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Forging the Future

Photo by Elijah Mang

Seated in the Forum of LBCC’s Albany Campus, 97 potential students of the Certified Technical Education programs sat waiting. Their moment to touch pen to paper, to sign their name, and to document a commitment to receive training in one of the 14 trade programs offered by LBCC.

Many haven’t graduated high school yet, but have laid their stake in the future of America’s infrastructure.

On Feb. 15, LBCC held the third annual CTE Signing Day in the college’s history. Hosting parents and prospective students, LBCC was one of 55 schools to participate in National Signing Day, intended to provide students with a sense of opportunity and importance in their future. There are many more jobs in CTE fields than employees to fill those jobs.

“They are bursting at the seams around here. We have more jobs than we have people. The businesses in the area are estimating that they are going to have a thousand new job positions within the next 4 to 5 years for skilled laborers.  Especially, in the world of manufacturing and medical health,” said LBCC Cooperative Work Experience Coordinator David Bird.

With manufacturing making a comeback within the United States, the push for businesses to fill valuable positions in growing industries has been gaining strength the last three years. Coinciding with the NFL’s National Signing Day, CTE Signing Day is a way for America to honor the value of individuals willing to strap on their boots or put on a pair of scrubs and go to work for the future of our nation.

“CTE is also worthy of a signing day. How do we bring more excitement to jobs that are going to help fill the skills gap? How are we going to build tomorrow as a better country? You guys are the answer,” said Alex Brookhouse, NC3 Program Manager and Instructor Coordinator.

Starting three years ago, Signing Day began as NC3 Signing day. It included students enlisting to become educated in the automotive field. It then changed a year later to CTE Signing Day which provided more recruitment for LBCC, covering other essential trades such as healthcare and industrial programs.

The first year of Signing Day, saw three training facilities take part, the next year, there was 15, this year, 55 community colleges and trade schools from over 17 states took hand. Next year, for CTE Signing Day, coordinators, industry professionals, and instructors would like to see all 50 states across the U.S. take part.

CTE Signing Day, was a day not only for prospective students to be honored in their commitment by faculty of LBCC, but it was also a day in which their future industries could show appreciation. Twenty local sponsors, and six guest speakers from companies such as Snap-On, ATI, Trane, and Mike’s Heating and Air, were there to voice their support of the industry’s future employees.

“Next time you’re on an airplane and you look out of the window and see the jet, much of what is on that engine is manufactured here [in Albany],” said Lee Weber, President, ATI Specialty Alloys & Components.

With the availability of jobs, and a workforce ready to fill those jobs, CTE has become a destination for students who don’t wish to attend a four-year university. Not only are those students seeking a shorter return time on their hard work, but the graduation rate is much higher in many CTE fields than in liberal arts degrees, or any equivalent.

“One of the most important statistics that we have our state to determine how successful CTE programs are, is our graduation rates. Are you all aware that graduation rates are increasing in Oregon for CTE compared to the general population in our schools? Success at graduation is 15.5% higher than the statewide average,” said Theresa Richards, Assistant Deputy Superintendent of the Oregon Department of Education.

CTE has a good foundation in Oregon, as well as a future to sustain it. Legislation in Oregon has been able to put funding into programs that provide for future CTE Students, and keep local employers seeking to fill jobs from local institutions.

“This year’s grant builds on earlier investments from Oregon legislation, which began in 2011. Then funding again in 2013, 2014, and 2015, to the tune of $23 million total investing in CTE,” said Richards.

Future students and faculty of LBCC are just as excited as industry leaders and education experts about the future of CTE, as well as what CTE Signing Day brings to bear for the future of trade programs at LBCC.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for the community to see the industry’s outreach,” said Barry Payton, Heavy Equipment and Diesel Technology Instructor.

CTE Signing Day is as much about student and their parents, as it is their prospective employers and instructors.

“For me, I think it’s important. I work in the CTE field as well, and having my son take advantage of programs in Albany is great. I like these types of occupations, because it’s like a family that you go through the same programs with,” said Heather Slocum, whose son, Cole Beaty, is attending the CAAD program next fall.

Some CTE students have already attended LBCC and decided later in their education that they were cut out for a trade program.

“I’ve been here for a term, and just decided what it is I want to do. I’m way more hands on than any other programs can offer,” said Zak Nasby, 20, of Newberg.

Some of LBCC’s future students argue the same sentiment, looking for a place to put their hands to work.

“I’m ready to get out of high school and start working,” said Jacob Rossman, 17, of Lebanon High School.

The most important part of CTE Signing Day is echoed by President Greg Hamann, “The students, they are the future.”

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