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Nipomo High School joins Airgas welding education initiative 

Nipomo High School recently became one of 34 schools from 29 states to join the High School Welding Education Initiative for the first time, a program offered through welding equipment supplier Airgas.

"Nipomo High School was selected to participate ... as the teachers and the school board had an established commitment to advancing welding education; their community has a high unmet financial need; and there was high potential for Airgas associates in the area to collaborate with the program," Airgas representative Brian Jones said on May 3.

Airgas associates provide the participating schools with professional development training, continuing education opportunities for welding teachers, and donations of welding equipment and personal protective equipment.

click to enlarge WELDING PROGRESS Since 2018, the number of student programs participating in Airgas' welding education initiative keeps rising—underscoring the American Welding Society's forecast that 360,000 new welding professionals are projected to be needed by 2027. - IMAGE COURTESY OF AIRGAS
  • Image Courtesy Of Airgas
  • WELDING PROGRESS Since 2018, the number of student programs participating in Airgas' welding education initiative keeps rising—underscoring the American Welding Society's forecast that 360,000 new welding professionals are projected to be needed by 2027.

The welding education initiative has helped 117 schools since 2018, comprising 8,100 students and 560 instructors, according to Airgas. Roughly 1,000 students secured jobs immediately after graduating from a school program supported by its donations.

Nipomo High's inclusion is part of the Airgas initiative's expansion to 65 schools for the 2024 academic year—34 new and 31 returning schools—which underscores the American Welding Society's forecast that 360,000 new welding professionals are projected to be needed by 2027.

"The faculty and students can determine what type of equipment and resources are most needed for their program and will be able to customize their donation selection from Airgas," said Jones, Airgas director of risk management and corporate responsibility.

"Teachers at Nipomo High School connect with local Airgas branch team members and welding process specialists to ensure their coursework will help prepare students for welding careers, to learn more about new products and technology advancements, and to discuss career opportunities for students," he said.

One of these teachers is Nipomo High welding instructor Clayton Carlson. While the Airgas donation will allow the school to buy safety equipment and consumables like grinding wheels and electrodes for welding students, he said, the priority is to obtain a new and larger plasma cutter.

"We already have one plasma cutter but it's a little dated and the new one that we will get will have some industry standards like an all-self-contained cutting tip," Carlson said on May 6.

Carlson heads the agriculture mechanics program at Nipomo High that's split across three classes. They teach the basics of woodworking, plumbing, and welding. Two of the three courses are dual-enrolled with Cuesta College—meaning students get college credits for completing them—while the third one is pending approval.

"They'll be able to jump in on more advanced spots for getting welding certificates at Cuesta, to be certified to go out and weld skyscrapers and do structural work," Carlson said. "It puts them on a little bit of a fast track."

Carlson's student and Nipomo High senior Anthony Zelis said he loved the agriculture maintenance course under the agriculture mechanics program so much that he repeated it. He's worked as a farmhand for the past three years where he's applied his welding skills.

Zelis is on track to start as a part-time agriculture business student at Allan Hancock College. Though the soon-to-be graduate won't experience the incoming donations from Airgas, Zelis acknowledged the impact of the company on Nipomo High's program.

"In welding, we use gas all the time, and Airgas actually helps provide us with gas, so we're able to actually run our shop because of them," he said. "They're vital in our program. The amount we spend on consumable items and materials is pretty high. Them being able to help us out is very beneficial."

Fast fact

• KCBX Central Coast Public Radio will host a parking lot music sale on May 11 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Attendees can choose from thousands of music titles in vinyl and CD format for as little as a dollar. The sale will also include stereo equipment, books, and collectibles curated by Morning Cup radio show host Neal Losey from his private collection. The parking lot sale is a fundraising event to support KCBX and KCPR. It will take place at 4100 Vachell Lane in San Luis Obispo. Email [email protected] or call 800-549-8855 for more information. Δ

Reach Staff Writer Bulbul Rajagopal at [email protected].

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