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55 students sign job contracts at Blount County job signing day

New graduates in Blount County could celebrate signing new contracts with employers on Wednesday.

BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — The undergraduate college student body across Tennessee has dropped by nearly 1.4 million students, or 9.4% since 2020. Some experts said students are going straight into the workforce. Some students are choosing to do both. 

In Blount County, Signing Day looked a little bit different for many students. Instead of signing with school athletic's programs, 55 students signed career contracts. The program is continuing to grow. This year there were 13 more participating students than last year. 

On Wednesday, new graduates from four different Blount County Schools signed their contracts for new jobs. All students completed career path courses and interviewed with employers before getting hired. 

Lydia Whitlock signed her contract as a nurse tech with Blount Memorial Hospital. This happened through Blount Partnership's annual Job Signing Day. 

"I'm so glad that I decided to work at Blount Memorial because it just made me want to go into the healthcare workforce more," Whitlock said. 

These students will immediately start their careers at places like the Hilton, the airport and Blackberry Mountain. Whitlock already started her career as a nurse tech at BMH.

"The nurses make me feel important and they make me feel like I am a part of their team," Whitlock said. 

Jennie Bounds with BMH said this is the first year the hospital has opened up the floor to hire non-clinical positions.  

"At Blount Memorial, we were honored to have 11 signees today and even more that couldn't be here," Bounds said. "We were happy to add some non-clinical positions to that because, in a hospital setting, we don't just have clinical positions. We have jobs for anyone and for any schedule."

For Whitlock, it doesn't stop there. She plans to become a veterinarian. 

"I am actually going to pre-vet at Berry College, but nursing was a fifty-fifty choice, but I just decided on pre-vet," she said. 

Many students are also planning to attend college in 2023 while also working on their first career. Tennessee Achieves is a non-profit helping students across the state attend college.

"The majority of our students actually work a 30-plus hour (job). They're often juggling a nearly full-time job or a full-time job in school," said Krissy DeAlejandro, the Tennessee Achieves Executive Director.

She says students with jobs are masters in time management later in life. 

"Making sure that school is as much as a focus as a career because we are skilling these students up and that's an incredibly important part," she said.

As students graduate, many are heading off to college, and some are moving straight into jobs and careers. The Blount Partnership said although every student’s path may be different, and sometimes nontraditional, there are opportunities for meaningful careers in Blount County for everyone.

The group also wants to celebrate the opportunities for high school students to explore and begin preparing for careers. Some of these students are going on to start their careers full-time, some are going to do a combination of school and work, and some are going to work with plans to start school later.

They are among other high school graduates in Tennessee who are ready for careers. 

Tennessee Achieves is helping more and more go to community or technical colleges each year. Find out if you are eligible for free college here.

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