5 Ways to Engage Today’s Agriculture Students

By Emily Kuhn

You may have noticed that there are some unique differences between the Generation Z students that sit in your agriculture classroom today and the millennials you previously taught. Today’s students are even more tech-savvy, can multi-task even faster and, if you can believe it, have an even shorter attention span than their predecessors. They read less than 20% of text; think in 4D, not 3D; and are used to immediate feedback.[1]

The standard classroom model where an educator stands in front of the class and lectures simply doesn’t work for these students. Generation Z students want to be successful – in fact, the desire to change the world is a hallmark of this generation – but they will disengage with the discussion if they don’t feel connected or if they don’t see the relevance.

Did I mention that Generation Z students are used to immediate feedback? Current technology has made them used to finding out anything, anytime, anywhere – the world is literally at their fingertips. Today’s agriculture students don’t just want to hear about a topic, they want to see it, touch it and feel it.

How do you engage today’s students in agriculture education?

1. Replace lengthy PowerPoint presentations with brief presentations that incorporate polls, activities and hands-on demonstrations every few slides.

2. Use videos, online activities and group work in addition to the textbook. By varying their focus, you’ll help keep it.

3. Use hands-on learning aids like our new Animal Models and Plant Science Models. These larger-than-life models can be taken apart and put back together as students explore each animal’s internal and external anatomy.

4. Don’t forget that “Why” is as important as “What.” As one of my colleagues recently informed me, Generation Z students need to know that what they’re learning is relevant, and by answering the “Why” question with evidence-based reasoning before teaching the “How,” you’ll assure them that the concept you’re about to teach applies to real life.

5. Incorporate soft skill development whenever possible. Your students will come to you with a varying degree of these skills, but you know all employers will look for them. Collaborative work helps build communication skills, assignment tweaks and activity changes help build flexibility, open-ended questions help build problem-solving skills and reflection activities help build critical thinking skills. (Our Employability Skills Program can help, too.)

With nearly 60,000 high-skilled agriculture and related job openings expected annually in the U.S. over the next five years, it’s more important than ever to ensure that today’s agriculture students are engaged. By creating an interactive, hands-on learning environment where they can engage in active learning opportunities, you’re setting your students up for success.

[1] https://growingleaders.com/blog/six-defining-characteristics-of-generation-z/

10 Ways to Use a Portable Workstation in Your Shop

The importance of storage space in a Career & Technical Education (CTE) classroom or shop cannot be understated. After all, the more organized you are, the better you can manage your classroom and keep your students safe, on task, engaged and productive. Yet CTE educators constantly tell us that they don’t have enough storage space in their classrooms – and much of the time, the storage solutions that are in place take up valuable work space.

That’s why we created our Portable Workstations. Available in two sizes and with locking wheels, these sturdy carts feature three drawers, one of which locks, plus a tough, grated work surface that is tough and durable.

Roll this mobile welding workstation into any area of your classroom or workshop to:

  1. Store tools and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  2. Complete woodworking, metalworking or small engine repair projects
  3. Keep your favorite tools close at hand and safely locked up when not in use
  4. Work with up to 250 lbs. of materials on the small workstation and up to 500 lbs. of materials on the large workstation
  5. Safely store gas cylinders for even the largest welders and projects
  6. Protect your equipment from slag and grinding dust
  7. Work on welding projects (the large cart even includes a removable welding curtain)
  8. Demonstrate techniques and best practices where all students can effectively observe
  9. Store projects and extra scraps
  10. Set up a portable welding work space or learning station anywhere

Learn more about our Portable Workstations from the Realityworks team member who helped engineer them, Mechanical Engineer Mike Zaborowski:

Welding pays off: The importance of “upskilling” in today’s welding education programs

By Jamey McIntosh, Realityworks RealCareer Product Manager

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of “Welding Productivity.” Click here to view the article in its entirety.

The demand for skilled welders is growing. The American Welding Society predicts a need of almost 400,000 welders in the United States by 2025 while the Manufacturing Institute has stated that in the next decade alone, there will be a need for nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs.

