Welding Pays Off: The Importance of “Upskilling” in Today’s Welding Education Programs

By Jamey McIntosh, Realityworks RealCareer Product Manager

Every April, educators, students and business leaders come together to bring awareness to and speak about the value of welding. National Welding Month is an annual celebration and recognition of welding’s impact on our world and the important role it plays in our everyday lives. Now is the perfect time to consider just how important it is that our welding students have the skills they need to succeed.

The demand for skilled welders is growing. The American Welding Society predicts a need of almost 200,000 welders in the United States by 2020, 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.

Student Workbooks as an Effective Instructional Resource

Educators have debated the effectiveness of worksheets, handouts and workbooks for years.  Similar to technology use in the classroom, efficacy all depends on how they are used.  Here are a few nuggets to contemplate from a review of literature on the subject:

  • Graphic organizers help learners to understand tasks by nurturing active participation, decrease dependency on rote learning and memorization, tap into learners’ prior knowledge, and show association between concepts to build new understanding (Kirylo & Millet, 2000).
  • Worksheets help students to construct knowledge, help to assess students and get feedback, are used as supplemental material to textbooks in authentic lessons, and build scaffolding for  some teaching strategies (Demircioglu & Kaymakci, 2011).
  • Using Multiple Intelligences learning theory, teachers should vary instruction and assessment strategy because all students do not learn and exhibit learning the same way (Smith 2002, 2008) Howard Gardner and Multiple Intelligences.

We are happy to announce two new student workbooks now available as supplemental resources to the RealCare Baby Simulation Experience and the Pregnancy Profile Simulation.

The RealCare Baby Experience Workbook includes all handouts needed for the simulation experience. Rather than photocopying dozens of pages, it is all ready for use in this handy workbook. Graphic organizers, rubrics and quizzes are included. Students will also complete journal and self-assessment exercises to reflect on their learning.  The completed workbook is a great addition to student portfolios for highlighting this project.

The My Life Student Workbook is a companion product to the Pregnancy Profile simulation experience. Rather than photocopying and assembling these workbooks in class, you can use that valuable time to teach the key objectives. Many of the handouts involve setting goals, reflecting on what a teen pregnancy would do to those goals and journal on a wide variety of questions relating to the impact of an unplanned pregnancy. These exercises strengthen student writing and research skills. The completed workbook provides a meaningful take-home manual that students can keep and refer to.

Follow this link to learn more about these effective student workbooks and how you can use them in your program.

Instructor Uses In-Helmet Guides to Boost Student Confidence During Live Welding

by Emily Kuhn

For Hutchinson Community College Welding Technology Instructor Greg Siepert, Realityworks’ guideWELD™ LIVE real welding guidance system is a portable, easy-to-use way to rid seasoned welders of bad habits and boost the confidence of first-time welders.

“We struggle with confidence a lot,” said Siepert, who teaches the first year of this Kansas vocational school’s two-year welding program. “When students are in the booth, I can’t tell them in the middle of a weld that they’re right where they need to be, but when they don’t know, even if it looks right, they aren’t confident in their ability. This system gives them real-time feedback on what they’re doing and if it is right or wrong, and it builds their confidence.”

That real-time feedback is provided inside the welding helmet on work angle, travel angle and arc speed during live, arc-on welding. It occurs in the user’s periphery vision, similar to the manner in which video games communicate information to players on-screen or cars communicate speed and mileage to drivers from the instrument panel. With the guideWELD LIVE helmet in place, users see real-time guides on the right and left sides of their vision, and can focus on those guides or their weld as needed during a weld.

The guideWELD LIVE system, which works with almost any MIG welding machine, consists of a welding helmet, speed sensor board and hand sensor. Once the user has calibrated his or her welding gun, he or she can turn on all three indicators simultaneously or focus on only one or two at a time.

“The big application for this system is for those who are struggling with those basics,” said Siepert. “You can give this to them, show them the indicators and watch them make the change.”

According to Siepert, a lack of confidence is a common problem among his first-year welding students. He shared the story of one student who had the skills down but “didn’t feel right about his welds.”

“I had him work with it for 30 minutes,” Siepert recalled, “and he came back and said he got it – and his welds had vastly improved. So did his confidence.”

Although Siepert teaches a beginning welding program, his classes often include students with a range of backgrounds and experiences. In addition to reinforcing basic welding technique and positioning, Siepert also found the guideWELD LIVE system to be a useful supplement for retraining.

“This system is good for students who come out of industry or another program or from being taught at home and had bad habits,” said Siepert. “Habits are hard to break, and this would help – they would know exactly what to correct in real time.”
Being able to easily introduce the system to students of different technical abilities was key, according to Siepert, who started using it with a class of varying abilities. Some students had never welded before, some had some education and one was a displaced worker with no formal education but years of experience.

“The setup is phenomenal because it’s quick and fast,” said Siepert. “I could pick the system up and move it to a booth, and it didn’t involve any modification of what I did. All I had to do was show the student how to use it.”

As Siepert pointed out, however, being able to successfully introduce the system to a new student goes beyond just getting them started. For those who have never seen this kind of technology in a welding shop before, successful implementation can mean establishing an understanding of why this type of tool works – and that it is OK to use.

