Welding Class Sparks Students' Bright Futures
Sometimes it takes only opportunity and quality instruction to spark student interest that leads to a rewarding career. So it is with Mt. Vernon High School’s welding program.
In only two short years, the MVHS welding program has generated internships, community partnerships, and students lining up steady and lucrative jobs even as they master skills and earn professional certifications.
For Mt. Vernon senior Kolin Napier, the appeal of welding was clear. “I’ve never been one to sit down and stay still,” he said. “I need to be working with my hands and doing something.”
Now in his second year of welding, Kolin is already working four days a week as an assembly technician at Moorfeed Corp., making feeder bowls that are shipped around the globe. After graduating, Kolin will apply his welding knowledge and skills in a full-time job at Moorfeed.
Mt. Vernon junior Jack Hufty started welding class last year with some influence from his family: his uncle and grandfather are welders. Once Jack started the class, he knew he was in the right place. “I really liked it. I decided to stay with it after my sophomore year. Now I’m a second-year welder. After I get all my certifications, I plan on graduating early. This will give me a steady job right out of high school and into my adult life.”
Jack – who will begin an internship second semester with Estes, a local metal fabricator – credits welding teacher Jason Wiley with helping improve his skills, particularly by showing him tips that give him the steady hands needed for stick or arc welding.
Mr. Wiley, a sheet metal journeyman, began teaching in 2007 while still working in the Sheet Metal Workers Union. He started teaching at Mt. Vernon High School in the fall of 2021, when Assistant Principal Stan Wilkison led an effort to convert an underutilized space into a state-of-the-art welding instruction area, made possible in part by generous contributions from community partners. Here, welding booths enable students to learn shielded metal arc welding, gas metal arc welding and gas tungsten arc welding. The program currently draws 38 students from Mt. Vernon, three from Greenfield-Central, two from New Palestine, and one from Eastern Hancock.
Wiley knows what it means to connect with students like Kolin, who understand that they need to stay active to learn in productive ways. “I relate to students who enjoy working with their hands,” he said. “We can lose students if we don't provide these opportunities. When we can tie students to a skill that they love, it's a win for everyone.”
Wiley has embraced the challenge of adjusting the curriculum to align with the needs of local employers. For instance, when he learned there was a need for feeder bowl welders in Hancock
County, he made adjustments so that students learn gas tungsten arc welding earlier – a shift that prepares students for internships and jobs sooner rather than later. The tactic has paid off: about half of the 20 students in advanced welding courses are currently in internships throughout the community.
In addition, students receive educational certification from the American Welding Society (AWS) SENSE program. These certifications indicate to prospective employers students’ readiness to learn and work, creating a potential advantage for graduates in both pay and job security. When students finish Mt. Vernon’s welding courses, they also receive 21 dual enrollment credits through Ivy Tech.
Mr. Wiley shared that the greatest reward stems from helping students improve their work.
“That's one of the reasons I teach. I enjoy seeing students progress in their skills and see them achieve their dream job. I love it when students call me back and share experiences they have had in their successful welding careers.”
As for younger students considering the Mt. Vernon welding program, Jack Hufty offers sage advice: “Just do it. If you want to see if you like something, try it. If you don’t like it, you can always switch to a different class.”
By jumping in and trying CTE classes, many Mt. Vernon students are discovering skills, developing their talent, earning college credits, and finding work that provides a lifetime of inspiration and rewards. Mt. Vernon students and parents can review a number of available pathways at https://mvhs.mvcsc.k12.in.us/pathways, which is linked on the Mt. Vernon High School counseling webpage.