Thursday, February 23, 2017

High School Welders Earning College Credits

School districts partner with CVTC in Welding Academy

Article Photo - High School Welders Earning College Credits

Cadott High School student Derek Scheidler sets up in a welding booth at the high school Feb. 20 during a Welding Academy class.

Cornell High School senior Garret Kralewski fired up an oxyacetylene torch and prepared to do some more cutting on a piece of metal when his instructor looked at the flame and gave him an important tip. “A little more oxygen, Garret,” Chippewa Valley Technical College Welding instructor Chrystal Reidt said.

Kralewski is one of a dozen students from Cornell, Cadott, Stanley-Boyd and Gilman high schools picking up basic instruction and finer points of welding during a Welding Academy held at Cadott High School through a cooperative agreement between CVTC and the partner school districts. But welding knowledge is not all the students are picking up.

“It’s saving me a few hundred dollars. It’s nine college credits,” Kralewski said. “And I’m planning on enrolling in CVTC’s Welding program.”

“This gives me nine credits, so it could get me out faster,” said Cadott student Jonathan Parquette, who is also planning to attend CVTC.

Besides credits, students are earning basic certificates in wire feed welding and an OSHA 10 certificate for safety, credentials that could lead to immediate employment.

“This helps prepare me for the future,” said Kevin Cota, a Gilman student. “I plan on going to North Dakota this summer to work on the pipeline. When I get there, they won’t have to teach me.”

“I’m thinking about getting a welding job to get a start, then going to school for an engineering degree,” said Stanley-Boyd student Eric Hoffstatter.

Whether it’s to prepare them for college or the workplace, preparing high school students for their future earlier is one of the ideas behind CVTC partnering with K-12 school districts to establish academies. The concept of offering high school students dual credit at their school and at CVTC is not a new one. CVTC has 153 dual credit agreements with 35 different schools, totaling 215 course sections this year.

In an academy, students are offered a cluster of courses in a particular subject, usually leading to an industry-recognized certificate. The Welding Academy enables the partner high schools to offer a higher level of technical education. With the help of grant funds, CVTC was able to provide equipment to add to what Cadott High School already had.

Reidt said the students, who were pre-selected by the schools based on their interest and their academic and attendance records, are doing very well with the college-level learning. “These are some of the better welders from the high schools,” Reidt said.

The Welding Academy is taking the students’ skills to the next level, beyond what they could have achieved in their high school classes.

“I’m definitely getting a lot more welding experience in school,” Hoffstatter said. “We had one welding class at Stanley-Boyd. This is every day now.”

“I’m learning how to slow down and be more patient with my welds,” said Jacob Couillard of Gilman.

“This is more rigorous, and harder to pass,” said Micah Raatz of Cornell. “I’m learning more about the difference between a good weld and a bad weld.”

“I’m learning more about proper welding angles and setting up your welder,” said Cole Redburn of Cadott.

The classes in the Welding Academy include Welding Safety and Orientation, Basic Wire Feed Welding, Print Reading for Welders, and Industrial Skills.

“At school, we weren’t getting print reading, which is something we are going over really heavily here,” Hoffstatter said.

Reidt noted the class has a way of waking students up to the importance of their other academic subjects, something first year CVTC students often discover. Yes, being a good welder takes math skills, which are covered in the Industrial Skills class.

“It’s important that they pay attention to the other classes they have in high school, like math,” Reidt said. “We will show them how to use it.”

While most of the students plan to go on to CVTC’s Welding program, they also see the benefit of having some early training that gives them employment opportunities. It is common for CVTC Welding students to be hired as part-time welders while they are going to school. The Academy students may have that opportunity sooner than others.

Reidt noted that the way the CVTC program is structured, the Academy students may not be able to finish the program early, despite starting with nine credits on their transcripts. That is being worked on for a future year. However, the credits will allow them to take a lighter CVTC class schedule, freeing them up for work to help pay for college.

"We're already making plans for next year,” Reidt said.

Chippewa Valley Technical College delivers superior, progressive technical education which improves the lives of students, meets the workforce needs of the region, and strengthens the larger community. Campuses are located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls. CVTC serves an 11-county area in west central Wisconsin. CVTC is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and is one of 16 WTCS colleges located throughout the state.