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Mt. Pleasant Welding Students Meet with Industry Leaders

Story by Mike Christen – The Daily Herald

MT. PLEASANT — Students enrolled in Mt. Pleasant High School’s newly established welding certification program received a visit from a potential future employer Thursday as they continued to hone their new skills using the industrial-strength tools at their disposal.

During the visit, a group of seniors enrolled in the program, taught by Tony Grooms, were working on the metal bases for a series of bird feeders that will be placed through the greater Mt. Pleasant school campus.

The welded bases will hold in place feeders to be constructed by fellow students at the school and used as part of a school ecology study.

Students from the city’s middle, elementary and high schools will then record data about each birdhouse that will be analyzed by the high school ecology class to determine the general health of the city’s bird population.

The project is one of several cross-campus collaborative projects that embody the school’s STEAM initiative combining science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics. Other projects underway at the school include the construction of a tiny home, a splash pad for the city and a new media arts lab that now serves as a studio for school’s new television network.

As the students worked forming the rebar to the specifications from the school’s art director, others in the class were busy practicing creating a T-weld, a basic welding T-shaped joint welded from two Flatt pieces of metal, a pattern used throughout the manufacturing and construction industries.

Each student who completes the program will receive a certification accredited through a partnership with the Tennessee College of Applied Technology.

“It is a big thing for Mt. Pleasant,” said Terry Sparks, as he cooled down a piece of hot metal. “This is something that we have never had before.”

Sparks, 17, said he plans to enlist in the Marines after graduation this coming spring.

“I am going into the marines to be a welder,” Sparks said.
Columbia-based BMC Metalworks President Jimmy Phillips watched as the students continued their work.

“Starting at this age, that is the key,” Phillips told The Daily Herald, after speaking with the students. “I see this as the students getting a head start. Even this early on, we are very impressed with where they are. It is a major building block.”

BMC metalworks is a full service machining, press repair and rebuild, fabrication, and field team services company by providing 24-hour emergency service. This year, the business is celebrating its 45th anniversary.

For incoming candidates, Phillips said the company offers apprenticeship programs.

“Even if you don’t go to college you have an opportunity to enter the workforce as a skilled laborer,” Principal Ryan Jackson told the students.

“This is about giving you an opportunity and a foot in the door.”
Four years earlier, Jackson, the school’s newly named principal, announced that Mt. Pleasant High School, Middle School and Elementary School will become the nation’s first public K-12 STEAM campus with the ultimate goal of aligning students with collaborative goal-setting to solve societal issues. It takes the traditional STEM education model concentrating on science, technology and mathematics, with the addition of the arts, to give students a more process-oriented approach to learning.

Although schools across the country have implemented the STEAM model through collaborative projects, no other public school system has done so at such a scale and across all grade levels.

The initiative embodies Jackson’s goal of breaking out of the industrial-age teaching model of listener and lecturer, and instead empowering students to become the next generation of creators, thinkers and problem-solvers through project-based learning and experiential learning.

The announcement came with the launch of a mechatronics program and Project Lead the Way course for students, setting a roadmap for pupils to graduate high school with both a diploma degree of applied science in advanced integrated industrial technology available through a dual enrollment partnership with Columbia State Community College.

Students also have the option to graduate with a technical certificate.

Now, with both programs establishes with assistance from a $500,000 from a Columbia-based research company Parker Hannifin and its predecessor CLARCOR, Mt. Pleasant is now working to build relationships with other local companies that are searching for skilled workers in a region with record low unemployment.

Across the manufacturing field there is an ever increasing demand for skilled professionals who can design, program and operate technology. Reports indicate that in the next 10 years manufacturers will need to fill 4.6 million jobs.

“Economic development happens on the student level,” Jackson said. “Here we can build those relationships with students and companies that are both active and working in the present. These young kids have a lot of talent to share with the industry here.”