A new facility in the Fort Osage School District will give local students a direct path into well-paying, in-demand jobs in welding.
“I’m pretty excited. I can’t wait to get out here and start working,” welding technology teacher Darren Limback said at a ribbon-cutting on Friday.
Actually, he’s already been working quite a bit. He designed and over the summer built – with the help of two nephews and his father, Richard – the 18 new welding booths in the school district’s Career & Technology Center.
“Each student will have their own welding booth,” Limback said.
The program draws students from the Fort Osage, Blue Springs, Grain Valley and Oak Grove school districts. It has 27 students at the moment, and the new facility has a capacity for 36, a number officials hope to hit next fall.
It’s a two-year program for juniors and seniors. They send two and a half hours a day in class and work toward a certification through the American Welding Society.
Superintendent Jason Snodgrass said the welding program prepares students for work in the area marketplace. The Mid-America Regional Council said last year that the median wage in Kansas City for metal workers, welders and cutters was $16.85 an hour, $1.05 below the national average. The school district says a journeyman welder can make $30 an hour.
Mike Pantleo, director of the Career & Technology Center, said welders are in demand, and he pointed to another advantage for students just getting out of high school.
“They’re able to go and earn money without college debt,” he said. A student leaving the program will have have learned the five main areas of welding and should be ready to walk into an apprenticeship, he said.
The Career & Technology Center is on the campus with Fort Osage High School as well as Fire Prairie and Osage Trail schools. Other programs include culinary arts, health sciences, cybersecurity, nail technician and college-prep engineering.