Kevin powell img

Bluffton High School welding program continues to exceed expectations

As the Adams Wells Manufacturing Alliance members walked into the classroom at Bluffton High School, we were greeted by welding instructor Kevin Powell. We could tell he was excited to show us the classroom’s latest upgrade. “What we have here is a virtual welder.” It’s all most like a high-tech video game, except this virtual welder can show students many of the fundamental principles behind this process, all in different types of scenarios.

Powell explains, “I agree with this technology to a certain point because the kids are excited to try it out. But I’m old school, and I tell myself, let’s just go weld.” Although Powell admits, that he cannot watch 40 people holding a welding gun simultaneously. But, he can track and monitor every student’s experience individually with this virtual reality device.

AWMA Executive Director Joe Elkins observed that combining a virtual environment and hands-on welding experience seems like the ideal conditions for students to learn these necessary skills to succeed.

Transitioning from the virtual welder, we talked about Powell’s classes at Bluffton High School. “Currently, I am teaching two engineering, four welding, manufacturing and transportation classes,” Powell explains with the state’s Next Level requirements; next year’s class structure will be changing to focus solely on welding.

These classes will range from the principles of welding to welding one and two. For most students, completing the welding program takes about a year right now, but when the Next Level programs begin, students will have more class options to expand their knowledge.

Elkins asked, “Last year, how many certified welders did you end up with?” Powell responds that 31 out of 38 students became certified welders from the AWS (American Welding Society). “Obviously, these achievements help sell our program in our industry and with (the student’s) parents too.”

In Wells County, many companies do not require AWS certification for employment. But suppose a student has obtained this certification and applies to local companies for a job opportunity. In that case, employers know what these applicants can and cannot do based on this certification.

Powell explains to his students, “You are competing against people that have 20 years experience. You need to ask yourself, what sets you apart? Is it your certifications? Do you know how to read a blueprint?” Students’ knowledge, abilities, and certifications definitely help level the playing field, giving these young applicants a better chance of getting the job.

Currently, this year’s class is working on flat and horizontal positions, and knowing these skills is essential to pass the AWS certification — which many of these students will be taking in May. Powell said that the class projects help students better understand the techniques they need. In their first semester, students use plasma cutters, MIG and Arc welding in flat positioning. In the second half, students go out of position and focus on horizontal welding. Learning these vital skills help the student pass the four-hour certification exam.

From virtual welding to hands-on learning, Powell’s enthusiasm and innovative approach help Bluffton High School students pass the AWS certification exam and get the knowledge they need to begin their highly-skilled manufacturing careers.

Blog stories you might like …
Ac convocation

Making a difference in student’s lives, AWMA’s convocation series

Manufacturing companies representing Hoosier Pattern, Micromactics, LLC., ETI – Elkhart Tri-Went Products (formerly Elkhart Products), and S... Read More

Wayne metals img

Wayne Metals — Committed to Excellence and Safety

On a brisk February morning, AWMA (Adams Wells Manufacturing Alliance) members were invited to meet with the management and engineering team... Read More

Discovering your career path img

Discovering your career path — Harry Potter and the four houses

Joe Elkins, director of the Adams Wells Manufacturing Alliance, is determined to help students living in the Adams and Wells County to start... Read More