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Summer welding classes begin

Landen Pedersen, left, a tenth grader at Fairmont High School, and Lazarus Elbert, a recently graduated student from Bancroft, Iowa, are busy at work during the Summer Welding Academy at Fairmont High School.

FAIRMONT — The summer welding academy is taking place now at Fairmont High School. The three-week program is open to anyone in the area who is interested, adults or students.

The class is being taught by Bob Bonin, who teaches several CTE classes at Fairmont High School, including automobile repair, mechatronics and welding. Bonin said they began offering summer welding classes in 2017.

“They’re three weeks long. We go from 8-12. They have about an hour of homework on things like safety and blueprint reading,” Bonin explained.

In the winter, Saturday welding classes are offered over a period of 15 weeks for a total of 60 hours.

“They both attract differently. The Saturday classes attract more adults because of their work schedules, but in the summer we try to attract students who may be short on credits or who couldn’t fit it into their schedule during the school year,” Bonin said.

He said they hold the classes in the mornings so students can still get to a summer job if they have one.

Bonin recognized that this summer’s class is different than those he’s seen before.

“This is by far the most diverse we’ve ever had,” Bonin said.

Nineteen students are currently enrolled in the program. This includes 11 from Fairmont, with a mix of grade levels and several adults, two from Arise Academy, one from Martin County West, one from Blue Earth, two from Truman, one from Elmore and one from Bancroft, Iowa.

In the past, they’ve gotten many students from Blue Earth and some from Granada Huntley-East Chain, as well as Martin Luther. Bonin said they have never had people come up from Iowa before.

There are also three girls in the class, one of which is Blue Earth Area ninth-grader, Marie Carr.

“My older brother took this class, and I might want a job in the field later,” Carr explained.

While the majority of people in the class are still students, there are some recent graduates in the class, including Devin Haase, who just graduated from Martin County West.

Haase said he’s taken four semesters of welding, but wanted to take the summer program through Fairmont for more experience. He plans to look for work in the field after the program is completed.

“We picked up a few from Arise Academy and I think it’s nice that they’re in town now because we’ll start seeing more of them during the school year as well,” Bonin said.

Bonin said that they advertise the classes through CER, which posts the information in order to reach adults, and an email is sent to area superintendents so that they can let interested students know about it.

Despite the diversity in the class, Bonin said they all mesh well and help each other out.

“They’re not ostracized just because they’re from Blue Earth or Iowa. They help each other and give each other feedback,” Bonin said.

Upon completion of the program, the students will get a credit from the class. Everyone will receive a 60-hour certificate, including the adults so that they can take it into the workforce.

“We have about four adults that are looking at going into the workforce right after the class,” Bonin said.

He explained that the safety training they use is OSHA 10 compliant and the blueprint reading they’re taught will help anyone going into the workforce or furthering their education.

Fairmont Area School Superintendent, Joe Brown, said, “We’re doing exactly what we talked about doing, being a regional vocational center and this class certainly shows that’s becoming a reality.”

“I think this is a taste of what we’re going to see with the expansion,” Bonin said, referring to the expanded vocational center the high school is in the process of adding. The 13,200 sq. ft building will be located on the south side of the high school building, next to the existing vocational area. Occupancy is projected for summer 2022.

Not only will Fairmont Area students use the new vocational center, but it will be opened up to students in other area school districts, much like the summer and Saturday welding academies.

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