To ensure the welding industry is prepared to meet this demand, today’s welding educators and instructors must make certain that their programs and training methods are equipping today’s young people with the skills employers are looking for. And, in a workforce that will increasingly require those who are agile, adaptable and highly qualified, “upskilling” students above and beyond the fundamentals of welding will only make them more employable in a competitive, high-demand industry.

Skills pay off

With an oversupply of entry-level welders and a growing number of skilled welders ready to retire, welding and manufacturing companies are paying more and more attention to welding codes and qualification standards. This means welders who are certified, or who are able to examine and test their own welds, are more attractive than ever before – and their pay reflects that attraction. According to the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International’s “2013 Salary/Wage & Benefit Survey,” a welder who is certified to AWS, ASME and other codes has the broadest salary range of any shop floor position, up to $83,000 for a base salary, not including overtime and bonuses.

While having basic welding skills can certainly pay off, other skill sets can also pay large dividends. Figure 1 depicts the many paths one can take when considering a welding-related career. For instance, the chart shows the average pay for a welding supervisor and a manufacturing production supervisor. With reported average pay ranges around $12,000 higher than an average welder, these highly skilled positions are rewarded with higher pay.

When speaking with various workforce development boards and companies within the welding industry, it’s not uncommon to hear welding and manufacturing industry representatives say that they routinely pay more per hour for employees who can visually inspect welds and supervise others in the creation of quality welds over those who could simply create the quality welds.

Barring geography, experience, skill level and employer, the message is clear: By focusing on basic skill development and the development of additional career-specific skills such as weld testing and qualification, educators and trainers are opening the doors to higher pay, more benefits and in the long run, more successful careers.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of “Welding Productivity.” Click here to view the article in its entirety.

6 Reasons to Meet Realityworks at the Association for Career & Technical Education’s CareerTech VISION Conference

Every year, the Realityworks team journeys to the largest annual gathering of Career & Technical Education (CTE) professionals in a single location: The Association for Career & Technical Education (ACTE)’s CareerTech VISION Conference. We typically plan for this conference a good year in advance, and this year is no exception. Held in the Las Vegas Convention Center from November 30 – December 2, this year’s conference will be attended by thousands of technology education professionals, educators and industry representatives. From product exhibits and presentations to interactive demonstrations and more, there are countless reasons to meet Realityworks at ACTE’s CareerTech VISION 2016 Conference at Booth #529. Here are our top 6!

  1. Preview interactive products and simulators for nursing skills training, including injection training, elderly nursing care and catheterization
  2. Explore the new RealCareer™ Geriatric Sensory Impairment Kit, a set of wearable simulators that mimic hearing impairment, arthritis and hand tremors
  3. See the new Birth Process Kit, which includes six large, lifelike models that depict each stage of the birthing process
  4. Get a SNEAK PEEK at our one-of-a-kind animal science and plant science models, including detailed animal and stomach models and a plant science kit (available in 2017)
  5. Try virtual reality welding with the guideWELD® VR welding simulator
  6. Conduct live welding with the guideWELD® LIVE real welding guidance system


Additional ways you can interact with Realityworks at VISION 2016 include:

  • Attend the “Baby Basics and Best Practices” pre-conference workshop we are co-hosting with the National Association of Teachers of Family and Consumer Sciences on November 30
  • Join us at the NATFACS Awards Reception, ACTEBabywhere
    we’ll be raffling off a new
    RealCare Baby 3 infant simulator
  • Attend the “Create Student Engagement Through Experiential Learning Tools” pre-conference workshop we are is co-hosting with the National Association of Agriculture Educators on November 30, where we’ll be raffling off one of our NEW animal science models
  • Attend the Health Occupations Student Association (HOSA) Luncheon we are co-hosting with HOSA on December 1, where we’ll be raffling off a RealCare™ Geriatric Simulator and sharing more details on our new experiential learning tools for health sciences
  • Share your selfie for a chance to win! tweet a selfie with your favorite Realityworks product in our booth and tag us @Realityworksinc and the show #VISION16 for your chance to win a Realityworks mug!

