Sparks fly at Pulaski County High’s new lab | Education

DUBLIN — Several classmates dressed in protective green jackets and hard hats watched as sparks lit up the space where Cory Phillips was working a piece of metal with a tool he and the other students call a “MIG.”

Phillips, a Pulaski County high school senior, said he was demonstrating a process that essentially uses gas to melt metals and ultimately attach or fuse them together.

Briefly exiting the store where a red van was parked, Phillips pointed to the black stand of the vehicle he believed several students were working on. He said he even brought a friend’s lawn mower to work and fix.

Phillips said he would still love welding and sees the field as something he could potentially move into.

“It’s a good skill to have,” he said. “My backup plan will always be welding because I love it. There is heat, fire and sparks. All sorts of things.

Phillips is among the students who have recently begun taking advantage of the new welding lab at the Pulaski County High School Vocational and Technical Center. The lab officially opened about a month ago, but it took several years to do so, school officials said.

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“It’s been a long time coming,” said Megan Atkinson, CTE’s school system director.

The lab, a roughly $1 million project, provides students with a much more dedicated and spacious space than they had before, Atkinson said.

The district’s most recently completed project is another milestone in the efforts of many area school divisions to expand and improve their CTE programs.

School officials and elected officials from various communities in the New River Valley have over the years provided strong support for initiatives encouraging pathways into fields such as welding and nursing – jobs that do not necessarily require going through often more expensive four-year institutions.

One initiative, for example, has been the Access to Community College Education scheme, which offers local high school graduates two years of free tuition at New River Community College in Dublin.

Atkinson said the goal of career tech programs is to present students with as many opportunities as possible.

“The purpose of education is to prepare you for your career,” she said. “We look at their life after high school.”

Bob Petty, a welding instructor at Pulaski County High’s CTE center, said he discovered the craft after a factory he worked for closed, prompting him to attend NRCC where he chose to study welding. welding.

“It changed my life,” said Petty, who has also taught at the NRCC since 2006. “I stepped out of the frying pan into the fire, so to speak.”

Evidence of the welding program’s work can be seen throughout the new lab.

Many small circular tables that look like metal bedside tables are clustered near the center of the room and the space where Petty often demonstrates his skills to his students.

Placed high on a wall near the entrance is a welded ribbon of metal.

Other components of the lab include 20 separate cabins made of cinder blocks. Among the objects seen in the cabins are the smoke extractors that suck in the smoke created by the work of the students.

Prior to the lab’s completion, welding work took place in the agricultural workshop at the CTE center, Petty said. One of the problems with the old space is that it was set up more for farm-type welding, he said.

“That has long been insufficient,” he said.

Petty said the lab can simulate what local industry is doing to help students get hired, and he named companies such as Volvo and Hubbell Lighting as potential employers.

The program consists of three welding classes, each lasting one semester. The first class, or Solder 1, becomes available for the first time in grade 10.

Additionally, Petty said, students can earn dual-enrollment credits with NRC through Welding 2 and 3 courses.

While they can certainly be pursued at the community college level, students who are dedicated and talented enough can be certified at the CTE center lab, Petty said.

“It opens the door for them,” he said.

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