CMC, western Garfield County schools weld together a program
When Jason Shoup graduated from Rifle High School in 1995, trades were still a big part of the curriculum, and he was able to go straight into welding.
“I was a certified welder right out of high school,” Shoup recalled. “I knew that I was tired of school and wasn’t destined to go to college. I knew I was destined to work with my hands. I had a good mentor who really helped me decide what I was going to do with my career.”
In the years since then, it has proven difficult to keep welding instructors in local high schools. Even Colorado Mountain College has struggled in an economy that can make part-time positions untenable.
The solution: a three-way deal among CMC and Garfield County school districts 16 and Re-2 to employ a full-time instructor.
Shoup, who has been teaching welding at Grand Valley High for the better part of a decade, was the natural fit.
“We’ve been trying to build it to the point where we had a full-time instructor and could start to grow the program,” he explained. “I’d like to get to the point where we can start getting into competitions.”
The seeds are planted.
One Friday this fall, Jesus Raygoza practiced arc welding in a corner of a cinder block building across the street from Grand Valley High. It’s his second year in the program, and he’s come a long way.
“It helped me a lot,” he said. “When I started high school, I didn’t even know we had a welding program, but thankfully we do.”
At a bench nearby, other students worked welding pieces of metal together to form a cube. When the project’s done, they’ll test their work by dunking it in a barrel of water to see if it floats.
In the process, they’ll do some work for the community and also pick up math and science.
“They’re finding students that have these trade-type classes actually have better test scores, because they learn to apply their other subjects,” Shoup said.
Thanks to CMC, they not only get high school credit, but college credit as well. Some will follow in Shoup’s footsteps and transition into the job market right out of high school.
“There’s a lot of these kids that know that they don’t want to do college, and they’re learning these skills so they can have different avenues in life,” he said. “Welding is in demand, and I think that really piques an interest.”
Others may simply want the experience for simple projects in everyday life, or as a creative outlet.
“I’ve got some people that really don’t have any interest in doing it for a career, but they want to learn the trade,” Shoup said. “You can take raw materials and turn it into something. People don’t realize in everyday life how much they’re in contact with that’s welded.”
While mechanization has begun to take over heavy industry, Shoup doesn’t see a robot working in a muddy trench outside a remote gas well anytime soon.
“There’s always going to be a place for the American welder,” he said.
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Garfield County is seeking to qualify its four west-end communities for Colorado’s Rural Jump Start program, providing tax breaks for new businesses.