You can still register for ACTE’s CareerTech VISION 2016 Conference online by clicking here. We hope to see you there!

Welding Education in the 21st Century: Engaging Today’s Students in a Growing Career Path

In July 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics reported the need for 379,000 manufacturing positions – an increase of more than 280 percent since 2008.1 Industry leaders report that these job openings will continue to grow; according to the American Welding Society, there will be a need for over 400,000 welders by the year 2025.2 In the next decade alone, the Manufacturing Institute predicts a need for nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs.3 As the nation’s workers and infrastructure age, demand for qualified workers in the manufacturing industry will continue to grow.

glimpseWhile manufacturing job openings grow, however, employers are struggling to find qualified workers to fill them. In fact, the number of open manufacturing positions is at its highest point in 15 years, but the rate of hiring has only increased by 36 percent since 2008.⁴ The nation is facing a significant skills gap, one that the Manufacturing Institute predicts could result in nearly 2 million of the industry’s anticipated job openings going unfilled.⁵

Technology can play a powerful role in the engagement of today’s students in these vital career paths. After all, 21st Century Learning is a technology-based learning style; it is second nature for today’s process-oriented, connected and media-driven students to use technology to communicate, collaborate and create. Brick-and-mortar school buildings may have remained relatively the same over the past century, but the advancement of technology means the tools available to instructors are completely different.

How educators use technology is key in equipping students with the skills the workforce needs to remain globally competitive, from manufacturing and welding and beyond – and Career and Technical Education (CTE) professionals are stepping up. From virtual reality simulation tools to certification programs and student-run businesses, CTE instructors are taking steps to engage today’s 21st century students in these growing career paths and give them hands-on opportunities to learn valuable trades.

Illinois education organization using tools, certifications to teach students industry-specific skills

skillsgapThe Career Education Associates of North Central Illinois (CEANCI) is an Education for Employment (EFE) organization that serves 10 school districts in the Rockford, IL area. It works with educators and industry leaders to help ensure that the 28,000 students in its coverage area (which includes 15 high schools and 19 middle schools) have curriculum, equipment and materials to help them learn targeted, industry-specific skills. As the region encompasses a strong manufacturing industry, one of those skills is welding – a skill that CEANCI System Director Margie Hartfiel says is worth investing in.

“When we look at the programs we fund, we make decisions that are tied directly to labor market information,” said Hartfiel, who has been working in education for 27 years. “Welding is a high-need area, and as our labor market ages, we are finding that the business partners we work closely with are telling us repeatedly that they need these particular skills.”

Industry certifications are one way CEANCI is helping its students learn industry-specific skills. CEANCI currently offers certifications in a variety of CTE pathways, including manufacturing, early childhood, culinary arts and industrial technology – all of which the EFE works with industry representatives to ensure the relevancy of.

In 2014, CEANCI helped 630 students earn certifications; that number grew to 2,303 in 2015 and Hartfiel predicts that this year, over 4,300 students will earn certifications. Support for the initiative is regionwide; area educators and industry representatives recognize the value of a student’s ability to graduate from high school and say, “Yes, I can do this, and I have proven it.”

guideweld Technology is another tool that CEANCI is using to equip students with in-demand welding skills. In 2015, CEANCI approved funding for the guideWELD® VR welding simulator and the guideWELD® LIVE real welding guidance system. Implemented as a pilot program in the Winnebago and Oregon school districts, the guideWELD VR simulators are used to introduce students to welding in a virtual, spark-free environment, while the guideWELD LIVE systems are used to help students hone live welding skills. CEANCI sees two specific benefits to the implementation of such technology: the ability to save money and the ability to demonstrate learned skills.

Click here to download the full PDF version of this case study and learn how welding education will impact the 21st century classroom.

