Fusing together a career

Annual welding competition brings students to area manufacturer

Blount County high school welding students recently got the chance to show off their skills and check out the type of professional environment where they could one day go from earning a grade to earning a paycheck.

Heritage High School won the annual welding competition held March 12 at DCS Electronics. The competition, sponsored by AirGas, took place at the DCS Electronics facility on Big Springs Road.

Each year about 30 students from William Blount and Heritage high schools compete in the event. Individual winners took home prizes such as welding helmets, gloves and other accessories.

Cecil Yearwood, a DCS supervisor and an organizer for the event, said the 2009 competition was the first year they were involved in the event. Each year the competition has rotated between Heritage and William Blount high schools and Yearwood said planners opted to move the event to DCS. “We decided to have it here to level the playing field. We wanted a neutral site, and we wanted to get them used to the fabrication/manufacturing end of welding,” he said.

Yearwood said it is important for students to be in the workplace seeing where the knowledge they learn in class is being utilized. “When you look at welding, people think of workers being down in a ditch working in the dirt,” he said. “But there’s more to it. There’s a whole variety of welding approaches. There’s more to it than out working in a ditch. There’s an incredible amount of opportunity.”

State Sen. Doug Overbey was on hand and congratulated the students on their work. “This is a unique collaboration of educators, students, large and small businesses,” he said. “They have come together to encourage students to choose welding as a career.”

HHS Welding instructor John Davis said he was proud of his students. The students worked hard in the days before the competition because much of type welding at the event wasn’t part of their current unit of study, he said.

“They all worked very hard. Some students came in before school and some stayed after school. We had an early-bird welding class,” he said. “These are very, very good students, they worked hard and they deserve all the accolades.”

The winning team included: Ayla Branton, Jonathan L. Brewer, Cody A. Daugherty, Ivan Diaz, Brittany R. Duncan, Vernon S. Fuller, Kalyn A. Goncalves, Gerald A. Johnson, Kevin C. Kelly, Hunner L. Millsaps, Evan Moser, Daniel B. Smith, Ernie Teaster, Clayton I. Vallery, Anthony J. Wilkins and Chad Humphrey.

Bruce Suddarth, welding instructor at William Blount High School, was proud of his students. “This is a great thing for our students to be able to do,” he said. “This is the first time it has been held at a neutral site. It gives students an opportunity to be at an employee’s site and the competition is designed to include every student.”

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