(The Center Square) – Over the weekend, Louisville area high school students took part in a ceremony where they committed to working at area companies after graduation.
The “signing day” event felt like the ceremonies held for student-athletes when they sign letters of intent with colleges. The purpose was to celebrate those individuals who have already found work or were interested in working with some of the area’s largest employers, like Ford, GE Appliances, Kroger and UPS.
Some students plan to use their new jobs to help pursue higher education opportunities. It’s part of Everybody Counts, an initiative Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear launched with Jefferson County Public Schools last fall to help prepare all Louisville public high school graduates for their lives after 12th grade.
“Everybody Counts is already proving to be a valuable resource for JCPS graduates looking to continue their education and work for one of Louisville’s top employers,” JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio said. “The partnerships that have been built will allow JCPS grads to pursue their dreams, help support their families and produce a better-educated workforce for our entire community.”
The program comes at a time when more Kentucky high school graduates choose not to enroll in a college or trade school.
In 2018, 55% of Kentucky high school graduates enrolled in a postsecondary program, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics. That dipped to 53.6% in 2019 and 51.7% in 2020. In each of those years, more than 20,000 graduates chose not to continue their education.
Beshear said he hopes Everybody Counts becomes the template or the impetus for other districts across Kentucky.
“This is the first time in Kentucky that a graduating senior can secure one of three pathways – a job at a major employer, postsecondary enrollment or both – at this kind of signing event,” the governor said.
Some other school systems are already holding similar events. Last month, when Butler County High School held its first “Decision Day,” the Western Kentucky school included students who chose careers like welding.
WKYT-TV reported last week Montgomery County High School held a celebration for Jacob Bradley, who signed with a plumbing company in the community that’s about 30 miles east of Lexington.
“This is something that we have done several times for our athletes who are attending college upon graduation, but this is something new here at Montgomery County High School, but I hope that this will continue,” said Lacy Gross, a guidance counselor at the school, told the TV station.