Michael Martinez wanted to be an airline pilot. But as he got older, Martinez, now 18, decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a professional welder instead.
In fact, the senior from Brazoswood High School in Clute, Texas has already landed a job that will start immediately after graduation.
“My dad always wanted me to be in the white-collar class,” he said, but “he’s proud of me.”
Michael Martinez at career signing day, 2022.
Source: Harold Nicol
In Texas, where Martinez lives, there are a growing number of job openings in the industry, but fewer people to fill them.
Part of the labor shortage is due to aging experienced workers out of the field, according to Chris Witte, senior vice president and site manager for BASF, a chemical company in Freeport, Texas.
“We want to grow the talent pool and we want to give students opportunities,” Witte said. “The goal is to show them that these are very good, well-paying jobs.”
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To encourage more students to consider a career in the field, the Martinez School District hosts an annual Career Signing Day.
“This career signing day came out of nowhere,” Martinez said. “I thought I might as well give it a try.”
More and more people are used to the fanfare that surrounds signing days, when future high school graduates commit to attending a particular university.
For college athletes heading to renowned schools, these occasions are especially celebrated among friends, family, and the community at large.
Now, school districts are extending their support and praise to high school students who similarly commit to a skilled trade.
“Just as we would celebrate a football player or any other athlete, we want to celebrate just as proudly our skilled tradesmen and women and their decision to pursue a career,” said Chelle Travis, executive director of SkillsUSA, a national organization in non-profit aiming to connect students to technical courses.
“What they are doing is essential work.”
This spring, more than 1,000 students from 33 states participated in Career Signing Day.
In Brazoria County, just south of Houston, 48 senior graduates, including Martinez, have signed up for full-time jobs at one of the chemical and petrochemical companies that make up the Brazoria County Petrochemical Council.
These high school seniors in Brazoria County, Texas committed to full-time jobs on Career Signing Day 2022.
Photo: Billy Loveless, Brazosport College
It was Brazoria County’s fourth annual career signing day and by far the most popular. More than twice as many students applied and were hired for full-time positions as last year.
“The response has been phenomenal,” said Aaron Ennis, committee chair and resource development coordinator for the Brazosport Independent School District.
“We’re about to be one of the biggest signing days on the Gulf Coast,” he added. “That’s our goal.”
To be considered, students must submit written applications, including an essay, and an interview with hiring managers.
“We need to know that these candidates are serious about their commitment because they can potentially last an entire career,” Ennis said.
“It’s a rigorous process because these jobs represent a substantial investment from the contract and member companies of BCPC,” he added, which now has 25 employers, such as Chevron-Phillips Chemical, Dow, Huntsman and Vencorex.
“I was excited and scared because there were four girls who were [applying] and I wasn’t sure all or some of us would get a job offer,” said Adrianna Webster, a senior at Angleton High School.
Adrianna Webster at Career Signing Day, 2022.
Source: Harold Nicol
Webster, 18, was one of the students who was offered a full-time position at KCG Industries as a welder, earning $16 an hour.
“No one in my family went to college,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do; I thought welding looked interesting and I was good at it.”
She starts in July, after competing in a national welding contest (Webster is a Texas state welding champion).
Increasingly, teenagers are rethinking the value of college.
Amid increased demand for workers, rising tuition fees and rising student loan burdens, more students are choosing career-related paths at four-year colleges, according to recent reports. .
As enrollment declines, skilled trades programs are booming.
The likelihood of attending a four-year school has dropped 20% over the past two years, from 71% to 51%, according to ECMC Group, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit. ECMC Group surveyed more than 5,300 high school students five times since February 2020.
Meanwhile, more than a third of high school students said they believed vocational and technical training could lead them to success.
“Students today have been impacted by the pandemic and they want to chart their own path – a path that is shorter, more affordable and directly linked to a career – especially a career in a field that needs workers “, said Jeremy Wheaton, Chairman and CEO of ECMC Group.
A separate study by YouthTruth, which surveyed more than 22,000 students in the Class of 2022, found that more than a quarter, or 28%, of high school students said their plans had changed since the start of the pandemic with less students interested in going to college at all.