ANGLETON — Though just a freshman in high school, Manuel Hernandez already knows which career he wants to pursue after graduating.
“My goal is to be a welder like my dad and make enough money to buy my own house,” the Angleton High School student said. “I want to make my mom proud.”
Hernandez was among hundreds of Angleton ISD students who participated Friday morning in the American Welding Society’s Educational Mobile Unit, which was parked next to Wildcat Stadium.
The nonprofit, which writes codes and standards for the welding industry, along with its sponsor Lincoln Electric uses the traveling classroom as a way to inform students about the opportunities in the welding field, said Daniel Stopnick, workforce development specialist.
The tractor trailer includes four welding simulators, a variety of metal sculptures made from household objects such as spoons and information about the welding industry, he said.
“The careers and welding trailer was started in 2011 basically as just a career recruiting tool to grow the industry and meet the demand for welders,” Stopnick said.
The organization estimates there will be a need for about 300,000 welders by 2024 in the U.S., Stopnick said.
For most students, welding may not be their first career choice; however, Stopnick said welding can provide an alternative for those not wanting to necessarily pursue four-year degrees. While each school’s program is different, it is possible to become a welder in just two years or less, he said.
“This is a great way to break them into the industry and get their hands on a torch in way that is in a safe and positive,” he said. “You definitely sweat for every dollar you earn but at the end of the day it is good, honest work, and it is a very in-demand position to have.”
Angleton High School junior Kaylee Page-McGaughey walked into the trailer Friday not really interested in the field of welding, she said.
However, once she tried her hand at one of the welding simulators provided by Lincoln Electric, her opinion changed, she said.
“I saw it with my own eyes what they do and realized it wasn’t as lame as I thought it was,” she said.
Brazosport College welding students also came out to support growing the industry by serving as volunteers, including Thomas Mendez, who is in his second semester at the campus.
“I love these machines because they helped me a lot in my early years in high school learning how (to make) my angles and how fast to go,” Mendez said. “There really are so many things the machines help with.”
After helping the students work through a simulation of cutting a straight line into a piece of metal, Mendez discussed what the students did right and wrong while showing them how to improve next time, he said.
“It was pretty fun,” he said.
For information about the American Welding Society, visit www.aws.org.