Letting the sparks fly

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 30, 2010



ST. ROSE – Aspiring professional welders from eight area high schools were recently given the chance to showcase their talents during a competition at a St. Rose trade school.

Students from Destrehan, Hahnville, Lutcher, St. James, Assumption, Amite, Independence and Priestly Charter high schools competed in written and physical tests to show off what they learned in a year’s worth of welding classes at Associated Builders and Contractors Bayou Chapter in St. Rose. Chris Weber, director of instruction and facilities management at ABC, said 34 students, mostly high school juniors and seniors, competed on two levels of welding expertise.

“Participation in our welding courses has grown by leaps and bounds considering that we only had nine students last year,” Weber said. “This competition is a tool that can show them where they are and what they need to improve on. It gives them extra motivation to continue to bear down.”

Following a 40-minute written test that quizzed students on safety, hand tools, power tools and math, the students donned protective helmets and fire-retardant clothing and headed out to welding stalls for a 15-minute skills assessment that determined actual welding prowess. Weber said beginners executed a T-joint weld, while more advanced students were assigned an open V-groove weld.

“Representatives from some of our area industrial plants served as judges,” Weber said. “They looked at quality, size, technique, consistency and spatter. Judges also look at how well work spaces are cleaned after the job is complete.”

Weber explained the competition is just part of an accelerated push by area trade schools to get more high school-age students interested in a more industrial career. He said construction site managers have been working with workforce development groups and guidance counselors in an effort to attract potential future welders, pipefitters, plumbers or carpenters – jobs that are in constant high demand.

“Not everyone is cut out for the college experience,” said Weber. “There are plenty of high school graduates with the common knowledge to work with their hands. We give them the training necessary so that they can jump into a job and know exactly what they need to do. The opportunities are available for anyone willing to put forth the effort to learn these skills. We are talking about great jobs that pay some real good money.”

Weber said the top three finishers in each division received trophies and a cash prize. In the beginners division first place went to Keith Accardo of Lutcher High School, second place went to Dagean Hardy of Independence High School, and third place went to Terry Bonin Jr. of Priestly Charter School in New Orleans and Brittan George of Lutcher High School.

At the advanced level Max Callegan of Assumption High School took home first place, Colby Dillon of Amite High school placed second, and Brad Aucoin of St. James High School finished third.