Realityworks announces new experiential learning tool for Career and Technical Education

Realityworks, Inc. announces a new product for Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs: the RealCareer™ Electrical Wiring Kit. Featuring practice components, curriculum and a unique assessment piece, the kit provides CTE instructors with a safer, more efficient way to teach electrical wiring basics and prepare students for in-demand jobs.

Electrical Wiring and Assessment

In addition to a desktop-size wall panel and activities that students can use to practice basic wiring, the Electrical Wiring Kit features a one-of-a-kind Assessment Kit that enables instructors to safely test for errors. The Assessment Kit not only eliminates the creation of potentially dangerous electrical situations, but allows instructors to see why problems have occurred and how to fix them without dismantling the project or creating unsafe sparks. By improving classroom safety and offering more practice and assessment opportunities, the kit will help instructors prepare even more students for a career path that is expected to grow almost 15% in the next decade.

“Instructors need a safer, easier way to assess their students while teaching basic wiring skills, and that’s why we created this product,” said Realityworks President & CEO Timm Boettcher. “By including a specialized Assessment Kit that uses a safe, battery-powered electrical source, we’re giving instructors a safer, more effective way to evaluate their students and prepare them for growing careers – and we couldn’t do it without the talent of local individuals.”


The Electrical Wiring Kit joins a growing line of hands-on training tools designed to help CTE instructors equip students with targeted, industry-specific skills. It is manufactured entirely in Eau Claire, WI, with the Assessment Kit created by Realityworks employees and the portable Wall Panel created by employees of the L.E. Phillips Career Development Center, which provides employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities or disadvantages. It will be on display with Realityworks’ other experiential learning tools to over 5,000 education and industry representatives at the Association for Career & Technical Education’s CareerTech VISION 2016 Conference in Las Vegas December 1 & 2, as well as at other CTE conferences across the country through the rest of the year.

To learn more about the Electrical Wiring Kit and Realityworks’ RealCareer product line, visit www.realityworks.com or call 800-262-3806.

Virtual Welding Education Best Practices



By The Realityworks Marketing Team
updated 4/25/2016

The American Welding Society estimates that the welding industry will face a shortage of about 400,000 operators by 2024. Although there are multiple reasons for this shortage, from an aging population to a lack of incoming skilled workers, we believe the solution lies in recruiting and training future welders and engaging young people in welding-related careers. That’s why we created our line of 21st Century welding education and training tools, including the guideWELD VR welding simulator.

Below are five ways that educators and professionals can use virtual welding education to engage participants and encourage them to enter welding careers.

1. Exploratory tool for Career and Technical Education programs

As other educators have learned, virtual welding gives students a chance to try out welding in a safe, virtual environment. Additionally, the 21st Century technology engages today’s students and gets them excited about these potential careers.

John Paulus, the Mobile Manufacturing Lab Technician for Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire, WI, has seen this first-hand. “We’re trying to get these kids excited about getting skilled and getting into manufacturing careers, said Paulus. “This equipment is enhancing our ability to do that.”

2. First two weeks of basic welding programs

The safe nature of virtual environments makes them far easier for beginning welders to adjust to when welding for the very first time, while allowing instructors to remain focused on skill development.

According to Greg Siepert, Welding Technology Instructor at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, KS, the guideWELD VR system in particular “gives [students] real-time feedback on what they’re doing and if it is right or wrong, and it builds their confidence.”

3. Competition within the classroom

Competitions encourage users to continue enhancing their form and technique; it enables them to build muscle memory and acts as a training aid for students to reference as they enter the shop to perform real welding. Plus, it’s fun!

“We had competitions with the guideWELD VR unit,” recalls Rodian Manjarres, a welding student and guideWELD VR user from Greer, SC. “Everyone was trying to beat each other’s scores and kept taking more turns. Everyone was really excited about it.”

3. Demonstration tool
Using virtual welding gives the instructor an opportunity to do a weld and show the entire classroom on a projection screen rather than gathering in a welding booth. Virtual welding also allows for replaying a weld to continue the learning for each student.

