High school grads start careers

Sign-to-Work apprenticeships

Sign-to-Work events allow trade students to publicly commit to an employer after they graduate high school, and the events are gaining momentum. Instead of pursuing a collegiate education, students are starting to chase higher education through apprenticeships with a construction company. It’s time the decision to pursue a career in construction is celebrated just as much as an acceptance letter to Virginia Tech.

“It’s very bothersome how technical schools are treated like the ugly step child of the school systems, instead of being funded and respected for the contributions they make to our community,” says Keith Bourne, Southern Air electrical project manager. “It’s a struggle to find good people and developing relationships with programs like at Green County Technical Education Center connects us to students and potential members for our team.”Sign-to-Work apprenticeships

This graduating season, Southern Air signed many new apprentices from various trades to our teams throughout Virginia. More higher education avenues become available every day, meaning if a high school doesn’t have a shop class (imagine that!), a student can obtain that education elsewhere. The Build Smart Institute in Roanoke is a construction education facility who just created their first 29 alumni during their inaugural graduation.

“We can’t find the workers. We’ve felt the pain first-hand, we understand what needs to be solved, and we want to feel like we’re contributing to an industry that has contributed to our careers in a number of ways,” says Rob Leonard, Build Smart Institute director. “We need to create the succession and grow succession for the industry. We have a lot of confidence we’re delivering what the industry needs.”

No one should put down a person pursuit of more education. We certainly don’t knock a college education, just as a career in construction should not be looked down upon at any level. College degrees lead to the same thing apprenticeships lead to; lucrative success based on the drive of the individual. College isn’t for everyone, and how wonderful is that!

“If I’m going to have my A/C worked on, or my electrical worked on, or my plumbing worked on, I want a tradesman! I don’t want a basketball player. I don’t want some sophisticated lawyer to come work on my stuff. I want a tradesman,” says Harrold Shifflet, Green County Technical Education Center trade instructor. “Success in construction is not rocket science. I’m an electrician. I’m an air conditioning mechanic and I figured it out.”

It’s time we celebrate careers in construction.

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