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Rifle High students learn a trade and more in welding class

Re-2 News
Theresa Hamilton
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Students work on a project under the supervision of Brad Bessey as part of the agriculture welding program at Rifle High School.
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RIFLE – Bailey Rogers and Tristin Bair looked at the metal pieces on the Rifle High School welding room floor, trying desperately to figure out a way to force them into a perfect square.

After a few minutes of explaining the situation to Agriculture Welding instructor Brad Bessey, they found a solution.

“You’re not the first person to cut a piece of metal the wrong length. It’s O.K.,” reassured Bessey. “Get another piece and be sure to be careful with your measuring.”



Rogers, Bair and 18 other Rifle High School students are part of the welding program at Rifle High School. The program began four years ago and teaches the students the basics of arc welding, mig welding and serves as a dual enrollment class through Colorado Mountain College for Welding 100, Safety for Welders.

The class is very popular.



“We have 20 students this semester, and more that wanted in,” Bessey explained. “It’s a hands-on experience.”

Through support of Colorado Mountain College, which holds welding classes in the facility in the afternoons and evenings, and money from the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education program, the welding program at Rifle High School is well equipped.

“We have great equipment, an excellent welding shop and excellent support,” he said. “The Rifle High School and Garfield Re-1 administration have been very supportive of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes. As schools face tighter and tighter budgets, many schools have eliminated CTE programs.”

Some students began taking the class as an opportunity to build projects and minimize their traditional academics, but Bessey says he has seen a change in the focus of his students.

“I had a college recruiter come in and talk to the students about the need for welders. They began to realize that they could make a career out of this. Then they began to see some of the jobs in the area go away. It made them realize that without an education or a trade, their earnings could be minimal.”

Bessey incorporates traditional reading, writing and arithmetic in his classes as well.

“They have to read and follow directions. They have to write, and welding is all about math, measuring, geometry. It’s practical math application,” he explained.

Bessey treats his classroom like a workplace. He councils and mentors students, but places them in leadership roles within specific projects so that they can collaborate and develop work site skills.

Bair is also taking a CMC welding class for college credit in the evenings. He is hoping to make a solid career out of this new skill.

“This class teaches us so much – leadership, how to create quality workmanship, math – a lot of skills we will need later in life to be a good workhand or to apply in the field,” he said.

Rogers has already begun making a modest tiding from his welding skills. He has been making horseshoe hearts that he sells in his mother’s store.

“Eventually, I’d love to have my own welding shop,” he said.

Beyond the technical skills, Bessey says the relationships that he develops with the kids are the most rewarding part.

“I get to develop a personal relationship with these kids and we talk about their welding projects, but we talk about other things like their grades, and other things that may be impacting them.”

Bessey said the community support from Todd’s Welding and Murr Welding has helped the program succeed. If anyone in the community has specific projects they would like to develop, he and his students would be interested in helping.

The welding program at Rifle High School is another way Garfield Re-2 is preparing students for their next step in life, whether that is college, technical school or the workplace.

For information on the Rifle High School welding program, contact Brad Bessey at 665-7725.

For information on the Garfield Re-2 School District, contact Theresa Hamilton at 665-7621.


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