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Schuylkill County News

Trade Jobs and Staying in Schuylkill County Promoted at STC Signing Day

STC students sign certificates of intent to work, enroll in college, or join the armed services.

Dozens of high school seniors attending Schuylkill Technology Center vocational schools participated in the third annual SkillsUSA Signing Day event Thursday morning.

The ceremony features students signing certificates of intent to enter into an employment agreement within their field of study, attend a college, or join the military.

Signing Day is a spin on similar events that are often used to honor a high school athlete agreeing to play their sport or sports of choice at a college or university.

What makes STC’s Signing Day different is that many of the students participating are saying they’re ready to enter the workforce right away and most already have jobs in their chosen field.

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The event was attended by local government and business officials as well as numerous employers taking on some of the new graduates at their businesses in Schuylkill County.

STC Grads Closing the Skills Gap

During Thursday’s ceremony, students heard from Schuylkill County elected and other officials who stressed the importance of the choice they made to attend vocational school.

“You are a vital solution to the skills gap,” Darlene Robbins, president of Northeast PA Manufacturers & Employers Association said.

Darlene Robbins told STC students that the skills they’ve acquired in the last couple years make them very employable, more so than many college graduates. (Coal Region Canary photos)

That was a common theme from all the speakers: STC’s graduates were entering a workforce where their skills are desperately needed and in high demand.

“We desperately need more people in the trades,” State Sen. Dave Argall told the soon-to-be grads. “We have all these jobs and not enough people.”

“The world only needs so many philosophy majors,” State Sen. Dave Argall said, reiterating a statement he made in a recent conversation with the Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh. Argall stressed the need for tradespeople, especially in Schuylkill County.

State Rep. Dane Watro reminded students that even if they don’t get a job in the field they pursued at STC, the skills they’ve acquired will be used in the future.

“It’s skills that take you so far in life,” he said, “no matter what you do. You always have something to fall back on.”

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Other speakers included State Reps. Joanne Stehr, Tim Twardzik, and Jamie Barton, as well as Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Carl.

Defying Outmigration from Schuylkill County

Many of the speakers Thursday also stressed to the graduating students that it’s vital they stay in Schuylkill County.

County Commissioner Gary Hess, who attended STC nearly 50 years ago, said to the students, “Vocational school is very important. The need is out there. We need you right here in Schuylkill County. You are our greatest asset.”

Schuylkill County Commissioner Gary Hess remembers taking the sheet metal course during his vo-tech days, saying he needed to learn to make the pots and pans before he could learn to cook. He’s owned Hess Catering in Schuylkill Haven for 45 years.

Commissioner Boots Hetherington also stressed the need for students to stay local.

“We need accountants. We need doctors. But we also need mechanics,” he said.

Hetherington detailed what sort of skilled tradespeople he needed for a project on his farm outside Ringtown last year, saying he needed an excavator, a mason, a construction crew, a welder, and an electrician.

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“These are all skills that are necessary,” he said.

Commissioner Boots Hetherington outlined all the skilled laborers he needed just to complete one project on his farm in 2023.

Commissioner Larry Padora is also a vo-tech alum, and talked about the benefits today’s students will realize immediately, such as not being burdened by student debts.

He also told students to eventually go beyond just working at a job with the skills they’ve acquired at STC.

“Be an entrepreneur. Try to stay here in Schuylkill County and raise your families here,” Padora said. “We need you. You are the future of Schuylkill County.”

Commissioners Chairman Larry Padora encouraged STC grads to start a business with the skills they acquired at the school.

SkillsUSA Student Presidents

During Thursday’s ceremony, the SkillsUSA student presidents also addressed their fellow grads.

Joel Williams is the STC-South Campus SkillsUSA president. He plans on applying for a position with the state Dept. of Corrections right out of high school.

Williams, of Girardville and who attends North Schuylkill, said of his time at STC, “Before I started attending STC, I was still deciding what I wanted to do after high school.”

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Joel Williams said serving as SkillsUSA President has taught him leadership and team skills. He plans to apply for a job with the state Dept. of Corrections after high school.

He said he took an Intro to Law class at North Schuylkill and realized he wanted to be in law enforcement. Williams, in his junior year in high school, enrolled in a Criminal Justice class at the South campus and said he “fell in love with the class.”

In his senior year, he attended STC for the full term and served as SkillsUSA President the entire year, saying it taught him leadership and team skills.

Williams said, “STC really helped me decide what I’m going to do after my life in high school.”

Van Caliendo, of Orwigsburg and who attends Blue Mountain High School, served as SkillsUSA President for the North Campus for the first half of this school year.

He is in the Culinary Arts program at STC. On Thursday, he signed his intent to attend Culinary Institute of America.

“When I chose STC, I had known for a long time that cooking was one of my passions and this just felt like a natural progression toward a future and a career in the culinary field,” Caliendo said.

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After the signing ceremony, Caliendo told The Canary, “Today was a great day for me. I’m just excited to start my own journey.”

He said of his fellow STC grads that “no matter where these people go, they’re going to be a success” but he hopes they choose to stay in Schuylkill County.

Caliendo said he is choosing the culinary arts because he’s following his passion and that’s the main reason why he chose a trade school rather than a traditional college.

“Different people have told me traditional college is great but to pursue what you love is more important,” he said.

Watch the full SkillsUSA Signing Day ceremony here:

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Tootsie

    May 4, 2024 at 7:56 am

    Great article, Canary! Hope for the future!

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