Industry Leaders Co-Sponsor Symposium to Raise Welding Awareness among High School Educators | MillerWelds

Industry Leaders Co-Sponsor Symposium to Raise Welding Awareness among High School Educators

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The future is bright for welding. That was the message conveyed to over 100 Wisconsin high school counselors, educators and administrators at a recent symposium on welding careers sponsored by Miller Electric Mfg. Co., Airgas, Miron Construction and AZCO Inc.


Charlie Lamb (at right), a senior at Hortonville High School, built this mini-chopper from scratch during his junior year through a partnership that allowed him to use the resources at his area technical college once a week after school. Lamb currently works with a company that restores Ferraris and plans to pursue a business degree after graduating high school.

The future is bright for welding. That was the message conveyed to over 100 Wisconsin high school counselors, educators and administrators at a recent symposium on welding careers sponsored by Miller Electric Mfg. Co., Airgas, Miron Construction and AZCO Inc. (additional company information below).

Designed to inform attendees about the salary potential and wide variety of careers that can originate with an education in welding, the Career Horizons: Welding symposium featured presentations by current welding students, graduates of welding programs, industry experts and high school administrators.

“I had no idea how many career pathways were available through a welding education until I became involved in this program,” said Larry Haase, principal at Menasha High School. “We’ve all ascended through our careers by starting at step one, and a welding education can be a launching pad for a wide variety of careers in dozens of industries.”

Attendees at the Career Horizons: Welding event got a feel for the intricacies of MIG welding during some hands-on training from Miller Electric’s welding experts.

Attendees learned that there are 2,900 unfilled welding jobs in Wisconsin alone and that 360 new openings are created each year with an average salary of nearly $19/hour and potential salaries of well over $100/hour. Further, there is an anticipated nationwide shortage of over 200,000 welders predicted by 2010, which will only increase the demand and salaries of trained welders.

A major goal of the event was to encourage high school personnel to reach out to the industries and businesses in their communities to form partnerships that can improve the quality of the schools’ technical education programs. Menasha High School and AZCO Inc. offered an example of such a partnership. Journeyman Steam Fitter Scott Meneau visits the welding class at Menasha high school as a guest teacher once a week and consults with the regular teacher several times a week to discuss difference questions that arise during class.

“There are things that the teachers don’t know, but that the skilled trades people are able to help out with, and that’s going to help the students develop a deeper understanding of the material,” explained Menasha metals teacher Paul Koski. In addition to expert knowledge, the company also assisted the school in selecting and purchasing welding equipment, ventilation systems and other materials.

“My suggestion to anybody who will listen is you have to get out there and meet the people in your community,” Koski continued. “The community members want to help, but they often don’t know how to do it.”

The partnership has also benefitted AZCO. Menasha High School senior Matt Spangler took advantage of Meneau’s expertise and, after completing six semesters of welding in high school, jointed the UA Local 400 and began an apprenticeship at AZCO after graduating high school. “It’s been pretty awesome having someone like Scott (Meneau) come in and look over your shoulder to tell you what you’re doing right and wrong,” Spangler said. “It’s really helped me become a better welder.”

Miller Electric Mfg. Co. President Mike Weller was impressed by the welding and technical skills of Oshkosh North High School seniors Lucas Dowd and Casey LaMarche for their junior year project — a custom chopper built from the ground up on Thursday nights throughout the school year. 

Another focus of the symposium was to dispel the myths that welding is a low-paying occupation with little potential for advancement. To that end, attendees were unanimous in judging it a success.

“I never realized the advancement and career potential that welding has,” commented Janesville High School Guidance Counselor Audrey Fiore. “I always thought that if you wanted to become a supervisor you needed to attend a traditional four-year college.”

The disposition toward traditional four-year educations among high school educators, counselors and administrators is largely a result of their experiences in such institutions, noted Fiore.

The Career Horizons: Welding symposium is an initiative of the New North Manufacturing Alliance, a consortium of businesses, educational institutions, chambers of commerce and other organizations within an 18 county region of northeastern Wisconsin. For more information on the New North consortium, visit www.thenewnorth.com/.

Miron Construction is one of the country’s largest full-service construction management, design-build, industrial services, pre-construction and general contracting company.

AZCO Inc. is a leading industrial construction services firm serving the power generation, manufacturing, metal casting and food and beverage industries.

Airgas is the United States' largest distributor of industrial, medical, and specialty gases and related equipment, safety supplies and MRO products and services to industrial and commercial markets.

Miller Electric Mfg. Co. is a leading worldwide manufacturer of Miller brand arc welding and cutting equipment and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Illinois Tool Works Inc.