Texas Students Fund Welding Program With Their Own Work
There is often a year-long waiting list to buy projects completed by welding students at Woodsboro High School. The proceeds from the deer blinds, benches and barbecue pits the students make and sell help fund the welding program.
The Woodsboro High School welding and drafting program in Woodsboro, Texas, offers students a chance to build their welding skills — and learn a little entrepreneurship on the side.
The school’s welding program, which enrolls about 50 students each year, is basically self-funded. Proceeds made from selling class welding projects pay for new welding machines, student field trips to area welding shops and businesses, and student scholarships at the end of each year.
The students fill orders that come in through the program’s website. They’ve even had customers in Dallas — six hours away from Woodsboro.
“They see our website, see our products through friends or relatives,” said Eugene Fricks, the school’s welding and drafting instructor. “We’ve got orders coming from all across Texas.”
The welding students specialize in building barbeque pits, deer blinds, benches, tables, chairs and customized signs. The waiting list for orders can approach one or two years long. But customers are willing to wait since they are essentially getting an item for only the cost of the materials.
While the student labor is free, the students are gaining valuable skills and training — without having to pay their own money for materials to complete large projects. Students in the welding and drafting program often partner with students in the school’s wood shop next door to complete projects such as deer blinds. The wood shop is overseen by Alex Bayarena, the school’s construction systems instructor.
“They get the skills by building other people’s projects, and not having to spend their own money,” Fricks said. “We keep getting emails and orders, and we can’t catch up.”
Fricks, who is also a graduate of Woodsboro High, has been the welding and drafting teacher at the school for 19 years. When he came, the school overhauled the shop in order to implement a full welding program.
“Around here we have pipeline welders, fab welders, structural welders — companies are begging for them,” Fricks said.
In the program’s five welding classes, students can learn stick, MIG, flux-cored and TIG welding.
“Just like when they go out to work for a company, the freshmen are usually the helpers in class and the more experienced kids are the welders, and we team them up,” Fricks said. “They learn from each other.”
Juniors and seniors in the school’s welding program can also earn dual credits that will transfer to community colleges. Many of the Woodsboro students transfer the credits to nearby Coastal Bend College in Beeville, Texas, where they can also earn welding certificates during high school for the work they complete in their Woodsboro classes.
Revenue from selling the students’ welding projects typically totals a few thousand dollars each year. Some of that money is used to award scholarships to the top students who are going on to a college welding program.
The money earned from the projects also helps the program stay current with the latest welding and cutting equipment. Machines in the Woodsboro welding shop include several Millermatic® 252 MIG welders, a Syncrowave® 210 TIG welder, several CST™ 280 stick welders and a Spectrum® plasma cutter.
In addition to the experience the students get from completing project orders for the public, they also compete in pipe and plate welding contests, including the Nueces County Junior Livestock Show, where about 100 area high school welding students compete each year and have their welds judged and X-rayed by inspectors from local refineries.
“We have a lot of support from the community,” Fricks said. “The kids are trained in the best skills, and they get the benefit of completing these low-cost projects.”