Patrick & Henry Community College (P&HCC) took part in the NC3 National Letter of Intent Signing on April 26, 2022. The event, sponsored by the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3) mirrors the NCAA’s National Signing Day for athletes who commit to play sports in college. It is designed to honor students who are entering a technical field and to celebrate the vital work done in these fields.
P&HCC participated in the signing event with more than 65 institutions across the country, with two ceremonies—one in Martinsville and another in Patrick County, as students from Magna Vista, Bassett, Martinsville, and Patrick County high schools signed letters of intent to join the college this fall to focus on a workforce readiness-related area of study.
P&HCC President Greg Hodges, who welcomed attendees to the college’s Manufacturing, Engineering, and Technology (MET) Complex for the Martinsville event, said the college was a national leader in the certifications that it provides.
As of April 30, for the current semester, P&HCC students have earned 232 NC3 certifications, bringing the total to 708 altogether, “which puts us among the nation’s top performing schools, so you’re joining an illustrious group and we are absolutely delighted to have you,” he said.
The Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Director of Tourism and Talent Development Sarah Hodges told the students waiting to sign their letters that the most important thing she learned during her 10 years working at Walt Disney World was that “you have to work hard and you have the opportunity to make yourself invaluable, and that’s what you have done today in your pursuits and your commitment of your training and education.”
In her work at the EDC, she said one of the most common requests is for talented young professionals, particularly in the career and technical trades.
“Skilled tradespeople are in high demand and are critical for our economy. Today, you all have stepped up to meet that need.”
A number of local employers were set up in the hallway to discuss career opportunities with the high school students.
Steve Lehr, business development manager for Festo Didactic, said “You today, on this national signing day, are committing to your future.” When an athlete signs with a school, there is only a slim chance they will go pro, with very few going on to work in the profession they signed with a school for, he said.
“You on the other hand as you commit today, more than likely will go pro in the thing that you’re signing up for today. You’re more likely to own a business, employ people, and earn a living that will pay you and help you to live your dream,” he said.
Before the signing, Hodges presented Magna Vista student Wesley Dyckman with a Skilled Trades – 3M Transformational Scholarship of $1,000, provided through 3M and NC3. She said only 50 students are selected for the scholarship annually. Dyckman plans to study Industrial Electronics Technology at P&HCC.
All of the students who participated in the signing and live in Martinsville and Henry County also are eligible for the SEED program, which would allow them to attend P&HCC at no cost, providing they meet certain requirements including a minimum 2.3 grade point average.
At the end of the ceremony, Hodges congratulated each of the students and welcomed them to “a very lucrative career.”
Dr. Zebedee Talley, superintendent of Martinsville City Schools, said, “I think it’s critical for our young people to be able to have jobs that’s going to afford them ways to take care of their families. I think it’s critical for the community and I appreciate this college being here and offering viable jobs.
“It especially gives and opportunity for our young people to come back and give back to our community, to work here and attracts other industries to know we’re going to have a trained workforce.”
He said he appreciated the independence the training the students would receive. “They can go out and be self-employed. These skills, you can start your own company, and who knows where any of these young people will be 10 years from now.”
Henry County Schools Superintendent Sandy Strayer said, “this is just the beginning of their transition from being a K-12 student to the rest of their life. I’m proud that we’ve made a foundation to help the students follow their passions and be able to make a great livelihood from something they love doing. It’ll never feel like work as long as you love what you’re doing every day.”
Among the students participating was Trinity Hylton, who was the only female student, and declared her intent to study welding.
She said she chose the field because she’s always worked alongside her father, who does electrical work for the county school division. “I really enjoyed it so I thought I’d go into it professionally. It feels great being one of the only women in here doing this. I think I’ll make other women proud,” she added.
Hylton is not the first woman to study a trade at P&HCC, according to Hodges. “We would love to see more.” He noted that women have participated in “every one of these pathways,” and some have found “serious success in motorsports, welding, industrial electronics, machining. We’re always delighted to see what are typically thought of as non-traditional students in these pathways, whether it’s a male in nursing or a female in welding, because the careers and salaries are just fantastic.”
Hodges said the college’s CTE programs “continue to be diversified, both by gender and race and ethnicity, and that’s very, very important to us. Our equity work here at the college is about lifting our students and their families out of poverty. That is our single most important barometer, so getting first-generation, low income students of color engaged in these pathways that lead to high demand jobs with great salaries is priority number one for us.”
The Martinsville and Henry County students who were recognized for their commitments to P&HCC and the pursuit of technical fields were:
Computer Aided Design and Drafting: Hailey Renee Ashworth.
General Engineering Technology: Hunter Nicholas Eanes.
Industrial Electronics Technology: Xavier L. Ashley, Cole D. Burgess, Kaedon Anthony Byrd, Kaden Elias Collins, Wesley M. Dyckman, John Nathan Glenn, Mason E. Newman, and Jeffrey Ethan Wallace.
Motorsports Technology: Christopher Charlie Cline, Tiquise Jorod Fitzgerald, Shawn Foley, Omarion Hairston, Nicholas Alexander Jacobson, Christian Pounds, Dwain Jelene Ross Jr., Joshua Michael Tusinger, Steven Allen Whorley, and Chase Reid Wilson.
Precision Machining: Austin Wayne Gammons.
Welding: Bryce Boothe, Avery Harrison Brown, Austin Gammons, Kamierion Omar Haith, Jordan R. Hartsock, Trinity Grace Hylton, Rodney William Gage Ragans, William Alexander Ryan, Jake Hunter Sharpe, Nickolas Stoneman, Acoryon Quamaine Tinsley and Paxton Medlock Tucker.