


Not every path leads to the same destination, and not every person is on the same path. But career signing day programs reveal paths to potentially thousands of young adults they never knew existed. From Virginia to Louisiana to Texas and beyond, every school system interviewed for this article has reported an annually increasing number of students and companies participating in them. Schools are eager to host more signing days, companies are eager to sign more students, and students are eager to follow—or find—their dreams.

“It is exciting to see young people so excited for their futures, especially in these hands-on industries,” says Ashley Greene, human resources manager for Comfort Systems of Virginia Inc. “I am hopeful they will continue to shine a good light on our industry and that we will have more craftsmen because of it.”

by Grace Calengor
Grace Calengor is associate editor of Construction Executive.

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