A potentially lucrative career, fused together with national accreditation.
Nine students from the welding program at Bend’s Mountain View High School received industry certifications as part of the school’s advanced welding program.
“I didn’t really know exactly what it was,” said Alex Stiles, a senior at Mountain View, about how he joined the program.
Stiles enrolled in the class just a few months ago.
“Beginning of the year, yeah, my welds looked terrible,” Stiles said “They were really bad. But everyday I just worked, welded.”
As of last week, Stiles is one of nine classmates to be certified by the American Welding Society as a heavy industrial and manufacturing welder.
“Gives me a whole other perspective of opportunities that I can have,” Stiles said.
“And where a lot of students are practicing and getting nervous about taking AP tests, these students are head stuffed in a welding booth practicing, practicing, practicing,” said Jeff Papke, the Welding Instructor at Mountain View.
Few Oregon schools offering the certification program
Six years ago, Mountain View became one of five schools in the state to offer national welding certifications for their students yearly.
“We’ve had anywhere from 8 to 14 students become certified through the American welding society,” Papke said.
Papke said around 25-50% of his former students went on to pursue welding professionally.
A welding inspector from Airgas, a national chemical industry company, volunteers to test the students.
“First, start off with the weld and then you have to measure it,” said Kody Ford, a senior at Mountain View, “If the measurement doesn’t come back correct, it automatically fails. Then you go to the cutting, the acid etch, then breaking the weld to check if the edges melted.”
Even before they’re certified, students create pieces in the shop to help the community.
Like a fair cart, metal signs for local businesses, or this year’s project, a flatbed trailer.
“It’s pretty cool that you can use your imagination and piece stuff together and it kind of comes to life,” said Nick Hopper, a junior at Mountain View.
While valuable skills and a potential career come to life in the process.
“I want to go into trade,” Stiles said “This is a high one on my list because I really enjoy it. It’s super fun. Hopefully I have my own business and this gives me experience on what to do.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 400,000 welding jobs existed in 2020. The industry is expected to grow by 8% each year.
According to Papke, not many welders are nationally certified, so providing this free service gives the students in his shop a real leg up.