Student athletes have signing ceremonies when they commit to a college, why not students who commit to a career?

That’s the premise for the first ever “Waconia Works’ signing day held at the high school on Tuesday, May 11.

The event was an opportunity to recognize Waconia High School seniors for their decision to enter the workforce full-time post-graduation with a local company in the area of manufacturing or the trades, also to highlight the local businesses that provide those opportunities.

The signing ceremony is the culmination of a partnership involving Waconia Schools, the Chamber of Commerce and the business community.

The program featured three graduating students and their employers: Student Kyle Glaeser with Sackett-Waconia director of operations Paul Peterson and team; Alex Roell with Waconia Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram owners Andy Strong and Eric Strong; and Ben Fensko with Laketown Electric owner Matt Bergmann and team.

As part of the signing arrangement, a student commits to working for a local company, and the business in turn provides career/technical education programming and hands-on learning experience.

Glaeser, for example, has been working in the welding department for Sackett-Waconia and will be pursuing a welding diploma from Alexandria Technical and Community College. Roell has been awarded the Chrysler apprenticeship program automotive technician scholarship. He will be working at Waconia Dodge part-time and be offered a full-time position as an automotive technician after completing the program. Frensko has already worked at Laketown Electric for three years as a shop manager, and now is an apprentice electrician planning to attend school at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis.

School District 110 superintendent Pat Devine said the pendulum in education has swung too far toward a college degree when some students and many business needs are better suited toward technical and trade skills. And both he and Chamber president Christine Fenner pointed to local school-business partnerships to fulfill those needs, such as Teachers in in the Workplace and student internship programs.

As part of last Tuesday’s program, Modern Design Cabinetry owners Jo and Troy Eiden introduced their summer interns Zach Johnson, Lexi Hill and Konrad Breeggemann, also former Waconia students who are working full-time for them now.

The signing ceremony came on the final days before the retirement of industrial tech teacher Dave Aeling after 35 years. Aeling said he was grateful that the first ever signing ceremony could happen before he retires, and the expectation among organizers is that the event will be held annually – next year, as awareness grows, “maybe with more students and a longer table.”

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