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Students In Montana Are Now Able To Learn Welding In High School


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Learning a trade is an extremely profitable endeavor. Welders, electricians, carpenters, and plumbers are able to apply their skills to everyday life and support themselves quite easily (after all, trades are always in high demand). However, not many high schools offer the opportunity for students to forgo the more traditional college degree career path in favor of trade certifications.

Libby High School in Montana is not one such school. In early February, students in welding instructor John Love's class prepared to take their final welding tests in order to gain their certification. Students dressed in blue and gold welding vests worked hard away, grinding their welds to the width required by the American Welding Society (AWS). The welded pieces of metal were judged by Love along with Certified Welding Inspectors (CWI) Brian Schmaing and Blake Thompson from Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC).

"We are here to qualify the students for American Welding Society certification," said Schmaing. "In order for that to happen, they have to have a CWI conduct the tests."

The 'bend' test is the final trial: the welded piece of iron, called a 'coupon,' is placed in a small pneumatic machine. The apparatus pushes a 'bend former' down onto the plate and bends it into a 'U' shape; if the welded plate does not break or show any stress fractures, the student has passed. Junior Joe Downard was the first of his peers to succeed -- he is now a professional welder.

Love reported that most of his students want to become pipe welders when they graduate, although two out of every three welding jobs are in manufacturing. Schmaing agreed that it is a popular career choice, as being able to weld pipe and fit the pipe are extremely useful skills.

"The welders who can do both are getting harder and harder to find," he said. "The welding program (at FVCC) is tailored to what the students want to do, depending on what their needs are."

However, no welder would be able to do a thing without the proper tools. Welding gear (especially Tulsa gear) is needed to perform any kind of welding work; the school must rely on welding supply shops to find helium tank rentals, and to perform air tool repair services when needed. Armed with the right Tulsa gear, these students will be professionals in no time.