OTTUMWA — More than 70 high school students put their welding to the test in a competition on the Indian Hills North Campus Friday. The event evaluated the students’ skills and prepared them for state competition.
Karen Swanson, director of high school programs for Indian Hills, called it a friendly competition, but “it’s also to get them ready for a national competition,” added IHCC welding technology instructor Rick Guffey. SkillsUSA will host students at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny April 28. Winners of that competition will advance to nationals.
The high schoolers, representing 14 different school districts, are part of IHCC’s Career Academies that meet at IHCC and in Cardinal, North Mahaska and Sigourney school districts. Career Academies allow high school students to take classes in IHCC’s technical programs, earning college and high school credit simultaneously.
“They’re getting dual credit,” said Guffey. Students spend a half day at their high schools fulfilling their obligations to earn a diploma and spend the other half day earning college credit toward a technical degree.
If students begin the technical programs in their junior years, said Swanson, they can complete the curriculum and earn their technical degrees by the time they earn their high school diplomas.
At Friday’s competition, students completed GMAW (gas metal arc welding) and SMAW (shielded metal arc welding) welds and took a written test covering basic welding skills and equipment. “It’s all a timed event,” said Guffey. Students had 10 minutes to complete each weld before submitting them to officials from Vermeer Corporation in Pella for judging.
Swanson and Guffey said the competition gives the students a feel for what a welding job would be like. The need for welders “is rising rapidly this year,” Guffey said, increasing the chances that students who complete the IHCC program will find work.
Students were also allowed to use the college’s welding simulator Friday. “It’s a very good teaching tool,” said Guffey. It teaches welding without using material. “You’re not using any steel. You’re not using any wire,” Guffey said.
And, he added, “No one gets burned.” A student who shows up in flip flops and shorts will be on the simulator that day, Guffey said.
The IHCC welding program partners with businesses in the region to create a curriculum that meets the current needs of the industry. “We have had excellent success with the quality of graduations from Indian Hills,” said David Landon, manager of welding engineer with VerMeer.
Two of Vermeer’s four plant managers are IHCC graduates, said Bruce Severson, one of the two. Severson, Landon and Weld Engineer Tech Jeff Redding judged student welds Friday.
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