Ten Springdale Har-Ber High School students who completed a portion of the training they’ll need to someday become electricians and plumbers were among those who took part in the nation’s first SkillsUSA National Signing Day.
The purpose of the National Signing Day was to raise awareness of skilled trade careers and to help close a U.S. skills gap. The nation needs far more people in the skilled trades than there are people to take on those careers.
Sponsored by SkillsUSA and Klein Tools, today’s events across the U.S. celebrated nearly 3,000 high school seniors dedicated to pursuing career in residential wiring, building trades and renovations, HVAC or plumbing.
Workforce development is a focus area for the Northwest Arkansas Council. Among the roles it serves is connecting employers with high schools, community colleges and universities to ensure that the training being provided matches the companies’ needs.
The Council also works to ensure that state agencies and the State Legislature are doing all they can to advance skilled trades training in educational settings across Arkansas.
School administrators, teachers, elected officials, SkillsUSA advisors, family and friends came together today to celebrate the students for making the decision to pursue a career or continuing education in the skilled trades. The 30 or so attendees at the Springdale Har-Ber event where 10 students signed letters of intent included State Sen. Lance Eads as well as representatives of NorthWest Arkansas Community College and local companies. Some of the companies have agreed to hire Har-Ber students.
Among those who signed and who already has a job is Sierra Pittman, who took four trades-focused courses over two years. She just started a job with Kimbel Mechanical Systems in Fayetteville. The company does plumbing, HVAC and electrical work, but Pittman’s focus will be on becoming an electrician someday.
At Har-Ber, Pittman took courses focused on plumbing, electrical work and carpentry. Her career choice and those high school courses made perfect sense as her father was in the trades, working as a carpenter, a concrete mixer, a cabinet installer and a framer over many years.
“He’d take me to work with him when I was a little kid,” she said. “It made me feel connected to my father, and I still love being around it.”
Robert Maples, a master electrician who started work as a teacher at Har-Ber in 2016, organized the school’s first career-focused signing day and thought it went well.
“I’m just an old hillbilly and don’t know protocol, but I thought it went well,” Maples said. “There are many trades jobs open out there and they’ll be filling them. This isn’t like applying for a job at a fast-food restaurant where you hope those choose you. With all of these guys, it will be them choosing the job, not them getting chosen.”
In addition to signing their letters of intent, students participating in the SkillsUSA National Signing Day took home a Klein Tools signing kit, which includes a hat, T-shirt, bag, and a pair of professional-grade Klein Tools pliers to start their careers.
"We are thrilled to be able to recognize nearly 3,000 high school seniors from nearly 300 schools across the country for their commitment to the skilled trades," said Mark Klein, co-president of Klein Tools. "These students will make a big impact on the U.S. labor market and will help to close the skills gap impacting our country today. We hope that by raising awareness of the many career options in the skilled trades, we will have even more students signing their letters of intent next year."
Pictured at the top: Robert Maples, a master electrician teaching skilled trades course at Springdale’s Har-Ber High School, talked with parents and employees about the success of the students in his classes. Ten Har-Ber students signed letters of intent at a ceremony earlier today.