Training in advanced technology and microprocessor-equipped welding shops is not limited to the community college campuses. Two high schools in the area have listened to what their advisors from industry are telling them, and decided to include training in microprocessor equipment.
Ron Ganschienietz, principal of Collinsville High School with its 2000 strong student population, explains, “We have gone away from general curriculums – we channel kids into specific areas. Only 20 – 25% of the jobs out there demand a four-year professional degree, which means that 75 – 80% are the type that demand less than that.” The high school has a strong tech prep program for those students who are not college bound.
The welding program is an important vocational education program at Collinsville. Frank Slinkard, Welding Instructor, teaches two classes a day for 16 – 26 students in their junior or senior year. “I’ve had calls for over 100 welders in the St. Louis area this year,” says Frank. “I only have 20.” Frank has three microprocessor- controlled welding machines in his shop: two Millermatic 250MP units and one Miller Maxtron 450 with a 60M feeder. “One thing the federal government has been doing is encouraging us to buy state-of-the-art equipment. I asked for that machine (Maxtron/60M) and the state, the director and the principal approved it. It’s a good welder.
I can set it up and control it, lock in the parameters and just leave it set. The students can’t do a thing to change that, whereas with the non-microprocessor machines they can change the amperage and so on.”
Frank tries to teach by building on success. “It’s an easy machine to learn from that aspect,” he says, citing an example of a student who had never before done any MIG welding and who used the Maxtron and 60M feeder to complete in about four hours a project that normally took several students 2 – 3 weeks.
“I like to have the latest equipment so that my guys aren’t afraid of it when they go out to the job site,” adds Frank. He sticks to Miller equipment in his shop because it’s reliable and he prefers it.
Granite City Senior High School also offers vocational education welding programs. Don Kimbrell, Welding Instructor (who also teaches at Belleville Area College) explains why he asked the school to buy a Maxtron 450 with a 60M microprocessor feeder. “We seek input from local industry, from the local distributors, the suppliers, and identify the curriculum and equipment needs. With this specific machine, it was recommended that we have at least one of them. It has programming capabilities. We have one of them in our program so that we can teach the process controls to the students by the time they graduate. That one serves the purpose. As far as the hands-on welding skills, they can learn those on the other machines. So we set this machine up with four programs with some room for modifications that the students can make.”
Tom Holloway, Administrative Assistant for Secondary Education at the local school board, explains why he was willing to approve the purchase of the more expensive microprocessor – controlled machine: “What kind of a price tag can you put on getting kids out to work in well paid jobs that will last them the rest of their lives?”
An example of a student who has availed himself fully of the training and the advanced technology available at the high school is Eric Tanksley, 18-year old graduate of Granite City High School’s welding course. Before he graduated he had already obtained a welding position with A O Smith. “I’ve already started another two-year course at BAC,” says Eric.
Eric found the microprocessor- controlled Miller wire feeder “easier to learn and use than some of the other machines. You can tell exactly what heat you’re on, the wire feed speed and so on, no guessing where you’re at. You just set it for the metal and the process, bring it up on the screen and start welding.”
As Don Kimbrell says, “It raises the value of the course to have that microprocessor machine. The industry today needs people who can not only do, but can think, plan and do.”
The Future of Microprocessors
With the features microprocessor technology brings to welding equipment, and the advantages it offers the user, more and more welders and fabricators will be ma king the move to microprocessor-based equipment in the next few years. And students graduating from progressive schools like BAC, Collinsville and Granite City High School will be ready to use the new technology to its fullest advantage.
Information courtesy of Miller Electric