Light a Spark Grant Recipient Introduces More Students to the Welding Industry | MillerWelds

Light a Spark Grant Recipient Introduces More Students to the Welding Industry

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Learn how Union Mine High School grew its welding program from 30 students to more than 250 students with the Light a Spark Grant.
Students show Miller welding gear their school won

Endless opportunities in welding

More and more, the trades are being recognized as viable and highly desirable career options. For those who choose welding, there are many opportunities. In fact, there are projected to be 314,000 openings in the welding profession by 2024, due to recent industry growth and the fact that current professionals are retiring and advancing.  

Exposing young people to welding early — while they are still in middle and high school — is key. But due to a lack of funding, many schools can’t afford to offer welding programs. Without this kind of exposure, students may never know if welding could be a successful and enjoyable career option for them. 
This is why Miller partnered with the AWS (American Welding Society) Foundation to create the Light a Spark Grant, offering starter packages of equipment and supplies to high school ag-ed programs, career and technical education classes and practical skills courses. Chosen schools receive a turnkey Miller welding starter pack valued at more than $15,000.

Union Mine High School: Light a Spark grant recipient

Nicole Copp, an agriculture education specialist and program advisor at Union Mine High School in El Dorado, California, understands the need to support welding education better than anyone. Her school was one of the recipients of the 2020 Light a Spark Grant, which provided a welding starter pack to help her school grow their welding program. Their supplies included:

  • Miller® Multimatic® 220 AC/DC welding power source, with FCAW and SMAW processes
  • Miller® Spectrum® 375 X-TREME™ plasma cutter
  • Oxy-fuel cutting pack, including regulators, cutting and heating tips
  • SMAW, GMAW and GTAW whips with consumable kit
  • Welding cart, ArcStation welding table and safety screens
  • PPE and hand tools, including welding gloves, jacket, auto-darkening helmet, chipping hammer, wire brush and more

For Union Mine, this has been a total game-changer. Starting with just 30 students and a few simple pieces of welding equipment, the school built their welding program to more than 250 students with the help of the Light a Spark Grant. 

“It was so fun opening those first boxes,” Copp said. “It was exhilarating to see how excited the students were and how much they love the welding unit. We’ve come a long way very quickly, and I really credit the Light a Spark Grant, as it steered us in the right direction.”

Taken care of with Miller

“Miller is really good at taking care of customers. They have tons of educational resources. I’m a huge user of OpenBook™, and it especially came in handy all of 2020,” said Copp. “With all of the care and resources and follow-up, it was obvious when we started ordering that we were going to go Miller. The kids have been blown away at the capabilities of the Miller Multimatic machines that allow them to practice MIG, TIG and stick welding.”

“Our advanced class is now a project-based class,” she explained. “We have a fundraising auction where our students are responsible for making some of the auction items. There have been tables, benches, windmills and even a barbecue trailer. They are involved from planning and budgeting to the finished product when it’s sold. There also have been opportunities in the community. People reach out for help on projects, like fences that need fixing, and the kids are excited to help out with those, too.” 

“I will highly recommend Miller to anyone who asks me because I have been so satisfied, not only with the products we’ve received but all of their resources and customer service. It’s overall a great company to work with,” said Copp.

Grant opportunities to start or expand welding program

If your school is looking for an opportunity to introduce students to the welding industry, applications for the 2023 Light a Spark Grant are available now. If your school already offers welding courses, the Welding Workforce Grant is another option to help improve and expand your training program. The deadline to apply for the Welding Workforce Grant is March 15, 2023.