Ribbon cutting Ceremony held on Jan. 25

Welding Program Underway at MCA

 Courtesy of The Darien News www.thedariennews.net  February 1, 2018

Excitement filled the hallway, classroom and lab as administrators, teachers, county and city representatives, parents and students entered McIntosh County Academy (MCA) on Jan. 25 to witness the long awaited ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Welding Course to be offered at the high school.

The course, which began the first of this semester with 17 students, is a dual-enrollment class through a partnership with Coastal Pines Technical College (CPTC). Students who complete the course will earn college credit while attending high school.

Representing CPTC at the event were K.C. Thornton, Dean of Academic Affairs; and Doug Furman, Lead Instructor for Welding.

Thornton stated, “These students will get college credit for these courses. They will leave McIntosh with a Technical Certificate of Credit. They can then transition into CPTC with those credits already counting and then pursue a welding diploma. Not only welding, we teach history, math and English courses here, too. Those kids are getting college credit. These courses are accepted in any college in the State of Georgia and most colleges outside the State of Georgia. But the good thing is, it’s all free. Textbooks are free, all tuition, all paid for.”

Furman added, “I’ve taken advantage of it (dual enrollment) with my daughters and it is nice. My oldest daughter was two semesters ahead before she even started college.”

MCA Assistant Principal Todd Willis gathered everyone together in the classroom portion of the welding lab, where the MCA culinary class had prepared and were serving a wide array of finger foods for the guests to enjoy.

Willis said, “I would like to welcome everyone here. I could not be more excited to be here with y’all tonight for the inauguration and ribbon-cutting for our welding class that has been many years in coming. A lot of hard work has gone in prior to this year, and to be in here with you and these youngsters that are in here learning this valuable skill excites me, because I get to be a part of it. Here at the high school, we talk about ‘one buc’. It’s one family, one community, it’s one school. Without further ado, we’ve got some folks that will talk to you about the impacts of programs like this on Darien and McIntosh County. I want to thank and recognize Coastal Pines representatives K.C. Thornton and Doug Furman for being here. They are our dual enrollment partners at CPTC and they are a big part of what is going on with the success of this program and as it grows. This program is a win, win, win for everybody.”

The first speaker introduced was Tony White, who is the Ag and Building instructor at MCA. White said, “I am glad to have you all out tonight and want to welcome you to the Ag/Welding Lab and tell you we are excited about having kids in this program. It is an industry that is exploding right now. If you haven’t noticed even with it in our county, we’ve got a lot of building going on right now within a short distance of us, ship building and all sorts of other stuff that these kids can get into, if they go on and further their education. I am looking forward to working with the kids and having them headed in the right direction on hopefully a promising career.”

Next, K.C. Thornton from CPTC stated, “I just want to say on behalf of Dr. Glenn Diebert, our President at CPTC, we are very excited about this partnership. I feel like I have more of a stake in MCA. I was a dual instructor here last year. I got called in at the midnight hour as an English teacher. I feel like I have become a part of this campus as well. The dual enrollment, for those of you that don’t really get dual enrollment. In a nut-shell, what parents like to hear is, ‘It’s free and it’s college credit.’ What that means for a welding student is they can come on this campus, take three courses, get a technical certificate of credit, take that and roll on down to CPTC and transfer that into a welding diploma.

“I don’t know if you have looked at job demand, but welders are at the top of the list. They just can’t get enough welders out there. We also have other dual enrollment courses here, including History, English, Math, Nurse Aide and Criminal Justice. Those courses, as well, earn free college credit, transferable to any public institution in the State of Georgia and we are finding that many others across the country are accepting our credits. Many of our students are leaving high school and enrolling as sophomores in college. I think we will end up with about 75 dual enrollment students this semester, which is amazing. I am excited about it and excited about the future.”

