Orange Park High sparking student interest with welding class

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 9/21/22

ORANGE PARK – Welding instructor Sherman Smith watched intently as a student used a welding simulator.

A good welder is as tough to find, Smith said. The rest of the class murmured about what …

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Orange Park High sparking student interest with welding class

Posted

ORANGE PARK – Welding instructor Sherman Smith watched intently as a student used a welding simulator.

A good welder is as tough to find, Smith said. The rest of the class murmured about what score was received: this is competitive. After the student gets a score of 91, Smith’s praise was measured.

“All right, all right, try again,” he said to quiet the classroom.

Smith said he needs students to understand the purpose of education, and the reasons to have self-control and discipline. Following directions, preparation and timeliness are expectations from the instructor with decades of experience in the field and teaching.

“I want them to be prepared for life in our society,” he said. “They’ve got to be disciplined to follow my rules. Why? It’s to protect them and others.”

The modern world is full of distractions. For impressionable youth, the emphasis on rules before the fun is stressed by the danger of the field.

Smith graduated from Orange Park in 1979 and recalled taking welding classes. A move to teaching made sense because he liked helping younger people.

“It’s about having an opportunity to give back what was given to me. I had some people who invested in me and took (the) time to talk to me. I tell people who want to get into teaching, you better love kids. You better love people,” Smith said.

Welding is just a part of it, Smith said. The students learn what excellence is because they will be working on projects for homeowners or businesses one day.

“One student came by this morning … he said, I remember those push-ups I had to do,” Smith said with fondness. “Back then, if you were late to class, I didn’t write referrals. The way I gauge character is if they did it. If the kid had the discipline, that showed ownership.”

The impact of the program is felt by students. Senior Sal Robinson added the courses offer a chance to be independent.

“Being able to support yourself with a career is something that’s important to me,” Robinson said.

Senior Jeron Cuyler said there are so many types of welding and it's far removed from an office job. Junior Emily Kuchler said students notice welds, good and bad, and build an appreciation for them.

“(Welding) is so small and so simple but it affects people throughout the world. You never really realize how much stuff is welded together,” Kuchler said. “You can look around … looking at other boats, you think, ‘They could have done better with that (weld).’ I like that aspect, looking around at real-world things. Even part of this room, somebody had to weld that together.”

Back in the classroom, the reality is that welding is a high-skill job always in need of workers. The changes in the field have been enormous and Smith said he maintains contact with companies. He said he pushed for higher wages in the field and relayed its importance.

“The demand is great. You’ll never be able to not have human welders,” Smith said. “With ships, trains, planes, all kinds of stuff, it’s needed. The biggest thing about these companies is finding dependable people. If they find dependable people, they can train them.”

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