While adults spend time teaching youth not to play with fire, Payette School District has gotten some big help in teaching students how to work with fire.

Payette High School’s commercial welding program applied for and found out this month that they received a grant from the Idaho Division of Career Technical Education, in the amount of $84,945. The school’s welding program has approximately 90 students enrolled.

While the welding program is keeping students’ skills warm, Vice Principal Marci Holcomb said their equipment isn’t making the cut in today’s workforce.

“We currently have the ability to certify high school students to be commercial welders and our kids are fantastic!” Holcomb wrote in an email. “Unfortunately, our equipment need to be upgraded.”

Students are certified through the American Welding Society.

The program plans to use the money for new welders, new curriculum and other new equipment. One such piece of equipment is a computer numerical control plasma cutting machine, which is an automated machine used by machine shops and welding shops to operate equipment, in several factory applications and to manufacture parts.

“They are really cool; Several of our local businesses use them, which means our students are more prepared for job opportunities,” said Holcomb.

Welding teacher Tyson Smith said on Dec. 10 that the new equipment will be a major boon for the program, as he’s had to teach using equipment that industries don’t use anymore.

“Most of the equipment that we have here in the shop is fifteen to twenty years old,” according to Smith, a licensed welding inspector. “Getting some of this up-to-date equipment that’s more industry-standard I think will help our students see what’s out there in the industry.”

Smith said a total of 10 new welding machines are coming in, enabling students to have more time to practice while taking up less space per unit than their existing machines.

“They’re a pretty versatile machine, allowing several different processes,” according to Smith. “Right now, they’re a lot of times doubled-up on welders, so we have two students per welding machine. I think this will allow us to have one-to-one student-to-welder ratio in each of [our] classes.”

With the new plasma cutter, Smith said his students will be able to design items on a computer, from simple brackets to artistic pieces, and the machine will make them.

“I think it will help a lot within our classes, as well as teaching the students some of those [computer-aided design] programs; That can transfer into skills they can take to any of the manufacturing processes.”

With the new equipment coming in, senior Elian Hernandez looks forward to having more practice.

“I think it’s great for Payette High, because we definitely need it,” said Hernandez. “The two-to-one ratio for the welders is pretty bad … it’s like half and half for the period.”

Hernandez says he hopes to parlay his skills from the program into one day becoming a mechanic.

Payette School District is providing in-kind funding for electrical upgrades to the welding shop, enabling use of the new welding machines, according to Smith.

“We had to show that we were willing to invest into the program,” said Smith about the requirements for the grant.

Payette High received the grant letter the week of Dec. 6, with purchases planned this month.

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