One of the most paramount priorities of secondary public education is to train a skilled, workforce to enter technical related career fields educated and employable.
At Turlock High School one of the more successful programs is Agriculture Welding, taught by ag instructor Chad Russell.
“The majority of our students go on to work in the ag industry and we place a good amount of them with employers,” said Russell.
Students in the program gain valuable training and hands-on experience working on fabrication and welding jobs for area companies and farms.
“We have the kids make a lot of farm equipment for local farmers and the community supports us with steady work. We get so many requests for work that I have to turn customers away,” explained Russell.
This is a good problem to have.
In recent weeks the ag welding program moved back into a newly remodeled 5,000 square feet shop, which had been under construction for the past semester. An additional 2,500 feet was also added to the shop, allowing students to work on larger, more elaborate projects.
Blake Peterson, a junior, has benefitted from the new space. Currently he is working on the fabrication of a side-dump trailer for a semi-truck; something he hopes will earn him accolades at the Stanislaus County Fair. At the 2010 Stanislaus County Fair Peterson won Best in Class for Ag Mechanics thanks to a 12-foot drag scrapper he fabricated. While awards are good for the mantle place, Peterson says he appreciates the fact that he made a product that can be used in industry. Drag scrappers can be used to level ground for a structural elevation. Peterson says he plans on going to Modesto Junior College and work in the industry, where he gets occasional after-school work.
Former students also take advantage of the opportunity to learn a trade at THS. Bryce Youngdale, a 2009 THS graduate, used his experience with ag welding to land a full-time job at a local metal shop.
“I learned a lot from Mr. Russell and what I learned definitely helped me get this job. When I was there I learned to weld with quality,” said Youngdale.
Peterson and Youngdale are just two examples of the dozens of successful students in the ag welding program. Russell, who has taught the course for five years, understands the importance of getting skilled workers out into industry for the Valley’s economic strength.
“There are a lot of retiring skilled laborers, and if we can’t produce skilled, educated people those jobs will be outsourced somewhere else,” said Russell. “If these kids stick with this program for three years and work hard and are motivated, they will get work,” said Russell.
To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.