GLIDE — Advanced Skills Teacher Ben Kercher was assisted by three Airgas employees to teach his ag mechanics classes at Glide High School on Thursday.

The professionals were there to teach the students how to use new equipment and show them a few tricks of the trade.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking,” sophomore Joshua Hulse said. “Usually there’s no people watching you. But I’m learning a lot.”

There were several different welding stations set up, and students got a chance to try different techniques and machines.

“The only way to learn is to get in there and do it,” said Airgas Outside Sales Representative Cam Burks. “This is the best time, because they’re receptive to new technology.”

Having people in the classroom who work in welding, was not a just a great help to the students but also to Kercher.

“I’m learning as much as the students are,” Kercher said.

Kercher and Burks agreed that the students would benefit most from using different techniques, such as an uphill vertical weld.

“What we do in the world, we can’t always turn flat,” Burks said.

Burks noted that when he sells equipment to businesses, he informs them what the schools are using so that students can enter the workforce without barriers.

“It’s really helpful that these guys come in and teach us young’uns on how to basically step up and go on the right path with welding,” senior Brady Parson.

In turn, the schools try to keep up with the latest technology to keep up with the businesses. Glide High School purchased two new flux core welding machines this year.

“In every trade, we’re screaming for people and we want them to be trained,” Burks said. “There was about a 10 to 20 year span where the high schools didn’t have any money for vocational programs, because they were putting everything into computers and AutoCAD. So there was a 10 to 20 year span where we didn’t have enough people to learn the skills that we are learning now. In the last five years there’s been a big push at the high school level to bring those programs back.”

Students had used all of the welding machines before, but were learning new processes and how to incorporate old and new technology in welding.

Burks said the new technology allows welders to better control the heat input, distortion and spatter, which in term means that the welders will spend less time cleaning up inconsistencies in their welds.

Kercher estimated about 30% of students in the class were likely to start their career in a welding-related career.

Parson was determined to start a career in welding, while senior Beau Morrell said he’s considering among other options after an enjoyable experience at the high school.

“Learning welding, I really like it because it’s not ‘You can weld, you can do it, you’re done, here you go.’ Welding is more than that,” Parson said. “It’s a lot of focus, it’s a lot of hard work, you’ve got to know your thickness, know your material, you’ve got to know gas, you’ve got to know everything. You have to be on your toes, about everything. You always have to stay focused.”

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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