“We found that the simulators really push the students. By the time they get done with them, they’re ready for the real thing and they jump right in,” – Dan Leinen, retired Agriculture Education Teacher at Harlan Community High School, Harlan, IA

4. Key welding program component

When integrated throughout an entire semester, virtual welding education help users increase their amount of simulated arc time, giving them more opportunities to build muscle memory and refine their techniques while saving on costly consumables.

“We saw a 70% reduction in consumables costs with the virtual welders,” Stated George Karr, an IT administrator and welding instructor at the Hollenstein Career & Technology Center in Fort Worth, TX.

The guideWELD VR® welding simulator is a cost-effective tool that enables users to master basic skills and learn proper technique in a safe, virtual environment. To learn more visit, www.realityworks.com

Download the 4 Best Practices Infographic to share with others
vr best

Share your best practices with others in the comments below!

Cool Tools: guideWELD® LIVE Named as Finalist for the 2016 EdTech Digest Awards

By Janelle Krause, Realityworks Public Relations & Events Specialist

We’re proud to share that our guideWELD® LIVE real welding guidance system has been named a finalist for the 2016 EdTech Digest® Cool Tools Awards, in the category of emerging technology solutions.

What makes guideWELD LIVE so “cool?” Our welding solutions were created to help today’s welding instructors engage 21st Century welding students with hands-on experiences in potential career areas, help address the skills gap, and address classroom management and safety concerns. One way to help students transition from practice welding in the virtual world to real, live welding without guidance is the guideWELD LIVE system.

With guideWELD LIVE, students get instant feedback on the main components of welding during live, arc-on welding. This allows students to perfect their techniques before moving on to real welding without any guidance at all.


Technology within the education system is constantly changing and evolving, and we want to ensure that instructors have the tools they need to engage and train students in potential career areas. EduTech Digest highlights companies that are trendsetters in education and are working to move the field forward every day to help educators teach more efficiently and effectively. We’ve made it our mission to do just that!

With the incorporation of the guideWELD LIVE system into their welding programs, educators have noted that students’ training time decreases, while confidence levels improve. Students are able to conduct better weld in less time with assistance from the guidance icons within the guideWELD LIVE helmet. Being the only system with in-helmet guidance on the market today, guideWELD LIVE is a truly innovative system.

We are humbled and honored by this award, and we’ll continue striving to provide educators with the tools they need to educate our future workforce while providing the latest in technology.

Other recognized finalists for the 2016 EdTech Digest Cool Tools award include Discovery™ Education, PBS® and SMART® Technologies.

For more information on our welding education and training tools, click here.

Announcing a New Tool for Training High-Quality Welders: The RealCareer™ Bend Tester

By Jamey McIntosh, RealCareer™ Product Manager

With companies paying more and more attention to welding codes and qualification standards, the need to train high-quality welders is everywhere – and so is the need for products and programs that can help provide that training. Any facility, school or college that trains welders can benefit from high-quality training and qualification products. The new RealCareer Bend Tester can help.


The Bend Tester is a tabletop-size machine that conforms to AWS D1.1 specifications for guided bend testing. Not only can the Bend Tester bend up to 3/8 inch mild steel, but it includes comprehensive curriculum that walks both instructors and students through the bend testing qualification process.

With a guided bend tester, welding educators can empower their students to prepare for qualification tests and train to become certified. Welding students can see the true quality of their welds and validate the need to follow proper practices and procedures determined by welding codes. This exposure to welding qualification can give students a leg up when it comes to qualifying welds because they understand what is expected and have confidence in their ability to meet weld qualification standards.

The Bend Tester comes with two posters: One poster depicts machine operation basics and one poster enables students to verify whether their bended welds would be considered qualified by a Certified Welding Inspector (CWI).

