Electra is known as the pump jack capitol of Texas, and with such an oil-based economy, there is a strong need for skilled craftsmen. Perhaps foremost among the trades in demand is welding. With that need all around, the Electra Independent School District is working to empower high school graduates with what they need to thrive in the industry.
The school launched a vocational welding program this year. It will give students the basic skills needed for an entry level welding job and make them eligible for certification from the American Welding Society. "Not that they are going to be master welders, that takes time, but this is an entry level program, but this gives them the basic skills to be able to go into the workplace and be trained and be ahead of the curve going in," explained Electra ISD Superintendent Gary Nightingale.
The school worked with local business and industry, such as Cameron Solutions, to forge the curriculum. Cameron Solutions manufactures equipment used in the oilfield. They employ many welders. "Several other businesses in our area have expressed interest in working with us as we develop this and hopefully in the future to utilize their expertise to help instruct our kids," said Nightingale.
Students are appreciative for the opportunity the course provides. "We're learning how to run beads real well, butt weld, putting pieces of metal together right now. We've started to cut into our welds and see what the weakness is and if we're doing it right and after were supposed to start getting blueprints and build stuff," said EHS Senior Nicholas Adams.
Adams currently plans on being a diesel mechanic, but the lure of big salaries pipeline welders earn also has his attention. Either way, the class will help him. "We'll have a leg-up on the competition; if we want to go somewhere to school to learn to weld we'll be ahead of the class," he said.
The program started out small, with a few hand-picked students. The hands-on instruction lasts for a 2 hour block. Eventually, the plan is to develop apprenticeship programs with local business and industry. "This is an opportunity to provide that for our community and also for our kids. We're just thrilled," said Nightingale.
While the classroom is hot and smoky, students understand they are getting a big hand up. "It is pretty hot in there, but it will all pay off in the long run," said Adams. They understand it's less about working with metal than it is about welding a solid future.