Signing day: Tomorrow's skilled workforce steps up

Friday, February 19, 2016
Austin Talley, a senior from Community High School, signs a letter of intent Thursday at Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Shelbybville. Also pictured are his guidance counselor, Angela Cahill, and TCAT-S instructor Eric Brown. Austin intends to study HVAC systems. See more photos at

A national signing day was held Thursday in Shelbyville, but it was not for athletic stars -- it was for talented students who will become the next generation of industrial workers.

Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Shelbyville (TCAT-S) participated in the National CTE Letter of Intent Signing Day. Washburn Tech in Topeka, Kansas held the first CTE Letter of Intent Signing Day in 2014. On Thursday, 14 technical institutions around the country hosted signing day ceremonies tied together by live, nationwide simulcasts.

Just like athletics

TCAT-S was one of seven TCATs in Tennessee participating in signing day, which was modeled after athletic signings, complete with a hat and T-shirt bearing the college's logo.

The event is meant to recognize the "very talented and gifted" students who choose to conduct technical studies after high school, said Ivan Jones, TCAT-S director. Participating students from high schools around the region were nominated by their guidance counselors.

"You are the future of our workforce," Jones said. "Thank you for choosing our institution for your training."

Critical need

Allen Pitner, CEO of the Shelbyville-Bedford County Chamber of Commerce, told the students they will become a crucial part of recruiting new industries and encouraging existing businesses to expand. A community having a skilled workforce is one of the major considerations for such projects, he said.

Representatives from two leading employers were on hand to congratulate the students -- and scout for potential future employees.

Calsonic's needs

Dan Davidson, vice president of operations for Calsonic Kansei North America, spoke about his company's $2 billion U.S. automotive parts business. Most of those parts are manufactured in Middle Tennessee, including exhaust parts and radiators in Shelbyville, he said.

One local plant uses approximately 140 robots that require operators who have technical skills even more than hands-on work, he said.

Tyson appreciation

Robert Solano, complex human resources manager for Tyson Foods, said that many of his employees were trained at TCAT-S.

"Now's the time to get some life skills, and those skills are going to take you through life," Solano said.

The signing day event is organized by the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3), which was established to address the need for strong industry partnerships with educational institutions. For more information on signing day, go online to: