Arthur and Virginia Coleman of East Stroudsburg couldn’t be more proud of their son Nathaniel, 18, a senior at Monroe Career & Technical Institute and East Stroudsburg South High School.
Nathaniel Coleman was one of 104 students signing with the military, college or employers at the first SkillsUSA Council District 11 Signing Day, held at Pennsylvania CareerLink Lehigh Valley in Allentown on Friday.
“Nearly 40 percent of the students being recognized are going directly into the workforce,” said Nancy Dischinat, executive director of Workforce Board Lehigh Valley.
Of students who attended the event: 11 signed for military service, 37 students signed with area employers and 56 students will head to college or additional post-secondary training programs in the fall. Coleman is heading to the University of Northwestern Ohio to study diesel technology.
“Local employers are telling us what they need … [and vocational educators] are training students with an eye on becoming financially successful,” out of high school, Dischinat said.
She said the No. 1 workforce requirement that employers command is skills.
“It’s all about skills. Current skills and the lifelong skills required” to be successful, Dischinat said.
Phoenix Sidman, 17, will attend the culinary arts program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the fall. Sidman, a Pocono Township resident, is senior at Monroe Career & Technical Institute and Pocono Mountain East High School.
At Indiana, she’ll pursue a double major in culinary arts and dietetics.
“I was hooked on the [vocational] program from day one. I knew the program would keep me energized,” Sidman said.
She became involved as a sophomore in SkillsUSA competitions and eventually its young leadership programs.
“I found a network and became aware of my options, Sidman said.
Tracey Hill said the signing day was a win for vocational education.
She is supervisor of student services at Upper Bucks Technical School.
“This is great publicity for all [career and technical] educators and students, and it demonstrates our successes ... and opportunities,” Hill said.
Hill said trades and vocational education continue to fight a second-class stigma, and that events such as this could help turn around that perception.
“Signing day programs are not just for athletes,” Dischinat said.
Students attended the SkillsUSA signing day from Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School in Bethlehem, Career Institute of Technology, Forks Township, Lehigh Career & Technical Institute, Schnecksville, Monroe Career & Technical Institute, Pocono Township, and Upper Bucks County Technical School in Bedminster Township.