Klein Tools and SkillsUSA Partner to Develop and Launch a National Program that Celebrates, Promotes, and Supports Young People Starting Their Careers in the Skilled Trades

Followers of our Insights blog know that we are inclined and like to tie in winning athletic teams, and winning athletes, to our posts about tradeshows, events, marketing, and promotions.

For sure it is helpful to study the parallels between championship sports squads and other championship groups.

And among the many topics that Willwork Global Event Services has discussed in this space is the big problem of not enough … not nearly enough … qualified skilled tradespeople available to fill jobs that companies desperately need filled.  

Willwork Global Event Services has reported on and presented in this space solutions to solve the skills gap problem – and we have cited and pointed to examples of programs and policies that are successful in training, educating, and preparing people for careers in the skilled trades.

If you click here, you will be taken an Insights post, published on June 26, 2014, in which we explain and focus on how companies can solve the skilled trades deficit, with some of those solutions found in the way that Willwork grew to a position of industry leadership, and how it continues to operate and build on that leadership.   

Another Insights post, published on September 27, 2017, and accessible by clicking here, highlights the mix of effective and innovative academic, vocational, civic, and private enterprise programs that are developing skilled workers for the hospitality industry.

In today’s post, we herald a program and initiative that takes a page from the theater, pomp, and glam of the institution of major college sports recruiting – specifically when blue-chip high school recruits announce their college choice – to boost and give wholly-deserved attention to high school seniors who after graduation are continuing their career in a skilled trade. 

The program, that initiative, is SkillsUSA National Signing Day, a national event held for the first time on May 8.

SkillsUSA National Signing Day was created by SkillsUSA, a national nonprofit that promotes the skilled and technical trades, and which uses and makes prominent as its motto, “Champions at Work.”   Title sponsor of SkillsUSA National Signing Day is Klein Tools, the preeminent maker of hand tools for the electrical industry, and also a major supplier of tools for the maintenance and construction trades.

Nearly 3,000 students at 300 high schools across the United States took part in SkillsUSA National Signing Day.

SkillsUSA National Signing Day is modeled on the NCAA National Signing Day in which senior high school athletes who are highly recruited by major college sports programs make a commitment to the school they plan to attend by signing a letter of intent.

Many of the signings receive strong media coverage, and involve the blue-chip recruit donning a baseball cap emblazoned with the logo of the school to which he or she has committed. 

At SkillsUSA National Signing Day, high school seniors who have studied and trained in the skilled trades, sign a certificate declaring what trade they have chosen for a vocation.

And just like their fellow students who are heading off to college and collegiate sports, the students who are heading directly into the workforce and into the skilled trades pull on baseball caps – with these caps bearing the SkillsUSA National Signing Day logo.

(Imged credit: USASkills and Klein Tools)

Throughout the day on May 8, broadcast on the Klein Tools Facebook page were look-ins at SkillsUSA National Signing Day events going on across the United States.

To publicize and build the profile of SkillsUSA National Signing Day, a celebrity athlete was signed to appear and speak at one of the high school signings.

And, indeed, this athlete was just the right fit for the spokesperson job in that, among all his achievements and big moments in sports, he himself signed a letter of intent … to play football … for an NCAA Division I program.

As well, the athlete knows something about the importance of the skilled trades in that his father worked for more 40 years as a union electrician.  

The famous and fab athlete is Jimmy Garappolo, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, who is a mega talent on the football field, has matinee idol looks – and is very rich.  If you are a pro football fan you’ve read and heard about the money – and you know that in February of 2018, Mr. Garappolo signed a contract with the 49ers that will pay him $27.5 million annually for five years, with $74.1 million of that guaranteed and … oh yeah … a $35 million signing bonus.

Tony Garappolo, 62, is the father of Jimmy Garappolo.  The elder Garappolo and his wife, Denise, brought up six kids in a suburb of Chicago.  Growing up, Jimmy Garappolo and his brothers sometimes accompanied their dad on his electrician jobs.

In Tony Garappolo’s work as an electrician he used Klein Tool Products.

In fact, that Tony Garappolo had been a career electrician was a primary motivating factor in Klein Tools approaching the business agents of Jimmy Garappolo to pursue a deal with their client to be the featured guest and headliner for SkillsUSA National Signing Day.

And it is also important to note that Jimmy Garappolo has been highly selective and cautious in signing to promote and serve as spokesperson for companies and products and services, and he has passed on many opportunities. Yet the Klein Tools and SkillsUSA National Signing Day initiative and its mission were those that resonated strongly with him, and which he was eager and enthusiastic to get behind.  

To leverage the star power of its spokesperson, and the most relevant career of the spokesperson’s father, SkillsUSA and Klein Tools featured the Garappolos in a live appearance at a SkillsUSA Signing Day event in the heart of Silicon Valley and the San Francisco 49ers fan universe.

The location was Silicon Valley Career Technical Education (SVCTE), a science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) high school in San Jose.

SVCTE has an education and training curriculum that prepares students for college and for the skilled trades and other occupations.

While Jimmy Garappolo was the featured speaker, his dad also spoke, and the quarterback explained the influence of his father in his life, emphasizing Tony Garappolo’s work as an electrician is fundamental to and a keystone of that influence.

Both the elder and younger Garappolo mentioned the excitement that Jimmy and entire Garappolo family experienced on National Signing Day when Jimmy signed penned his signature on a letter of intent to play for Eastern Illinois, a mid-major NCAA Division I football program, and one of only three colleges, along with Illinois State and Montana State, to offer him a scholarship. 

Yes, with hindsight, it appears a bit remarkable that Jimmy Garappolo didn’t generate more interest from D. 1 football programs.

The students of Silicon Valley Career Technical Education participating in the ceremony were seated and wore hard hats. Each student had his or her name announced, then stood up and – accompanied by the clapping and cheering of Jimmy and Tony Garappolo, SVCTE teachers and administrators, and family and friends –walked to a table at the front of the room and exchanged the hard hat for a baseball cap, and sat and signed a letter declaring which skilled trade the student would pursue.

Following is a Jimmy Garappolo comment excerpt from a San Francisco Chronicle story, published on May 9, about the SVCTE event:

“This can help set the path earlier in kids’ lives — they want to be in trades and they can get started in high school. It can require a blue-collar mentality, and some people don’t have that — but I’m glad I grew up that way.”

Please click here to be taken to the full San Francisco Chronicle story, “49ers’ Jimmy Garappolo and dad laud trade-bound students,” written by Eric Branch.

Willwork Global Event Services applauds the innovative thinking and teamwork of Klein Tools and SkillsUSA in creating SkillsUSA National Signing Day, an institution that will grow and expand, that will rise in prominence – and will continue to effectively serve the end goal of encouraging young people to pursue careers in the skilled trades, while also boosting the prestige of those careers.

Willwork Global Event Services will continue to do its part as a backer and developer of skilled tradespeople –and we will continue to share here stories about smart people, smart companies, and other smart organizations that are doing the same.

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