A welding competition at Lexington Technology Center for area high school students turned out to be more of an opportunity for some of the students than they first believed. Two MTC welding instructors, Ray Thomas and Caleb Fulwood, were among the judges for the competition.
“We were very impressed with what we observed,” said Thomas. “So we began discussing ways to allow LTC students the ability to continue their welding education at MTC and receive exemption credit for their high school welding achievement. “
After visiting the Lexington Technology Center and seeing the high-quality, hands-on training the students were engaged in, the Midlands Technical College welding program decided the training the high school students received was comparable to the training they would receive in their first semester at Midlands Technical College.
The result was a successful articulation with Lexington School District I to enroll high school seniors in welding courses this summer, with an entire first semester of credits already awarded. The agreement was approved by Dr. Ron Drayton, MTC Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dr. Karen Woodward, Superintendent of Lexington School District One.
Eighteen students, including Jake Wainscott and Alexander Riley, applied and were admitted to MTC this summer as second semester students at MTC.
“Before this I pretty much thought I’d go get a regular job,” said Wainscott. “But when our welding teachers came to us with this opportunity, I thought it was an excellent opportunity to get a better job. It was too good to pass up.”
Wainscott said he first got into welding at LTC as a sophomore and is excited to be taking his skills to the next level.
“At LTC you can only get so much training,” he said. “But I can learn a whole lot more here (at MTC). It’s all hands on and that’s how I learn. I’d rather do hands on than sit in a classroom.”
Wainscott and Riley’s hands-on training began at Lexington Technology Center, whose program is known throughout the Midlands as being among the most demanding of students.
“At LTC we don’t just build grills and trailers,” said LTC welding instructor Kevin Gratton. “We teach to the state standards. From day one, through level one, two and three, we keep them on task. “
Gratton, a 31-year veteran of teaching welding to high school students, said he advises his students to get as much education and technical knowledge as they can.
“The days of welders having a weak mind and a strong back are in the past with the technology we use today,” he said.
LTC student Alexander Riley said he took advantage of the LTC-MTC partnership for three reasons – the certifications, the experience and the money.
“More certifications mean more opportunities. And the more experience you have, the better job you will be able to get later,” he said. But he said the biggest factor for him was the potential to get a good job, earning a good salary and helping his parents. Department of labor statistics show that certified welders in the Midlands can earn to up $25 an hour, or more with overtime.
Thomas from MTC and Gratton from LTC both agreed this new collaboration in education benefits everyone. The students save money and time by entering MTC with a semester already behind them. The college increases the number of students preparing to be welders. The welding industry will benefit from having more, certified welders to employ. And LTC has more proof that its welding program is top-notch, hopefully attracting more high school students to LTC.
“This was a huge collaboration all around,” said Thomas. “Hopefully next year we will admit even more welding students to give them this opportunity.”
Alexander Riley (left) and Jake Wainscott enrolled at Midlands Technical College with their first semester of credits already awarded due to the quality of work they completed at Lexington Technology Center.
Jake Wainscott was one of 18 LTC students who applied to the Midlands Technical College welding program over the summer.