While some welding students at Battle Ground High School are building experience toward a career, others consider the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program a break and a new hobby.
The program can start as a basic freshman year class and continue into an entry-level welding or fabrication job, welding teacher and SkillsUSA advisor Tod Garred said.
Junior Aiden Goncalves said he mainly participates in the welding program for fun as he finds the trade to be relaxing.
“I find it to be very therapeutic just being under the hood by itself. There’s nothing else going on around me,” Goncalves said. “I just do my own thing and listen to music and go off in my own world, pretty much.”
Other welding students enjoy the competition aspect as some are selected by Garred to compete in SkillsUSA events. On Wednesday, Jan. 31, Battle Ground students competed in a regional SkillsUSA competition at Kelso High School. Students from Ilwaco to Napavine to Clark and Cowlitz counties competed in multiple skill sets, including a written test, and were judged by industry experts.
The day after the competition, Garred had not yet received full results from the event but added he was proud of how his welders performed.
The SkillsUSA regional competition included 38 students from 12 schools, who participated for a chance to advance to the state welding competition in March, a release by the Kelso School District stated. Industry representatives also attended to meet with competitors to give the students a firsthand experience about future employment opportunities in welding.
Some students at Battle Ground High School are eyeballing the welding industry as a career option, including Avery Carlson and Jason Lundervold. The two mentioned they’re seeking an apprenticeship at the United Association Local 290 Plumbers and Steamfitters labor union in Tualatin, Oregon.
While Carlson is considering a welding career, he also finds the trade to be relaxing, like Goncalves.
“Well, I just kind of find it calming, like once you flip your hood down, it just kind of quiets out the rest of the world,” Carlson said.
The program at Battle Ground High School walks welders through various skills and uses, including metal arc welding, carbon arc gouging, tig welding, plasma cutting and more.
“The stuff that students learn in here, they can take from their basic freshman year class to obtain a skilled job out there anywhere the skills they use in here, not only book work but also hands-on basic welding principles: safety, measurements, different things like that,” Garred said. "… So not only can they have something to take with them the rest of their life, but also they can have the skill to get a job.”