Courtesy 84 Lumber

For years, National Signing Days have celebrated high school athletes as they sign their letters of intent and embark on their journeys as new collegiate players. Building on the idea and celebrating the next generation of trade workers, 84 Lumber—and several other sponsors across the U.S.—hosted high school seniors for a SkillsUSA National Signing Day event May 4.

In Pittsburgh, 10 students committed to careers in the skilled trades and signed “letters of intent” for a job offer, apprenticeship, or advanced technical training. Following the signing, 84 Lumber president Maggie Hardy Knox surprised all of the students with scholarships, totaling $50,000, toward the trade school of their choosing.

“Through this event, we want to highlight an important ideal that drives the 84 Lumber community and workforce—young people can still thrive and find success in business without college,” says Ken Kucera, vice president of installed sales and manufacturing at 84 Lumber. “Over 95% of our store general managers and leadership team started their careers with 84 Lumber as manager trainees. We have a strong promote-from-within culture.”

Courtesy 84 Lumber

Former Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis emceed and cheered on the students in the Northeast region as they signed. As a Pro Football Hall of Famer and one of the best all-time running backs in NFL history, Bettis has attended a few National Signing Day events of his own.

“Today is one of the most important Signing Days I have attended,” says Bettis. “I remember my own National Signing Day, and what it meant to me, my family, coaches, and mentors. My own father was chief electrical inspector for the city of Detroit for 35 years, so it’s very special to be here celebrating the talents and career choices of these young people.”

The 10 scholarship recipients are:

  • Julianna Zambrano, Center of Applied Technology North, Maryland
  • Trevor Philpot, Center of Applied Technology North, Maryland
  • Nyssa Lewis, Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, Massachusetts
  • Brian Lopez Mejia, Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, Massachusetts
  • Justin Yearwood, Bethlehem Area Vocational Technical School, Pennsylvania
  • Nathan DeBellis, Career Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania
  • Blade Witt, Fayette County Career and Technical Institute, Pennsylvania
  • Kayla Gomez, Fayette County Career and Technical Institute, Pennsylvania
  • Gerson Castro-Rivera, Monroe Career and Technical Institute, Pennsylvania
  • Luke Overholt, Upper Bucks County Technical School, Pennsylvania
Courtesy 84 Lumber

The above students, along with their families and teachers, represented thousands of students across the country committing to the skilled trades through SkillsUSA this year.

“SkillsUSA Signing Day is a way for us to shine an even brighter spotlight on the skilled trades,” says Chelle Travis, executive director at SkillsUSA. “The pandemic has proven just how essential these skill workers are. We rely on the skilled trades more than ever to keep our lights on, our computers connected, and our supply chain moving. But the truth is, the skilled trades have always been essential and they always will be.”