October 5, 2017 at 9:39 a.m.
Several area women who somehow fell off their career development track, are taking advantage of a rare chance to get back on. Their destination is gainful employment as welders.
Welding is one of many well-paying blue collar fields experiencing unfilled openings due to lack of qualified workers.
North Branch high school industrial arts shop has become instruction central for their industry-certified training while, the Community Education facility, just down the road from the school, provides childcare for the welding students’ kids during class for several hours at night.
North Branch Community Education Director Brett Carlson says of the coordinated effort, “...it’s a beautiful thing.”
Carlson recounts how talks began about a year ago amongst regional workforce agencies, educators and program directors. Pine Technical & Community College won a state DEED grant to offer the welding courses, and funding was also directed towards support services as well, such as childcare. But, where could something like this be most effectively offered?
Carlson realized North Branch is in a more populated area than Pine City, and he thought using the high school would be more attractive than travel to evening welding courses so far north.
The idea advanced as high school shop teacher, Irv Geary came aboard on sharing the industrial arts space, and with Principal Coleman McDonough’s full backing offering the course in North Branch blossomed.
Carlson said he is also proud of the after-school childcare program staff who stepped up and embraced these kids of the welding students. “We have staff who truly love kids,” he continued, adding the Community Ed center has exactly the child friendly environment needed.
Costs are covered in the (DEED) Dept. of Employment and Economic Development aid through Pine Tech.
Successful completion of this course will provide these female students with a 120-hour welder certificate in several months. They will learn principles of welding and job nuances. The course focuses on developing wire feed, tungsten inert gas, gas metal arc and shielded metal arc (stick) welding and applied blueprint reading.
The ladies were fitting-out their equipment the night the Press visited-- most of it donated--which included welding masks, gloves and heavy duty lab coats.
One participant had already visited a couple local manufacturers to see what her future work situation might look like and she was super excited. Over a class break, she was telling the instructor that the products she observed being built involved some pretty intricate skills that seemed like they’d be satisfying and challenging to be able to do.
Instructor Dennis Long agreed. Before Pine Tech, as a professional welder he was part of projects he’s still proud of; a bridge, an oil rig off Poland’s coast and he welded parts of the lunar land rover (although he didn’t know it at the time, it was a secret.)
Instructor Long walked seven students through loads of information in the first class last week and it’s obvious there’s a ton more they have to get comfortable with before they even ignite a welding torch.
As Carlson describes it, “We get to extend the K-12 classroom” and North Branch District cements its culture of actively providing lifelong learning.
What educator doesn’t love that.
St Croix River Education District, Wyoming Machine and DAKA Metal Fabricators are strong supporters of this program.
There is a qualification process and students may find they can participate free of charge. Contact Kris Hanson at Pine Tech, [email protected] or 1-320-629-4568 or see www.pine.edu.
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