Nearly 40 students who have attended Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center will graduate this spring with a full-time job already secured.
The students are going to be working in local hair salons, auto shops and health clinics, among other area businesses. CATEC recognized those students this week at its second annual School to Work signing ceremony.
“It’s a nice recognition for kids,” said Shannon Tomlin, the career coordinator at CATEC. “They feel like their hard work has paid off, and their parents like employment.”
Tomlin said the number of students honored doubled since last year’s ceremony. She attributes the increase to a push in the Charlottesville and Albemarle school divisions to expand work-based learning opportunities.
“We want to make sure we give as many kids that want a job a job,” she said.
Many of the students recognized are currently working in their chosen fields, earning money and class credit.
Tomlin organized the ceremony as a way to recognize the students and to highlight career and technical education.
“There’re always these pushes for kids going to college,” she said. “College just isn’t for everyone … There’s something to be said for these kids who can go through a trade program. They can still go to college. This doesn’t limit them to just leaving us and going directly to work. This gives them another avenue to support themselves, whatever path they take.”
During the ceremony, students signed a certificate along with their employer, many of whom brought gifts for their employees.
The employers praised the CATEC programs and their graduates.
Lewis Jordan, with the county school division’s transportation department, commended the work of Alonzo Gray, a Monticello High School senior who has been working in the department. He will move into a full-time job after graduation. At CATEC, he’s part of the auto technology program.
“He’s working on school buses that carry our children, and he’s doing a fantastic job,” Jordan said.
Jordan also attended CATEC, graduating in 1979.
“It propelled my career,” he said.
The signing ceremony, held Tuesday during a board meeting, was the second in the last two weeks. During the first signing, CATEC participated in SkillsUSA’s National Signing Day event that recognized nine students who were accepting an apprenticeship or employment with a company in skilled trades such as electrical or construction.
More than 300 schools participated nationwide.