Mississippi School Gives High School Students a Look at the Future of Fabrication and Welding
Desoto County Career and Technology Center High School boasts a combined welding and fabrication program that attracts students with clear-cut goals in mind. The students see the industry in and around the Mississippi area — shipbuilding, steel, fabrication and the art — and these high-school-age pupils are eager to learn the trades they hope will take them to local employers and beyond.
Jason Gresham has been shaping the lives and careers of high school students in DeSoto County for 15 years. Gresham averages between 30 and 40 high school students every school year. The students range in age from 16 to 18, with the majority of his class members either juniors or seniors looking for a career in industry-rich Mississippi.
He teaches the basics, starting students with stick welding and cutting torches because he believes a good foundation is the start to a career in welding. As the semester continues, the students progress into MIG and then TIG processes.
But in today’s multi-faceted world, his class does not end with welding alone. To ensure his students are sought-after prospects in the real world, Gresham's high school class is a revamped collection of disciplines that include machine shop, sheet metal work and welding.
“We focus on these high school students to give them a real sense for what type of skills are marketable, what they must have in the workplace,” says Gresham. “Metal fabrication calls for more than one skill today, unlike what it used to be. We teach these kids how to do it all inside the Career Tech Center Metal Fabrication shop.”
Gresham has outfitted his classroom with Miller Electric Mfg. Co. products and classroom educational tools from his first day on the job. He is always looking for new and improved ways to allow his students that unique opportunity to learn. New Miller ArcStation™ welding tables arrived this year, giving the students a stable platform to work on skills.
His lineup of Millermatic® and Diversion® 165 welders are at the core of the learning experience at DeSoto County.
“Nothing against the other welder manufacturers, but the Miller machines that we have here in the Metal Fabrication class have been great to operate on a daily basis,” says Gresham. “And the assistance that I get from Miller with products and customer service is great, giving me more time to work with the students.”
The Millermatic welders are the magnets that draw most students. MIG welding by its nature is easier for the young welder, and the students find — more than any other machine in the shop — the Millermatic MIG welder is a snap to set up, allowing them to get to welding with less hassle and more arc time. The high voltage output rating combined with a wider amperage range gives young welders the control they need. The single-phase and three-phase power gives Gresham the flexibility he needs within his classroom.
“With up to twenty students at a time, class space can be at a premium — if I need to hook up a machine on a single-phase power source, I have the ability to do that and keep the students welding,” says Gresham.
Students like senior Derek Metcalf find more time welding and creating, thanks to the reliability and ease of use of Miller welders.
“It is always reliable, fires right up and takes very little time to get going when class starts in the morning,” says Metcalf. “I have more time to work on projects.”
Like many of his counterparts, Metcalf aspires to take his high school learning experience into the real world. He aspires to track his father’s career with the United States Coast Guard. He’s lived much of his life following his father from station to station around the country, and it’s the life he wants when he graduates, with a bit of a twist:
“I want to take these welding skills into the Coast Guard,” says Metcalf. “There’s so much to weld — ship hulls, different engines, so much to do.”
Fellow student Josh Faxon has similar objectives with the Coast Guard but wants to take the welding skills he learns at DeSoto County underwater for ship repair or deep-sea assignments.
“I think that would be so cool to weld underwater,” says Faxon. “I want to study Marine Sciences in the Coast Guard and take that knowledge and continue to build things, hopefully underwater all the time.”
Connie Wong revels in the fact she is one of the few female students in her welding classroom. She says she focuses on the artistic side of welding and enjoys the process, from concept to final sculpture. In addition to the metal fabrication class, she studies art. She likes the sense of accomplishment that occurs when she joins pieces of metal together into something artistic.
“Welding steel is a such a versatile medium. I’ve done sculptures, signs for school and art work from scrap metal,” says Wong. “I enjoy the feeling of independence, of creating something and the accomplishment that comes with a finished project.”
Gresham is thankful for the work from nexAir of Memphis, Tennessee. His sales rep, Drew Woodruff, has been an intregal part of advising him on the right Miller equipment for the welding lab.
Gresham takes pride in the aspirations of his students and follows the careers of his students as they venture into the workplace. And he’s already thinking about his next class, hoping in the next year he will be able to add more Millermatic with Flux-Core wire process capability to his lineup. Gresham will continue to ensure his students get a quality education, learning with the latest welding technology. He understands that many of his young people are relying on him to prepare for the next step — and entrance into the workplace.