World of opportunities with welding program

World of opportunities with welding program
Posted on 04/24/2023
This is the image for the news article titled World of opportunities with welding programBY SUE SMITH-GRIER
Read the 2023 Spring Edition of Brainerd Public Schools Magazine in its entirety HERE.

High school is just the beginning for many youths seeking well-paying jobs or careers. The foundation provided by secondary education often leads to the exploration of what can become exciting opportunities in the future. The field of welding is a prime example. Learning to weld opens doors to all types of opportunities including professional and artistic endeavors.

Instructor Curtis Brisk can attest to this fact. Brisk is also the Applied Technology instructor at Brainerd High School and an assistant football and wrestling coach. Teaching classes of 25-28 young people about the intricacies of welding keeps him on his toes. Brisk teaches four levels of welding and for those who stay with the entire series of classes, opportunities for jobs or furthering their welding education at Central Lakes College await them.

From Basics to Boeings
The initial class teaches students the basics of motors and metals. Students in 9th and 10th grade begin with this introductory class. Once they complete the basics they have the opportunity to join Welding One and they can move through Welding Two and Three consecutively if they wish to continue the course. “Each level gets more and more in depth,” said Brisk. “We go over stick welding, wire feed welding, and different transfer modes of wire welding.” Stick welding is very versatile and is often used to weld metal alloys such as aluminum, copper, nickel and ferrous metals such as steel and iron. Unlike some of the other welding methods, stick welding does not require the use of a shielding gas. Because of this, stick welding can be performed outdoors and in challenging conditions such as on windy days.

He also explained the process of TIG welding, or in technical terms, gas tungsten arc welding or GTAW. This process uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to deliver a current to the welding arc. The tungsten and weld puddle are cooled and protected by an inert gas; in most cases, argon. TIG welding is most often used in pipe welding and pipelines. It is also used in sheet metal industries for thin materials or special metals such as titanium. Students can seek out careers in aerospace and aviation with this type of welding experience.

Advancing to a Career
After completing these welding classes, students have an opportunity to go into the advanced class — fabrication — which is a project based class. In this class, students are provided the freedom to be creative. “So far, this year, students have made metal roses or metal flowers for Valentine’s Day. Right now they are working on making a grinder pedestal which they can take home,” Brisk said.

With each graduating class, Brisk has the pleasure of seeing some of his students continue their welding education at CLC. “I have a really good partnership with CLC and their instructors.” Brisk is a graduate of the CLC welding program himself. “On average we usually have four to seven kids that go on to the CLC welding program,” he said.

Even though welding classes are traditionally a young man’s path, Brisk has young women
taking classes also. “I have about six to eight girls every semester. The girls actually pay more attention to the detail of their welds than most boys do,” Brisk explained. “It’s quite surprising how good girls can weld when they are trying to break that stigma. In years past, I’ve had a couple of girls go into welding. Not everyone decides to go to college for it. They may take this skill they learn in the class and go right into the workforce as well.”

Brisk shared he has several students who have landed jobs with local companies such as Halverson Wood Products in Pine River, Metal Works and Clow Stamping. Many students get jobs in fabrication and production.

Local Industries Take Interest
Specialized learning opportunities such as welding classes require materials that may not be easily accessed. Brainerd High School is fortunate in that regard. There are local businesses that help contribute to the success
of the program. One of the largest contributors is Clow Stamping.

Clow Stamping donates most of the scrap steel students use for their classes. “We couldn’t do anything without Clow Stamping and other local businesses that help us,” explained Brisk. “They are a huge sponsor of our program.”

From Wielding the Ball to Welding with Students
Brisk first became interested in welding when he was in high school. He liked working with aluminum and decided he would take that career path. His destiny changed when he received a football scholarship and was told academically he could major in business or teaching. He chose teaching. Fortunately, he did not have to abandon his dream of welding. Since becoming a welding teacher, he can also enjoy the fruits of his labor.

Students have an opportunity to learn important soft skills through welding. “The first thing I think of is time management. Welding offers students a chance to learn time management,” Brisk said.

Self-advocacy is another one. If a student is struggling with a weld, they learn to advocate for getting help. Another thing would be communication. They are able to talk about a weld with their instructor. This is a big thing because they are able to communicate to their instructor how they can improve a weld.

When asked what he likes most about teaching, Brisk shared, “I like the students. The students are the main thing I really enjoy about my class. Most of my students, when they start the class, they’ve never welded and some of them go on to get jobs. Seeing that and their success is what I enjoy the most.”

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