Welding program prepares students for real world jobs

Agnes Hapka

November 19, 2013

POINT PLEASANT — John Hughes, welding and industrial maintenance instructor at Mason County Career wants to provide a learning experience as close as possible to a real work environment.

Hughes, who is in his second year of teaching welding at the career center, said that he already runs his classes in a way that mimics the routines and challenges of a paid job.

“We try to set it up pretty much like a shop,” said Hughes. “We have a foreman and a shop safety guy, and projects or everyone to work on. The foreman hands out the work and the safety guy goes around and makes sure everyone has their safety gear on.”

Students in Hughes’ welding classes take tests and are able to get certified so that they can go straight into paying work after they graduate from high school.

The practical experience they gain while in the classroom, too, is a plus.

Those who have passed their welding tests are able to take on projects for outside customers.

“We’re building utility trailers and offering them for sale,” Hughes said. “And the money goes back into my program. I get a certain amount of money to run this program, so everything we make just helps.”

In the near future the program will become even more like a job. Next year, said Hughes, the welding program will make the transition into being a simulated work place.

“The kids will have to do a drug test to work in here,” said Hughes. “There’ll be a time-clock to punch in and out.”

This year there are 26 completers in the programs — that is, they’ll leave the career center with welding certificates, and will be workplace-ready.

The career center recently acquired a piece of machinery which will aid in training students to cut precise shapes out of metal. It is called a computerised plasma cutter, and is compatible with the computer-aided design software that the students use.

“If you would design something in a computer-aided design program we can cut it out using the plasma cutter, ” Hughes explained. “It’s precise enough to cut out your name.”

Hughes said he has a total of 51 students, but some of them are in more than one period a day.

“I teach industrial maintenance and all four years of welding,” said Hughes, “So I see a lot of the students for more than one period a day.”

There’s plenty of real-world work experience to be had in the shop classes, Hughes added. Recently the program scored a 1949 Ford. The truck, donated by a fellow teacher, was brought out of the woods for the students to re-build.

“We also have people bring things in that we can fix for them,” Hughes said. “We’re pretty much open the public, if they need something done.”

Tyler McDaniel is a senior at the career center. He said he wants to make a career out of welding.

“I’m in welding and FFA, and I’ve been in the program since last year. I like to weld, and I’m going to welding school after high school, in Hobart, Ohio.

“I love it.”