Additionally, we have included a comprehensive, 8-lesson curriculum to ensure that both instructors and students understand how to qualify a weld through bending. The curriculum provides the instructor with detailed instruction on the proper ways to qualify welds. This includes:

  • Proper preparation of the metal you will be using for testing
  • Proper welding techniques for the weld you are going to be testing
  • Proper cutting and preparation of the metal that you will be bending
  • Proper bending techniques
  • Proper assessment standards to determine whether your welds would be considered qualified

PowerPoint slides, notes, handouts, assignments and other supporting materials are included. Click here to download a free poster that details the Bend Tester parts and pieces.


In a world where titles and certification carry weight, and the need for high-quality welders will only continue to grow, the ability to equip your students with high-quality skills will only help them succeed in welding career paths. This product is a complete testing package for your students to understand, practice and evaluate the quality of their welds. It also helps instructors and students alike gain understanding of quality welding. Consider this to be a training tool for the future employment of your student welders!

Additional resources:

Realityworks to Unveil Seven New Products at National Career & Technical Education Conference

By Janelle Krause, Realityworks Public Relations & Events Specialist

EAU CLAIRE, Wis., November 3, 2015 – On November 19, Realityworks, Inc will join over 5,000 educators, education influencers and corporate representatives from across the nation at the Association for Career & Technical Education (ACTE)’s CareerTech VISION 2015 Conference in New Orleans, LA to demonstrate and display seven new products, present a series of educational sessions and exhibit current programs and products. The experiential learning company has been helping educators teach students with interactive educational products for over 20 years, and these new products will further help educators teach the hands-on career and life skills students need to succeed in college and careers.

“Realityworks is consistently listening to and examining the education market for ways we can assist in educating our youth,” said Timm Boettcher, President & CEO of Realityworks. “Our employees are passionate about bringing educators materials and ideas to improve the human condition, and we are looking forward to hearing feedback on our new product offerings while at the ACTE conference.”

Three of the featured new products will be added to Realityworks’ flagship RealCare® line, which includes RealCare® Baby: the RealCare™ Geriatric Simulator, which helps educators teach topics related to aging and care for the elderly by enabling participants to experience age-related challenges; the RealCare™ Fetal Development Kit, which gives students hands-on understanding of human development stages; and the RealCare™ Pregnancy Torso, which provide an in-depth look at embryo and fetal development.

The RealCare™ Fetal Development Kit

The RealCare™ Fetal Development Kit

Realityworks will also be featuring the RealCareer™ Employability Skills Program, which is designed for use in any Career & Technical Education course to educate students on important soft skills to advance their college- and career-readiness.

The RealCareer™ Employability Skills Program

The RealCareer™ Employability Skills Program

The remaining featured new products will be added to Realityworks’ RealCareer® Welding Solutions line: the RealCareer™ Weld Defects Kit, a hands-on tool that teaches students how to identify and correct common weld defects and discontinuities; the RealCareer™ Bend Tester, a bend test machine with curriculum that can train welders how to evaluate the quality of their welds, qualify a bend-tested weld and determine a welder’s skill level; and the guideWELD® VR welding simulator, which will now feature both GMAW/MIG welding and SMAW/stick welding.

The RealCareer™ Bend Tester

The RealCareer™ Bend Tester

For more information on Realityworks visit us at www.realityworks.com or call 800-262-3806.

About Realityworks, Inc.
Established 20 years ago to better address parenting skills, teen pregnancy prevention, child abuse and neglect through educational products, Realityworks, Inc. is dedicated to creating experiential learning tools that engage students while improving the human condition. Most famous for their RealCare® Baby infant simulator (formerly known as Baby Think it Over® or BTIO®), Realityworks has developed several other programs over the last decade that address career preparation areas like business management, finance and entrepreneurship and most recently, welding. Realityworks’ RealCareer® Welding Solutions line includes the guideWELD® VR welding simulator and guideWELD® LIVE real welding guidance system. With products in 62 percent of U.S. school districts and programs in more than 90 countries around the world, Realityworks has made a worldwide impact. For more information, visit www.realityworks.com, or call toll-free 800-830-1416.

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Media Contact:

Janelle Krause
Public Relations and Event Specialist