“As welding education improves and technology improves along with it, and we slowly start moving away from how it’s been done for years, there’s still a consensus that if there are supporting teaching aids used, it’s a walk of shame,” said Siepert. “We’re trying to fight that… this system adds another level to their education.”

The guideWELD LIVE system includes curriculum, which features units on safety, welding defects and welding procedure specifications. Presentation slides, teacher guides, worksheets and tests are provided as well.

“Any time you can take away frustration and build confidence, you gain retention,” said Siepert. “This system is a stepping stone from the virtual world to the real world.”

Fostering Geriatric Sensitivity through Age Simulation

By Kati Stacy

Miranda Kessler, RN-BSN, is the Health Occupations Instructor at Nicholas County Career and Technical Center in West Virginia where she teaches 11th and 12th grade students. The program includes health science courses with the goal of the students obtaining their West Virginia State Nursing Assistant Certification at the end of the two-year program.

“We are in a very poor county with approximately 1000 students in grades 10-12,” said Kessler. “We have seven feeder schools from three counties. Our area is very poor and jobs are incredibly limited. Some students will leave to go to college, but statistics show that the majority of our students won’t leave. It is so important that we reach these students and teach them a skill that can be used to take care of themselves and their families.”

When looking for a product to begin teaching geriatric sensitivity, Kessler chose the RealCare™ Geriatric Simulator by Realityworks because she felt the included components were a great value for the money. Designed for secondary and post-secondary education programs, the Geriatric Simulator allows users to experience a variety of age-related physical challenges.

“When I told my principal about the simulator after seeing literature on it at a conference and he saw how excited I was to use and implement it into my program, he bought in immediately and ordered it for me with no hesitation,” she said. “When the simulator came, he was so excited about it, he was actually the first person to try it! He was amazed by how it changed his normal routine activities and made everything feel much
more physically demanding.”

Kessler thought her students could really get good use out of the Geriatric Simulator and learn from the experience of wearing it.

“I wanted to be able to teach my students to be more understanding and empathetic with the aging process once we made it into our clinical rotation at the local nursing home,” reflected Kessler. “I wanted them to understand why the residents moved so slowly and I wanted them to learn to be patient and kind while working with them.”

Students in Kessler’s class are introduced to the Geriatric Simulator during their unit on growth and development and the aging process. During note taking time, they dress in the suit, which includes a weight vest (adjustable, one-size-fits-most), ankle weights, wrist weights. elbow restraints, knee restraints, gloves and a cervical collar. They also wear the glasses to impair their vision while note taking to see how it inhibits them.

“Initially, the reaction is, “This can’t be that bad,” or they laugh and giggle while gettingdressed in the simulator,” said Kessler. “After wearing the suit for the recommended 20-30 minutes though, their feelings generally start to change.”

Kessler said she sees the students becoming tired and their actions becoming slower and more purposeful throughout that time.

“Many of the students say that they didn’t realize it would be so fatiguing,” she said. “I’ve never had a student complain after wearing the simulator though; I’ve always only had positive comments.”

“After wearing the suit,” Kessler continued, “I try to have a one-on-one conversation with each student and discuss the experience. How did you feel before and after? How did your body respond? How did your breathing change? What did you find most challenging? What did you do in an attempt to compensate for your deficits?”

Kessler currently has one Geriatric Simulator that her classes have been using since September, but she said if her enrollment continues to grow she may look into purchasing another if funding becomes available. She is also looking into adding Realityworks’ new Geriatric Sensory Impairment Kit to her program through a grant she is writing. The kit features wearable components which provide users with age-related sensory changes to help with understanding common aging changes including: hearing impairment, geriatric arthritis and geriatric tremor.

“It is so important to get these kids to understand the pains and aches that our elderly generation feel every day, so that they can provide better care for our aging population,” reflected Kessler. “Even more than the physical aspect of aging, the mental and emotional status must be considered. These students can learn so much from the generation that we are now caring for – they can gain valuable life experience if they just slow down and listen and most importantly, respect the geriatric population.”

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:

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

guideweld

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.”

ewk-product-shot

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.

3 Reasons to Meet Us in Vegas for RealCare® Baby Basics and Best Practices

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. In fact, we start planning for this conference a good year in advance! For the first time, we are planning a pre-conference workshop on Wednesday, November 30 all about RealCare Baby. Designed for current and prospective users, this pre-conference session is an opportunity for you to learn from a subject matter expert in person! Why join us in Vegas on November 30?

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1. Get RealCare Baby program best practices. What are the best ways to engage students with RealCare Baby? How can you use this powerful tool to make an even bigger impact on your students? What are seasoned users doing to succeed? We’ll answer these questions and more!

2. Discover career exploration activities. Did you know that RealCare Baby can help your students prepare for careers in education and human services? Join us to get ideas and activities that will help you prepare your students for careers.

3. Get our NEW RealCare™ Preemie Baby. Have you heard? The RealCare™ Preemie Baby is our newest experiential learning tool. It’s modeled after a preterm infant born at 30 weeks and is designed to help students, caregivers and parents-to-be understand the unique challenges and often complicated medical problems that can be associated with preterm birth. By attending our pre-conference workshop, you’ll receive a complimentary Preemie Baby from Realityworks!

preemie-withjanelle

What: RealCare® Baby Basics and Best Practices
When: Wednesday, November 30, from 1-5:00 p.m.
Cost: $150

Ready to register? Visit the conference website here.