High schools are increasingly re-introducing and expanding technical education courses in response to demand from employers. Many of this growing pool of well-compensated jobs can be acquired with a high school degree and a year or two of technical training or an assoicates degree. As Pittsburgh Tribune Review’s Larissa Dudkiewicz points out in the news article below, students such at Chloe Steeb could graduate with two highly-sought-aftter welding certifications on her resume. Located about 30 miles north of downtown Pittsburgh in Butler County, Seneca Valley School District serves Cranberry and Jackson townships, as well as the boroughs of Harmony, Evans City, Zelienople and Seven Fields.
When Chloe Steeb told her father she was interested in taking welding at school, he was excited.
After all, it is a job Gary Steeb has been doing for more than 35 years at Robinson Industries in Zelienople.
“I think he was a little surprised when I asked him,” said Chloe, 16, of Cranberry Township. “He thought it is was worthwhile.”
Today, Chloe, a sophomore, is excelling in her welding class at Seneca Valley Intermediate School. She is currently working on a project to make a bedside table out of horse shoes and hopes to move onto an advanced welding class.
“It’s just something that Chloe likes to do,” said her mother, Pam Steeb, who credits Chloe’s welding teacher, Joe Ehrenberger, as a big reason her daughter has excelled in class. “He’s a great teacher. I know my son had him as well.”
Ehrenberger, who teaches applied engineering and technology, said a total of 56 students are in the welding class and seven, including Chloe, are females.
He also teaches metal fabrication, a prerequisite class for ninth and 10th graders, that Steeb is also taking.
Students who take the welding course have a chance to earn their Level I certification through the American Welding Society. To do so, he said they must pass several aspects of welding, from horizontal work welding to plasma cutting.
Ehrenberger said there is talk of offering a Welding II class next year, something he is working on getting approved, but there hasn’t been official approval from the school board or administrator.
Pam Steeb said she learned during open house about the possibility of the advanced course being made available to students next year and told her daughter.
“She could actually leave high school with two certifications as opposed to just the one,” Pam Steeb said. “That the kids have that walking out the door, that’s a pretty big deal.”
Ehrenberger, who has been in the district 15 years, is now in his sixth year teaching welding. Several of his students have gone on to work for pipelines, welding fabrication shops or as welding engineers. He said there are more than 550,000 welding jobs available in the United States right now. The variety of jobs range from industrial to welding microscopic surgical equipment in pristine conditions.
“Welding isn’t just steel,” he said. “Pretty much everything that you touch in the course of a day has probably at one time been welded together.”
Pennsylvania’s workforce is swelling, but is also aging, according to a 2009 assessment of the occupation for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. The report found that the welding industry employs much fewer women than men, making women a potentially untapped labor force.
Chloe said she has been asked if she took the class as way to take part in the feminist movement to prove all the guys wrong, which wasn’t her intention.
“I took it because I want to do it. I would love to hopefully have a career in it someday,” she said, adding that she is also interested in being a veterinarian working with horses.
Pam Steeb said her daughter has grown up watching her husband and son tinker around. The family lives on a farm and has a large garage, where they guys fix a lot of their own equipment, she said.
Ehrenberger said anybody can weld, they just have to put the time into it. It helps to have a background in geometry and an understanding of physical restraints, welding pressures, or the type of steel or material being used.
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