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O'Neill campus's Fridays @ Northeast students get early start on welding careers

O'Neill campus's Fridays @ Northeast students get early start on welding careers

O’NEILL, NE - Nine high school students from the O’Neill area now have an early start on their careers after completing a welding course through Northeast Community College’s Fridays @ Northeast program.

Fridays @ Northeast gives high school seniors the opportunity to spend Fridays on one of three Northeast campuses using lab spaces and classrooms. The courses offered introduce students to a variety of technical programs and lead right into a program of study upon high school graduation.

The year-long Shielded Metal Arc Welding course consists of both theory and lab sessions. It provides students with a technical understanding of arc welding as well as hands-on training to develop the skills needed to make quality welds in all positions on mild steel.

“(Welding) was my favorite part of the school week,” said Chance Engel, a student at Stuart Public School.

Robert Stout, the course’s instructor, said welders who gain an understanding of the field’s fundamentals while still in high school are at an advantage in a number of ways.

“Learning how to weld doesn’t just come overnight. There is a lot of commitment involved with welding, which I’ve learned from my many years out in the field. It’s good for students to get a little experience in the welding field early, so if they are interested in pursuing it as a career they can take the proper steps to get qualified in the area they’d like to focus on, be it manufacturing, production, machining/fabrications or even the construction side.”

Stout said that a shortage of trained welders in the labor force means the skill is in high demand.

“Companies in the welding field are having an extremely tough time trying to fill the void of welders needed for all the jobs that are going on right now. A trained welder can get a good paying job almost anywhere in the country.”

Cole Rosenkranz, a student at St. Mary’s High School in O’Neill, said that in addition to preparing students for a career, the welding course has its uses in day-to-day farm life.

“Things are going to break on a farm and ranch, and knowing how to weld yourself is cheaper than hiring someone.”

Jared Shaw, of Rock County High School, said he enjoyed Stout’s teaching style.

“Robert Stout is a great teacher, and he pushes us to perfection. It is very enjoyable, and you get to learn a lot about welding.”

Stout, who graduated from Northeast with a welding diploma in 2011, said welding has opened up many career opportunities for him over the years. He has certifications in several areas of welding, and has worked for manufacturing plants, including Lindsay Manufacturing and Heritage Manufacturing, as well as Norfolk Specialties, Inc., a custom machine/fabrication shop. He currently works at Midlands Mechanical, Inc. and also owns and operates his own welding shop. At all his jobs, Stout began as a welder and worked his way up to supervisory positions.

“When I was in school, I studied welding because I thought it would be a handy skill to have on the ranch, fixing equipment and other things. I continued my education in the welding field into college, not knowing at the time that welding would actually be my career choice, and I would not change it any way. Just because you start out as a welder doesn’t mean you have to stay a welder. I know several people who have started out as ‘just welders’ that now own their own businesses and manage multi-million dollar projects. The possibilities for a welder if he or she is willing to put forth the effort are endless.”

Northeast’s O’Neill and South Sioux City extended campuses offer Fridays @ Northeast courses in applied technology and health and wellness, while the Norfolk campus offers coursework in agriculture and horticulture; applied technology; business and technology; early childhood education; and health and wellness.

For more information about Fridays @ Northeast, contact Makala Williams, director of early college, at (402) 844-7118 or