One by one, Culpeper County students were called to step forward and walk to the dais where members of the Board of Supervisors normally sit.

Taking a seat there, each was recognized for the educational path they had chosen in the county’s public schools and for the jobs, apprenticeships and careers they were now embarking on, as family, friends and school officials applauded and wished them well.

Such it was Tuesday evening as the school division held its first-ever Career and Technical Education Signing Day.

Thirty-four students participated, supported and congratulated by their new employers and bosses, including officers from four of the five U.S. armed services.

As employers, mentors and school officials stood behind them, each student signed papers committing him or her in the immediate future to work with those companies and military branches.

More than 100 people packed the Board of Supervisors chamber to witness the standing-room-only signings, with the overflow attendees spilling into the building’s lobby to watch through doors or listen on the County Administration Office’s public-address system.

One of the local employers, Culpeper resident Ed Dalrymple Jr., said the school division’s CTE program helps meet companies’ need to replace workers who are aging out of their jobs and to find workers for projects under construction.

“All of the students that we hired as a part of the signing ceremony yesterday will go into apprenticeship programs with Germanna Community College, programs that will allow them to learn to run plants, work on systems, run equipment and become well-paid, full-time employees over the next several years,” said Dalrymple, who is president of Chemung Contracting Corp., Dalrymple Holding Corp. and Cedar Mountain Stone. “... Every student that we signed last night shows an understanding of core skills, an ability to communicate, and wants to work.”

The Culpeper school system has realized it must help meet companies’ workforce needs, and its CTE program helps do that, he said.

Randi Richards-Lutz, the school division’s director of Career and Technical Education, narrated the signing ceremony, calling each student and their supporters to the dais at the front of the board chambers.

“I think it is so important to celebrate our students entering the military or starting their careers upon graduation,” Richard-Lutz said Wednesday.

All of the students put in considerable effort training in their CTE courses, working on interview skills, and creating and perfecting their resumes and cover letters, she noted.

Culpeper classrooms, including its middle schools, have more than 2,000 students enrolled in CTE courses.

Liz Walters, human capital manager for Bingham & Taylor, a Culpeper firm that makes parts for the gas and water industry, applauded Signing Day, calling it “fantastic.”

“It was nice to see young people getting recognized for going down a path other than to college,” she said. “There are a lot of excellent careers and opportunities for them.”

“Careers in manufacturing aren’t often on the radar of younger people,” Walters added. “So we welcome anything that encourages kids to think about those jobs in the skilled trades and at manufacturing facilities. These careers are good choices; they are not second-best choices. CTE students should be proud of what they’re doing, and be recognized for it.”

This fall, Culpeper officials hope to break ground for a Career and Technical Education school to be built near Germanna Community College’s Joseph R. Daniel Technology Center.

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