NEW Seminole ISD Welding Program Focuses on Workforce

Through the cooperative efforts of the Seminole Independent School District, the Seminole Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), and Odessa College, the new year will bring  a newer and more advanced welding program to the Seminole High School and the SISD Adult Education program.

The program part of a larger effort that is intended to help students who may be considering options other than a post-secondary education, who may choose to enter the workforce after high school. The curriculum will also extend to adult members of the community who are interested in learning welding as a trade. The school is on track for a similar program for nurse training (CNA) at the end of this month.

While Seminole High School has long had a welding program as an elective component of its Industrial Arts curricula, the new initiative will provide more advanced training on updated equipment, with the possibility of full certification as part of a dual credit program with Odessa College. The training will provide welding processes more in line with those in a real work environment.

In a letter to the James F. Lincoln Foundation, the charitable arm of Euclid, Ohio-based Lincoln Electric, former SEDC Executive Director Chris Jones made inquiries as to the possibility of the company providing welding machines for student use. Jones explained that Seminole is a prime industrial location situated at the northern end of the oil-rich Permian Basin, and the southern end of the largely agricultural South Plains. Jones cited a recent study by a regional workforce group that indicated a growing need for welders in the region over the next 12 years.

In response, the company forwarded the information to one of its regional offices in the Midland-Odessa area and sent two company representatives to look over the SHS facility. A suitable arrangement was chosen at the 2700 sq. ft. Seminole High School Industrial Arts facilities, and the company offered the donation of ten welding machines and a full ventilation system.

Last month, the Board voted to approve funds for the fabrication of 10 individual welding booths for student use. The booths are necessary to protect students from both eye damage from flash burns, and small debris that results from grinding metal.

“We’re trying to find the resources to bulk up our current technology program,” SISD Superintendent Gary Laramore told the Sentinel. “We want to help our kids who are preparing for the workforce, and preparing for life after high school.”

“Seminole is an incredible place, no matter what your kids are interested in, and it’s an incredible school district. We have so many offerings from an extracurricular standpoint,” Laramore continued.

“But we have another group of kids who, while they might love to be a part of that — theater, football, band, they can’t spend two-and-a-half hours a day practicing those things. They’ve got to get out of high school and get employed. Some of them need to help their parents. We’re trying to take care of that group of children also.”

Laramore agreed with SEDC Executive Director Chris Jones’ characterization of the welding program, as well as a nurse training curriculum that is also planned, as the “low hanging fruit — programs that could get off the ground faster with the least disruption in the near term. Having the existing facilities and the philanthropic help from Lincoln Electric, and additional help with equipment for the CNA program from the Seminole Memorial Hospital District,  saved considerable time and expense.

“The reason for that is the funding aspect of it — everything we’re trying to do in technology education, we’re trying to accomplish without harming anything else we’re doing,” Laramore explained. “The SEDC has been great by helping us with the college partnership to help not only our children, but our adult community also. That’s where Chris has been so important, is the partnerships between the school, and the EDC, Anderson Welding — we meet with the County Judge once a month, to see what we can do to work together. We’re going to miss him greatly.”

“And I do want to add that the hospital district donated all of the equipment for the CNA classes.”

Stacie Laramore, the district’s Crew Technology Education Specialist (CTE), adds, “With this partnership, our high school teachers will be able to work with the professors at Odessa, whether it’s welding or CNA. They’ll help support our teachers with curriculum, and on the high school side, they’ll be able to help with the dual credit part.”

“For the (adult) community,  It’s called Community Education, and they’ll also be able to help our community members get what they need to be employable. So they just work with us to make sure we’re on the right track. We’re looking at night classes for that. We don’t have a time frame yet, just because the equipment isn’t in place yet. As soon as it’s in place, we’ll start working with Odessa College on the welding side of it. ”

“With the CNA, we hope to start classes on January 29th,” Stacie Laramore adds. “We have about seven applications for the program from the Success Center, and about ten from the high school. I’ll have to narrow that down to ten through an interview process.”

With the school anticipating the arrival of new welding equipment, Anderson Welding of Seminole recently picked up much of the welding shop’s existing equipment and got it in good working order.

By offering dual credit courses, SHS is able to graduate students who have already been introduced to the skills needed to become employable. Additionally, it helps local students to have a greater chance of staying in the area, if they so choose, and if they’ve learned skills that can be applied locally.

“The beauty of what we’ve done here through our district innovation plan is, we don’t have to have certified teachers. We can have welders teaching welding, or even law enforcement offers teaching law. We did that to help our current technology program expand.” Gary Laramore said.  

“We hear from our local employers, who tell us that most of the skills needed are learned on the job. We’re telling them to come on in to our school and teach them, and when they graduate, you don’t have to train them. They’re ready to go — and our local product stays here. And with the challenge of coming from somewhere else and finding a place to live here, well if they’re already here, that helps a ton. They live here. They like it here, so let’s get them into the workforce.”

“With the CNA classes, it’s a great start in the profession,” Laramore adds. “It allows students to go try it on the ground floor level. It may be a calling for them, and they can find out if that’s where they need to be.”

CNA Instructors must be at least an RN or LVN, and must have worked in a long term care facility for at least a year.

Laramore hopes to continue to expand upon the vocational training at SHS, including a return of the building trades that were once taught here, within the next few years. Local builders, Fehr’s Construction, has expressed an interest in participating in training, and even employing locally educated work crews after graduates complete the program.

“They had a great program — they even built several houses here,” Laramore said. “We want our kids to invest their time and efforts and energy into something that’s going to make a difference here in Seminole for a long time.”

By Sam Holbrooks
Seminole Sentinel