Crafting a skill set
Free summer camps give youth hands-on training for possible career paths
The oxy-acetylene torch’s first blast sputtered and died. But that didn’t faze 14-year-old Jon Manning as he stood at a bench in the Douglas High School metal shop.
“I was holding it too close to the metal,” he said, threading a wire through the torch’s tip to clean it. He then lowered the visor on his mask and told bystanders, “Stand back, please.”
Safety was clearly a priority at the recent DHS manufacturing summer camp. The school shop was one of multiple sites across the county taking part in the Expanding Horizons 2016 series. The free camps aim to bring Career & Technical Education instruction to more middle school and high school students. The camps are funded by a grant administered through the Umpqua Valley STEAM Hub.
Instructor Zane Alvey, CTE manufacturing teacher at Douglas High, said all the students enrolled in the June 13-17 middle school camp scored 90 percent or better on the first day’s safety test.
“I beat it into them pretty well that the most important thing about a summer camp is to have fun and make it safe,” he said. “These kids are really listening.”
Not just listening, but also welding, and with confidence. Alvey said even though most of the middle-schoolers coming into the class had little experience in the skill, most were so enthusiastic, they continued working through class breaks. Seven students enrolled for the one-week middle school class; 16 or so were registered for the two weeks set aside for high school students.
Thirteen-year-old Lena Trumble of Glide was one of the middle-schoolers who arrived with experience. She’ll enter eighth grade at Glide Middle School in the fall, but she’s already planning to start four years of welding classes when she enters ninth grade.
“I’ve done wire-feed welding, but I came here to learn mig welding,” she said, referring to the semi-automated process of metal inert gas welding, widely used in high-production fabrication. On the camp’s third day, Lena was preparing to spot-weld a metal “M” to a medieval-style shield she was grinding. She would then alter the shield’s color by plunging it into water. “I’d like it to be dark purple or blue,” she said.
At Roseburg High School, about 50 Expanding Horizons students got to rotate between woodworking, welding and drafting classes for the week-long camp. Mornings were set aside for middle school students, with high schoolers attending afternoon sessions.
On the second morning of camp, a cluster of safety-goggled students stood at a table saw with woods teacher Ken Reeve as he demonstrated the importance of using a push stick to position blocks against the blade.
Grasping a dial caliper he called “the woodworker’s best friend,” Reeve told students to reset any tools they have left unattended. “Don’t let other people set your measurements for you,” he said. “That’s how mistakes are made and grades go down.”
Several of the woodworking students appeared at ease among the sanders and saws. Fourteen-year-old Trevion Karcher of Roseburg said he has worked with his grandfather on cabinetry and hopes to become a professional craftsman. Roseburg’s Landon Boone, also 14, said he enrolled because he wanted to meet new people and also get started on elective classes he plans to attend at RHS this fall.
Hands were busy in the school’s welding area as well, where Roseburg’s Naomi Roebuck had just finished painting a trivet she fashioned from three steel rods. “I wanted to get a lot of experience doing things while I’m still a kid,” she said, adding she’ll enter ninth grade in September. “These are things I may not be able to do when I’m older.”
In the drafting classroom, students worked quietly against an aural backdrop of low hums and whirrs from 3-D printers. Fourteen-year-old Chase Parker, a ninth-grader-to-be interested in engineering, used the AutoCAD software program to design a house and a car. Two seats to his left, Ejay Pangilinan consulted a sheet showing dimensions for circles and arcs. Ejay, 13, said his calculations on the advanced project were nearly perfect – not bad for his first day ever of drafting. He will attend Fremont Middle School this fall.
“My dad owns a construction company, so if I go to work with him, this will help,” Ejay said.
Drafting instructor Kyle Dever said even some of the least experienced students have shown promise in the summer camps. That doesn’t surprise him, given the success he’s seen students achieve in regular drafting classes during the school year.
“I’m trying to give these kids an opportunity to find out that anything they can design, we can create and bring it to reality,” he said. “The other thing I want to stress is that you can go into a good career with these skills. I’ve got community partners working with 10 seniors, and these kids are making good money. The sky’s the limit.”
Introducing kids to high-paying careers is certainly one goal of Expanding Horizons. But even if students don’t come away from the camps with a burning ambition, they do learn respect for the materials they’re handling.
Back at the Douglas High metal shop, 14-year-old Jon Manning offered a safety mask to a visitor and frowned at a pointing finger too close to the scrap metal he’d just torched.
“That’s still hot,” he warned.