President of the McIntosh County Industrial Authority Wally Orrel said, “The Welding Program–this is something that the Development Authority was actually involved with going back to before Dr. Barge came in. We certainly continue that interest that was one of the high demand career initiatives out there. When you look around our community, there are so many opportunities for that type job. And when I say community, it’s not just our county, because 85 percent of our citizens leave our community to work in other communities. Thousands of welding jobs are out there and there is a very high demand.

“The great thing is there are opportunities for it that pay well and it’s something that will continue. They will make more money than someone going through a four-year degree and a law degree and the President of the United States. Seriously, this is incredibly beneficial, because economical development has always been, and we’ve all heard this, ‘location, location, location’. It is not work force. Work force is the number one driver in bringing industry into a community. The number one by far. The school system certainly helps to produce that, but they are the pipeline. So, what you are doing here, although it has been a journey, it has made it’s way here to McIntosh County.

“The time is now for McIntosh County. This welding program is part of that. It’s a program that Mandy Harrison and the Chamber have been involved in to get our county moving forward. We do it one step at a time. This is one of those steps and I commend you and this school.”

City Manager Tim Sweezey stated, “Speaking directly to the programming–I would like to talk to you, because the city is considering some community garden issues. That has become a high-interest within the town of Darien. There is such a broad range of applications as far as welding is concerned–construction, oil, gas, automotive. It’s not just what you think, it’s the guy just sitting there grinding it out all day long, particularly underwater welding. These guys make more money than I will ever make in my lifetime.

“From the trade school point of view, you save money from going to college. It will benefit you in the end. You focus on the job essentials for the training, you learn this practical skill that you can take with you everywhere you go, which is in need in the construction industry. The need for welders is going to continue to increase. The skilled trades cannot be outsourced. We also have a retiring work force.

Dr. Barge, along with many others, …bring them up with a trade…there is certainly going to be a market for them in the future. For all of that, I certainly applaud you. And if we can be of assistance, please let us know.”

School Board member Sandy McDonald stated, “I am just excited to have this welding program brought to our county for our students and the opportunities that it’s going to present to them. I would like to thank everyone involved that helped to get this program up and running. I am really excited about it.”

School Board member Galin Hulett said, “They stole my thunder. That is exactly what I was going to say.”

Superintendent Dr. John Barge stated, “I do want thank all of you for being here. This is something that has been on our agenda for several years. We have been working on it for quite some time. I can’t stress to you the value of our partnership with CPTC. They are an incredible partner with us. We are a small school… you can’t always compete with a large school and what they have to offer. What we need to do as a small school is leverage what we do have. We have a great relationship with CPTC, being able to grow our dual enrollment program. The vision here is that we will have kids with the ability to graduate from high school with an associate’s degree, along with their high school diploma. We can only do that because of our partnership with CPTC. So, we thank you for that and your willingness to come along side and partner with us and create opportunities for students.

“Mr. Sweezey said it right with the skill trade. In our society over the last couple of decades, we have so degraded the skill trades as a meaningful occupation. Kids learn in economics the law of supply and demand. You have all probably learned the law of supply and demand. When you don’t have a lot of people in the industry, the need is great and the supply is low. Guess what happens to salaries. They go up, because you don’t have as many people out there and they can ask a good price. So, a lot of the welders in our country are making six figure salaries. You’re not going to start out making that, but you have a skill and a trade that is valued in industry that is needed. There aren’t that many people out there. So if it’s not this, it could be something in agriculture; it could be something in culinary arts. The skill trades are where the job growth is. Now, I will tell you that years ago you could probably graduate from high school and go to work and be okay. You can’t do that today. About 80 percent of the jobs out there require that you have at least two years of training beyond high school. So, with the partnership with CPTC and this dual enrollment program, that can actually cut that down, because you could get a year of it here at school and then go on to CPTC. The biggest part of it is it is free. We are excited, watch MCA, dual enrollment is going to expand. We want to continue to expand our opportunities for kids,” Dr. Barge concluded.

Willis then instructed everyone to move over to the welding lab for the official ribbon-cutting.


Courtesy of The Darien News www.thedariennews.net  February 1, 2018