BUNKER HILL – With the need for welding and other trades on the rise, Maconaquah High School students are taking advantage of new programs to get into the field.
This school year, in partnership with Ivy Tech, MHS began offering a new Career and Technical Education (CTE) class focused on welding.
The program, which is the same as the one offered at Ivy Tech, involves students taking classes for two years to earn a certificate. In that certificate are three nationally recognized certifications from the American Welding Society: gas metal arc welding (MIG), gas tungsten arc welding (TIG) and shielded metal arc welding (Stick). After obtaining the certificate, students will be placed in work-based learning.
“There is a substantial need for well-trained welders, a local and affordable educational option for students who are interested in welding as a career and that’s why it’s so important,” Ivy Tech Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Ethan Heicher said about partnering with Maconaquah.
“We’re giving students the opportunity to engage in a high demand, high wage career and the life that comes along with a stable, well-paying job, and we are assisting with the economic growth of our community.”
According to Maconaquah Middle School Assistant Principal Justin Meyers, there was once a robust CTE program at the high school but it faded away during the 1990s and early 2000s as more emphasis was placed on four-year college education.
He also noted students previously went to the Kokomo Area Career Center for these types of classes, but issues such as transportation and requirements made it difficult for some students to participate. The school has gone from sending 10-20 kids to Kokomo to having 67 students enrolled on site.
Meyers is a big fan of the program helping students possibly figure out career goals before it can get to be too much for them.
“Kids need to find out what they like and what they don’t like now,” Hays said. “They get into it and spend X amount of dollars on their tuition, fees and then they don’t like it; they’re in the hole now and will want to change programs.
“It’s better for them to learn it now here where it’s a minimal cost to them.”
According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website, the nation’s aging infrastructure will require the expertise of welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers to help rebuild bridges, highways and buildings. The website also notes the construction of new power generation facilities such as pipelines transporting natural gas and oil, which could result in new jobs.
The website projects a 3% growth from 2018-2028. This would equal 14,500 jobs for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers. Welding instructor Bill Sullivan knows there is difficulty finding skilled trades in the field currently and the average age of a professional welder is 60. Programs like this at a high school level can help start getting more young welders into the field.
Sullivan, who is a 2014 Ivy Tech Welding Institute graduate, is an instructor at both the high school and Ivy Tech. His curriculum teaches students print reading, symbols, shop safety and basic welding skills.
“There’s plenty of opportunity to learn and get a good education at trade school … and then work towards a career that pays just as well as having a four-year degree,” he said.
He said his students are eager to come to class and get to work every day, students like MHS junior Derek Miller. Miller is more interested in hands-on learning, a staple of the welding program.
Though this is his first welding experience, the class is already paying dividends for Miller. He has been certified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and been offered two jobs.
“… I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” he said. “This has been a great class.”
The new building trades program has also been a hit with Maconaquah students and is near capacity. The program is partnered with Kokomo Building Trades through Career Connections. Students work through a number of recommended courses and skills, the instructor documents those and will turn them over to any of the local construction trades units.
Construction instructor Dustin Hayes, who has been involved in construction since he was 10, teaches a class which provides students with valuable knowledge for the construction field.
Some topics he covers are safety aspects, fractions in math and how to read a tape measure, among other information. The class also works on projects throughout the semester.
“I think some kids may not want to go to college so teaching them a trade and them having the knowledge to do different aspects such as welding or building trades is a good avenue for them…” he said.