NEWARK – Local students are finding success after high school with the trade skills they’re honing in the classrooms at Worcester Tech.
Less than two years after graduating, 10 former Worcester Technical High School students completed welding and heavy vehicle technology programs at Advanced Technology Institute (ATI). Worcester Tech instructors traveled to Virginia Beach to celebrate their success.
“They can leave Worcester Tech and go straight to work, but by going through a trade school like ATI it helps them expand their possibilities and their earnings,” said Rick Stephens, Worcester Tech’s welding instructor.
Stephens, the longtime welding instructor at Worcester Tech, gives students a foundation in welding, teaching the basics of building and construction technology as well as welding.
Students are taught the process of oxy-acetylene and shielded metal arc welding as well as other specific processes. The program is affiliated with the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER).
“That certification follows them through life,” said Worcester Tech’s Tammy Hearne.
Though the size of the room limits the welding class size to 26 students, those who complete the year-long program are quickly finding success in the field, according to Hearne and Stephens. Though they leave Worcester Tech capable of going straight into the field, Stephens encourages them to further their instruction.
In recent years, more and more alumni have been enrolling at ATI. Dylan Braica said heading to ATI after completing Stephens’ program was an easy decision when he realized there were several other Worcester Tech students enrolling.
“We all transitioned together,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine going by myself.”
With his certification from ATI in hand, Braica is now ready to apply for a fulltime welding position at a local company. While some ATI grads are in the process of applying for jobs, others are continuing their studies. Matthew Burns is going to stay to earn a certification for welding involved with naval construction.
He credits Worcester Tech and Stephens’ program in particular with helping him choose a career path he enjoys.
“He gave us the under-the-helmet time and he let us venture out and do what we wanted,” Burns said.
Braica agreed. He joined the welding program on a whim and enjoyed it so much he started having his dad drop him off at school early so he could practice.
“Mr. Stephens has one of the highest demand programs,” Worcester Tech Principal Tom Zimmer said. “There’s always a waiting list.”
Zimmer said Stephens has developed a relationship with ATI so students can easily transition into the program if they want to further their welding education.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” he said, adding that Stephens’ devotion to his students, as evidenced by his trip to Virginia to watch them graduate, was something that benefited them all. “The welding room quickly becomes a family.”
Murrie Wall, Burns’ mother, said she can’t thank her son’s Worcester Tech instructors enough. She believes the school offers students who are looking for hands-on jobs with a place to learn. She says her son wouldn’t be where he is today without the school.
“He had mentors there,” she said. “It gave him the nontraditional outlook he needed.”