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McCreary Central High School students get a head start on welding careers

mccreary county high students weldingStudents at McCreary Central High School (MCHS) are getting a head start on their career and earning college credit at the same time, all without leaving the school’s vocational shop.

Karl Watson, professor and program coordinator of the Somerset Community College (SCC) Welding program, is the instructor for a dual credit welding class at MCHS that is not only teaching career skills, but is also keeping some students in school.

“Some of these kids say this class is one of the only reasons they show up to school,” said Casey Daugherty, behavior interventionist at the school. “Seeing our students excel in something they enjoy doing, which also offers them a chance at a successful career, is very inspiring. We have been happy to partner with SCC for the program.”

TayShon Yancey, a 17-year-old junior from Stearns, is enrolled in the welding class.

“This is a great opportunity,” Yancey said. “Not only to learn skills, but also for future jobs.”

Yancey said he wasn’t sure if he would take the dual credit class or not, but after meeting Watson at SCC during a tour, he decided it would be something worth pursuing.

“I knew he (Watson) would be willing to really work with us and try to teach us,” said Yancey.

Yancey now has a certification in horizontal welding and hopes to get multiple certifications before graduating from MCHS next year.

Eventually, Yancey said he plans to attend SCC to further his education and would like to hit the road and travel as a welder.

Like Yancey, Brandon Meece, also plans to work in welding after taking Watson’s class at MCHS.

“This class is something to look forward to each day,” said Meece, an 18-year-old senior. “There’s always something new to learn that opens up future job opportunities.”

Both Yancey and Meece are using skills they are learning in the shop and applying them at home. Yancey said his family and friends enjoy working on old cars, and knowing proper welding techniques has helped him lend a hand to projects. He is currently working on restoring a Jeep CJ5 and welding parts and pieces together has made the job easier. Likewise, Meece and Brandon Watters, also a student in the dual credit welding class, are turning an old Bronco into a buggy, Meece said, and they started from scratch.

“I’m able to do some fabrication at home,” said Meece.

The agricultural education/FFA teacher at MCHS, Cameron Lee, said the class has proven to be very beneficial for students.

“After this class, we already have several students signed up to continue at SCC and weld as a career,” said Lee.

Getting high school students ready to test for a certificate in welding was not a simple task, said Watson, because in order to test, welders must have a blueprint ready class for welders. The blueprint class is taught on SCC’s campus, but isn’t something typically delivered to dual credit students. Watson and SCC associate professor Eric Wooldridge, a manufacturing engineer who also leads the college’s 3-D printing program, worked together to design an online class that was piloted at George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester last fall and delivered as an online class.

“In today’s modern manufacturing world, being able to understand drawings both in digital and hardcopy forms, makes a fabricator less like to make mistakes when welding,” said Wooldridge. “Manufacturing, even welding, is so automated that understanding terms like geometric dimensioning and tolerancing, as well as understanding digital design and controls, is essential for success.”

Because of the online pilot model developed in Winchester, and the lessons learned from that experience, other students will soon have the opportunity to enroll in it, which will mean advanced certification availability for students like Yancey and Meece.

“We see the writing on the wall in terms of regulations and requirements in welding careers and we want to give our people a competitive edge,” said Watson. “It’s been a pleasure to work with these students in McCreary County. They’ve learned a lot and these skills will serve them well in the future.”