Happy New Year!
In 2014, both readers and contributors stressed how important it was for schools, companies and individuals to work together to solve the skills and workforce crises facing the welding industry. It’s therefore fitting to begin the new year with a story that demonstrates the impact that this kind of collaboration can have on an industry that’s ready for change, and a generation that’s just waiting to be introduced to welding. Who knows, this story may even inspire you to modify your new year’s resolution.
Welding Program Revitalized
Giving up your only meal of the day to practice welding takes a special kind of dedication and sacrifice. But that’s just the kind of commitment that Joe Williams gets from his welding students at A. Phillip Randolph Career and Technical High School in Philadelphia. The really surprising thing is that these students almost never got the opportunity to excel. You see, the welding program at A. Phillip Randall had faded into nonexistence over the last twenty years until Joe Williams inspired welding industry representatives to bring it back in 2012.
Williams was a graduate of A. Phillip Randolph High School in 1986, before the stigma on trade education had slowly strangled the program. Throughout his career, Williams never struggled to find work. But like many in the industry, Williams noticed that the workforce the industry needed was becoming harder and harder to find. So, he took it upon himself to return to his alma mater and rekindle the program that had done him so much good.
Bringing the welding program back from the dead wasn’t an easy feat. Williams was able to overcome the lingering negative stigma that kept many students from joining the welding program by talking about the industry’s tremendous career opportunities. However, the program was still held back by hurdles like decades-old equipment.
All that changed with the help of Ron Stark, senior vice president of Airgas in Radnor, Pennsylvania. Recognizing an opportunity to help secure future employees for the industry, Stark partnered with the school and Miller Electric to provide new equipment. Airgas personnel also provide training, organize field trips, gather scrap donations, and more.
Now the program boasts a diverse body of 45 students from across the city. Many of these students transferred into welding from other popular programs the magnet school has to offer, demonstrating that Williams’ efforts to show students the value of a welding career have paid off.
The opportunities Williams’ has helped to build for his students are also a form of hope, not just for fixing the industry’s problems, but for Williams’ students. Many come from modest or troubled backgrounds, some only eat regularly when they get school-provided breakfast. Students like these have found that focusing on improving their welding skills can help reduce the strain of difficult home lives, all while building towards a better future.
And speaking of the future, this is an especially big year for the revived program as well: it’s the programs’ first year with a graduating class. Eleven seniors are graduating and all of them have secure job placements.
We can’t all revive a welding school like Williams, but in light of the new year, we urge you to take some time to consider ways that you can contribute to the future of the welding industry in your area. The first step may be to expand your skill set and step into a high-demand job.
Of course, American Welding Online will be here to support you with online courses, virtual lectures, and other digital resources to help you advance your welding career.
The Whole Story
To learn more about Joe Williams, Ron Stark and the revitalization of the welding program at A. Phillip Randolph High School read, Welding Program Revitalized by Andrew Cullison, in the December 2014 issue of the Welding Journal, free with your AWS membership.
New Year’s Welding Resolution
What’s your welding resolution? Let us know in the comments below.