Swanton High School is offering a potentially lucrative career opportunity to seniors who may not choose college.
Last Tuesday, Swanton Welding and Machine Co. began an introductory welding class at the school for students seeking a different option once they graduate. Scheduled in two-hour blocks twice a week, the course will lead the students through basic welding techniques that could land them jobs in the field.
Swanton Welding supplies the equipment and the instructor, Nick Nijakowski, an employee since 1992. The course is considered part of the school curriculum and will not cost students extra.
Nijakowski said the Swanton school district met with company president Norm Zeiter last year to request a class for students who may not have a game plan after graduation.
“They were looking for a way of offering students that didn’t fall into the category of college a different option,” he said. “They’re starting to reach out a little bit more and saying, what can we give these kids to teach them more of what’s out there in the real world.”
The course will demonstrate three fundamental welding processes: shielded metal arc welding (stick welding), gas metal arc welding, and flux cored arc welding. Depending on the students’ drive, all can be gateways to lucrative careers, Nijakowski said.
“There’s so many avenues that welding can take you, different career paths,” he said. He noted traveling the country as a pipefitter or settling into the routine of a job shop.
“It teaches the kids the hands-on stuff,” Nijakowski said. “Not everybody’s college material, so I think this gives them a great option on what’s out there – a great field for different work. We’re always going to need welders and plumbers and electricians.”
No certification tests will be given. “We’re just laying down the foundation, showing them what’s out there, showing them what they can do,” Nijakowski said.
Eight students are taking the inaugural course, a small enough number to afford them greater one-on-one guidance.
“When I met them they were excited to learn this,” Nijakowsk said. “I think once they see the sparks flying and stuff happening, I think they’ll really enjoy it.”
Swanton Local Schools Superintendent Chris Lake said he hopes the welding course will be a model the school district can use to encourage other area businesses to offer courses in their fields.
“We’re really trying to provide students with the opportunity to go out and explore careers,” he said. He also hopes the welding course will inspire some of its students to study further.
Zeiter said the company ultimately hopes to teach the students a trade that will be beneficial. He said he hopes the welding course will become a permanent part of the high school’s curriculum.
“We really need a skilled workforce in the next generation coming up. Hopefully, this will generate an interest in manufacturing and welding,” he said.
Nijakowski said it’s hoped the one-semester course can be expanded to a two-year course that also includes junior class members.
“I’m counting on my experience to show these young guys what welding is all about,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.
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