DENHAM SPRINGS – Welding students at Denham Springs High got some career advice – and a few donations – to help them this semester, and possibly with their futures.

“They want smart, good welders. Everyone will want you if you’re good. The world is sitting in front of you,” said Delano Cline, welding process specialist with Airgas Inc. to a welding class.

The American Welding Society (AWS) and Airgas, the nation’s largest supplier of gases, welding and safety supplies, brought donations on back-to-back days, Jan. 18-19.

“I am a former ag-shop teacher, so this has a special place in my heart,” said Kelly Jones, principal of Denham Springs High School.

After platooning at Live Oak High, the Denham Springs students returned to campus Jan. 5, but the loss of equipment in August’s flooding affected the welding classes.

“We wanted to weld so bad we asked Mr. Brumbaugh if we could bring our own machines,” said Garnett Lemings, a student in a welding II class. “We were ready to get back to it.”

Teacher Bubba Brumbaugh said when a student is about to weld, it requires coveralls and shoe covers, safety glasses, a helmet with welding cap, gloves and either a welding jacket or cape depending on the project.

AWS District 9 Director Mike Skiles said he learned of Denham Springs High’s situation from his grandson, who is enrolled in the welding program. 

“He was excited about getting back into the school after the holidays, but then came home disappointed that the school didn’t have the welding supplies it needed for the students to really do the projects they wanted to do,” Skiles said. 

“That’s when I made a few calls, and before I knew it, the needed materials were on their way to Denham Springs.”

“The AWS promotes education,” said Clay Byron, of the AWS section in Mobile, Ala., which brought the donations. “We gathered $2,000 and went to Miller Electric and asked them how to make the most of this.”

Byron said the Mobile business discounted the price of its faceshields and added five extra to go with 25 welding jackets, 60 pairs or welding gloves and glasses, five grinders and 10 boxes of grinder wheels.

Hobart Welders also donated 400 pounds of electrodes, he said.

The Mobile section also is donating $1,500 to purchase additional supplies.

Meanwhile Airgas donated $40,000 worth of welding supplies, according to Bard Kahn, area vice president.

It included helmets, gloves, coveralls, face shields, safety glasses, grip pliers, channel locks, wire brushes, an assortment of rods and a plasma-cutting machine. 

“Welding is the heart of our business,” Kahn said. “Some of these students might want to make this a career. We want to support this and want to have a long relationship with these guys.”

“Welding is such a hands-on skill. You can’t just read it in a book,” Kahn told the students. “We want to promote this as a career. We hope these supplies help to make your welding program better than it was before.”

Byron, who has worked with AWS for 18 years, said his section was aware of the kind of damage flooding can do.

“Katrina affected our area. We flooded and our schools flooded,” Byron said. “We were glad to help.”

Also donating materials was Wesco Gas and Welding Supply.

“We gathered supplies. We know about flooding. We lost a store in Covington in March,” said Ricky Byron, of Wesco.

The welding industry specialists also took time to give some career advice.

Cline, of Airgas, said he has spent 35 years in the welding industry, “and it started right here,” pointing to the industrial arts shop floor.

“You have to decide if you want it or don’t want it. If it’s in your heart, listen to your instructors,” he said.

“If you become a welder, you will be tested at every turn. Every time you weld, you will want to go back and do it better,” Skiles said.

A welder has to adapt to the work site and situation whether it’s a large pipe or on a high scaffold, Cline added.

“You have got to move,” to the site needing the weld, he said. “It’s not like a plate on a table. Your welding skills have to be supersharp.”

Cline also issued a warning.

“Every place you go, you will be drug-tested. You have to be clean,” he said.

Job prospects are strong, the industry insiders said.

The average age of the welder in the field is now 51, Cline said.

Skiles added that at tractor giant John Deere, the average age is 57.

“Jobs will be there. We’re going to lose a world of welders,” Skiles said.

The American Welding Society, with 75,000 members, offers certification in welding, including specialized ratings for inspectors, supervisors and educators.

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