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Ready to graduate, ready to weld

Ready to graduate, ready to weld

We wanted to share this article we found in Wednesday’s Redmond Spokesman. Here at REDI, we believe workforce training and recruitment is an essential Economic Development strategy.  Below is a perfect example of how Redmond’s education system is responding to the needs of employers in our hometown.

Redmond High senior Jack Stearns is going to help build racing cars this summer, just after graduating. It’s an opportunity made possible by welding.
Stearns was one of 25 students from four Oregon high schools, including The Dalles, Summit and Bend, to take part in the second annual welding competition at Central Oregon Community College’s Redmond campus.
Stearns became interested in welding in the sixth grade when he was introduced to it by a family member who was a pipe-line welder. He wanted to follow it for a career but was unable to get into his school’s elective class until he was a senior, he says because it filled up with kids who don’t take the trade seriously.
But Stearns has made the most of his three trimesters in welding as a senior. 
He won a prestigious competition at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany and secured a job this summer with Fuel Safe Systems, a Redmond company that makes fuel cells and other products for NASCAR, IndyCar and sprint car race teams. He plans to enroll in COCC’s welding program in the fall.
His classes at Redmond High have already given Stearns three college credits.
“When I come here, I’m going to be ahead of the game,” Stearns said at the March 24 COCC competition.
Redmond High welders have competed at Linn-Benton and a state competition in Clackamas, but having one so close to home is valuable, said Dan Kernion, a manufacturing technology instructor at the school.
“It’s nice to drive three minutes to a contest,” he said. “You don’t have to leave at zero dark thirty. I think it’s great that we’re competing with local high schools and kind of have that cross-town rivalry.”
Stearns hopes the contest will grow in the future.
“It’s kind of fun knowing I’m in the little town of Redmond, Oregon, and we have a nice little welding competition here,” he said. 
COCC assistant professor Chris Baughman, the welding program director, started the competition when he came to the school. He worked on similar competitions when he was at Western Wyoming Community College.
“It was a good way to connect with the high school students to help them realize trades are a good thing,” he said. “There are opportunities to get training for the trades other than going to work.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median yearly wage for welders was $37,420 as of 2015, with the top 10 percent of welders making $58,590.
Students began preparing for the competition, which was won by Daryl Richman of The Dalles, by taking an entry level exam weeks earlier. They then receive a blueprint of the project they are all required to weld. Baughman said the students can review the blueprint with their instructor in the days leading up to the competition, but they are on their own once it starts.
Each student used a blowtorch and other tools while working individually in stations in the shop at COCC.
They competed for a plaque as well as tools, donated by area companies that can help them with welding.
“Instead of cash value, I want to give them a start on the trade,” Baughman said.
The high school instructors, who are not allowed to help the students during the contest, often use the downtime to learn new techniques in the machining side of manufacturing technology from college instructor Dan Holland. He showed off the machines on the other side of COCC’s shop while students are welding, Baugh-man said.
The competition is not the only way Baughman gets involved with high school welding. The certified welding inspector, who can check the welding on projects like bridges or buildings, makes regular visits to area high schools.
“You get the kids understanding there’s a local trade facility,” he said. “A lot of kids didn’t know we existed last year.” Baughman’s visits to Redmond High help students like Stearns get positions in welding, Kernion said.
“Having Chris come over really shows that you can go from the high school level to making a good living,” he said.
Stearns is thankful for the experience with Baughman.
“He’s a phenomenal welder,” he said. “It’s really nice to have him come and show you can do anything.”

Reprinted by permission from the Redmond Spokesman

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, [email protected]