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Schools in Pikes Peak Region helping fill welding field demand

WOODLAND PARK, Colo. (KRDO) -- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for welders is expected to grow by 8% by 2030.

In response to this, the welding program at Woodland Park High School is booming. To help with the interest in the trade, the school just received a generous $6,000 donation of much-needed materials.

District officials said the school was struggling to keep up with providing materials to the students with the increase in steel prices and the increasing popularity of the welding program at the school.

According to the Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce, people going into trade jobs has declined over the last generation. Additionally, trade programs have been cut from schools.

However, in recent years, schools around the Pikes Peak Region have started a movement to introduce trades back to students in order to spark their interest to fill these in-demand jobs.

"As we see some of the older generation retiring out of trades like welding or electrical field, we need to entice and bring those students on," Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Miller said. "We need to entice those students who are good working with their hands, they're good thinkers, in addition, this also teaches them why physics, algebra, different things are needed throughout their high school career because they can apply this to those areas when they move on to go into a trade."

"I believe the need for welding positions has arisen as the baby boomers leave the industry," Miller said. "We're not seeing the youngsters of the baby boomers deciding they're going to go into that trade. I believe as the schools, Woodland Park is a perfect example of bringing back the welding program, we're going to be able to fill those jobs."

The economy is thriving along the front range, which has also led to a shortage in a construction-based workforce.

"All trades are struggling for people," Woodland Park School District School Board Mick Bates said. "There are people needed plumbers, electricians, welders, there's a shortage across the board. There's a shortage in the trades but particularly welding because it's used in so many facets of everything. We're fortunate that our economy is thriving like that. We just don't have the workforce to meet that need. So what they're doing here with these young people is a very valuable asset. He teaches them business practices at the same time as welding. So they're leaving the high school well-balanced."

The welding instructor at Woodland Park High School, Gary Adamson, explained that he helps with job placement in the community by recommending his certified students to employers in the region.

"For a lot of students they enjoy working with their hands, and welding can have a mixture of academic skills and trade skills," Adamson said. "Welding can fit into a lot of paths. They could be a certified welder, a diesel mechanic and be doing stick welding, they could get into auto body and be doing 'tig' and 'mig' welding.

According to Bates, a recent graduate of this program moved to Colorado Springs and landed a welding job starting at $75 an hour.

"Everyone wants to take this class," Senior Woodland Park High School Welding Student Jarrett Freed said. "There's so many different outlets to welding. There's nothing you can point to that hasn't been touched by a welder at some point."

Students can enroll in the welding program at either Woodland Park High School or District 11 in Colorado Springs and gain certification through the course to leave high school ready to join the workforce.

Interested adults can gain certification through Pikes Peak State College or an apprenticeship.

"A lot of kids want to immediately go into the workforce instead of doing more college and there's a lot of different paths," Adamson said. "There are internships, pipe fitter steam fitter trade unions, as well as independent manufacturing places in the Springs."

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Natasha Lynn


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