Sparks are flying Thursday nights in the agriculture shop room at Brownstown Central High School.
Eighteen adults — 14 men and four women — are receiving an introduction to welding and an opportunity to try a different type each week in a two-hour class.
The sparks not only are coming from the welding tool making contact with a piece of metal.
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The class also is sparking interest in the adults to do welding on their own and maybe integrate what they learn into a career.
“It was kind of nerve-racking at first,” Andrew Fenton of Seymour said of the first class Oct. 6. “But once you get the first couple ones, I got more comfortable with it. Then you just go to town and burn it up.”
Fenton said offering a welding class to adults in the community was a good idea.
“You never know when you might need it,” he said. “Whether you use it a whole bunch or not, it’s always good to know. There could be job opportunities that come from it; you never know. If nothing else, people learn a valuable skill.”
In June, Blake Hackman, the agriculture teacher and FFA adviser at Brownstown Central High School, received approval from the school board to offer the introductory welding class for adults.
Once he opened up registration at the beginning of the new school year in August, about 20 people expressed interest in it.
“I wanted to stop it at 15, but there was so much interest, I went a little over because usually, somebody doesn’t show up,” Hackman said. “But they all showed up, so I had 18 people.”
The $50 fee covers the cost of consumable materials, and the school corporation is covered insurance-wise.
The first class Oct. 6 covered safety and techniques for five areas — arc welding, metal inert gas welding, tungsten inert gas welding, oxy-fuel welding and plasma cutting.
The second class Oct. 13 gave the adults an opportunity to try arc welding. The remaining four classes will focus on the other four types of welding.
“I just want them to have an understanding of what the basic elements of all of the different types of welding are,” Hackman said. “It’s just a basic understanding. None of them are going to be certified. I want them to have a taste of what it’s like. … They build their interest in it so perhaps next year, I can offer more of an advanced course if they are interested in more advanced training and other types of welding processes.”
Fenton said he decided to take the class because he often works on cars, so he figured it would be good to learn about welding.
“I might ask for a welder for Christmas,” he said, smiling.
Another adult taking the class, Shawn Ross of Freetown, said he signed up after Hackman told him about it.
“I have always wanted to learn, and I have asked him to help me learn. Now all of a sudden, he had a class,” Ross said. “I always have a lot of stuff to weld. I thought I might as well learn myself.”
By the end of the class, Ross said he hopes to have a basic knowledge of each type of welding.
“It could open up more opportunities for jobs and stuff like that,” he said.
Barb Decker of Seymour said she is taking the class because she thought it would be interesting to try welding.
“My grandfather welded, and so I thought this would be something that would be different, something that would be interesting, so I thought I would just give it a try,” she said.
When she tried welding for the first time, she said it was harder than she thought it would be.
“It was challenging. It was hard to see,” Decker said. “I’m very impressed with the people that weld.”
Once the class is done, she said she may be able to apply welding in some small projects.
“I’m not going to do it professionally or anything, but there may be projects that at some point might be something I could do,” she said. “Mostly, I think it will just be fun to try something that I’ve never tried before.”
Decker said she’s glad a welding class is being offered for adults.
“There are people here who have welded before and just want more information, and then there are some of us that haven’t ever done this at all and just want to either try our hand at it or just have a new experience,” she said. “I think it’s great for all different levels of experience and interest.”
Hackman was the only instructor in the first class. But from the second one on, five students in his introduction to welding class are helping the adults as they practice different types of welding.
“Those students know exactly what they are doing with these techniques,” he said. “To interact the adults with the students, I love it.”
Junior Reece Covert is one of the students currently taking the introductory class in school.
“I’m kind of a hands-on type of person,” he said. “I learn more with hands-on, like technology and stuff, so I just figured this was the class for me.”
In that class, the students already have learned what they are now teaching the adults.
“It’s a good experience because you actually get to teach what you’ve learned, and by that, it helps you do it. By teaching it, you get better at it,” Covert said.
He said it has been fun seeing the adults go from learning about the different types of welding to trying each of them.
“When they mess up, they see what they are doing wrong, they listen and they correct it,” he said.
Decker said it was great to have the high school students helping during the second class.
“Having them here was a really big help because we have kind of one-on-one support, and they are very good instructors,” she said. “The student I had was very patient and explained well and was very encouraging. He did a very nice job.”
Fenton said he agreed.
“They kind of help get the bugs out because (Hackman) can’t work individually with everybody for the whole time. You’ve only got the two hours, so it helps a lot,” he said.
Hackman is teaching one welding class this trimester and will do two next trimester. Brownstown has offered welding for more than 50 years, and Hackman is in his 30th year teaching it.
But today, welding isn’t offered in many high schools, he said. Students have to go to a vocational school to take advanced classes.
“Those teachers there are very, very good. That’s why I just teach a basic class. If they want more advanced welding, they go to Bedford,” Hackman said.
Teaching the adult class has sparked Hackman to learn more about welding, too.
“There’s so much more out there that has changed over the years since I first started teaching,” he said. “Now, I’m pursuing other methods and welding techniques.”
With the success of the adult class, Hackman said he may try to offer other types of classes in the future, including landscaping or advanced welding. He needs between five and 12 people to offer a class.
“If they have an interest, I just need to know what their interests are,” he said. “I need to make sure there’s enough interest to spend the time preparing the class. If I have the knowledge and feel that there’s an interest, I’d be glad to teach it.”
Blake Hackman is teaching an introduction to welding class for adults at Brownstown Central High School.
The first two classes were Oct. 6 and 13 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the agriculture shop room at the school. The remaining classes are Oct. 27 and Nov. 3, 10 and 17.
If any adults have ideas for future class offerings, share them by emailing Hackman at email@example.com.