By Paige Lambert
Annamarie Voldase, Lehman High junior, excitedly looked over the class list for her senior year. Voldase will be one of the first students in Lehman’s first welding program.
Lehman will have its first welding and construction technology facility and program August 2016. The 3,000 square foot facility, which costs about $1 million, will house about 14 welding stations and multiple construction stations.
The addition is one of the district’s final steps to equalizing its programs between the two high schools, said Suzi Mitchell, Career & Technical Education director.
She said community input kept pointing to a need to fill welding and construction jobs. Students who complete the program can test for certifications that would allow them to jump into a higher-level position.
“The number one thing that kept coming up was construction technology,” Mitchell said. “So that was also another program we had at Hays but not at Lehman.”
The construction technology program will have courses in electrical work, plumbing and other building industries. Students will have the flexibility to switch between concentrations, she said.
Students have equally voiced the need of a welding program, she said. As of press time, 131 students were registered for the program, with at least seven girls.
Voldase said she is glad other girls are trying programs that are stereotypically filled with boys.
She said she had the highest grade in her engineering class and even the boys asked for her help.
“If girls are interested in it they should try it, because I know it empowered me to try something,” Voldase said. “I’m the type of person who likes to try new things and welding just sounded cool.”
Mitchell said the district has tried to encourage girls to explore other Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs.
“Everything you read says that girls are actually better welders than boys,” Mitchell said. “Because they have a steadier hand.”
Local businesses have also expressed interest in the program. Mitchell said Epic Piping in San Marcos wants to hire hundreds of welders.
Epic Piping could serve as an internship location for welding seniors, she said.
“They are reaching out to us saying, ‘what do you need to get us welders?’” Mitchell said. “They’ve offered to even give us pipe for us to practice on.”
Businesses like Epic Piping need welders who can work with round metal, not the square metal students practice on, she said. She said according to Epic Piping, round metal would be too expensive for the district to purchase.
The facility will also be fashioned with welding simulators that will help the district save on metal, Mitchell said.
The simulator’s computer would calculate how straight the student’s welding line is and where to improve without using actual metal.
The Associated Plumbing-Heating-Cooling-Contractors of Texas organization in Buda wants to work with the program’s students to replace the plumbing industry’s retiring workforce, she said.
Voldase said she hopes the class will help fine-tune her future career as an engineer.
“It depends on how I feel about it because maybe the heat is too high or something with my vision,” Voldase said. “It’s just really cool to construct something and say, look I made that.”