Jul 01, 2023
STRICTLY OBSERVING: Welded bliss
Shannon Shelton is the new Welding instructor at the Wythe County Technology Center. Shannon Shelton took on a new job earlier this month. As the new Welding instructor at the Wythe County Technology
Shannon Shelton is the new Welding instructor at the Wythe County Technology Center.
Shannon Shelton took on a new job earlier this month. As the new Welding instructor at the Wythe County Technology Center, the Washington County native and Patrick Henry graduate brings with him two decades of field experience to the job. Last year, he was also a member of the Wythe County Public Schools maintenance crew and worked as a sports coach within the school system before successfully applying for his current position.
“Teaching is something I have always wanted to do,” Shelton said. “Until now, life had gotten in the way, but even growing up, I wanted to be a teacher.”
An experienced welder and fabricator himself, Shelton and his family moved to Wythe County in 2003 when he began a nineteen-year tenure at Rural Retreat’s Dalton Enterprises.
“I was the shop foreman during my last two years there,” he recalled. “I taught everyone from ages eighteen to fifty how to weld.”
Even though Shelton has been busy, so far, with teaching the safety aspects of the welding industry, he says he looks forward to watching his students learn the trade that he has made into his own career.
“I’ve always enjoyed helping children grow and learn,” Shelton stated. “Watching them become better welders will be a great experience.”
Shelton teaches 20 students in two levels of welding. Students as young as sophomores can enter Welding I with juniors and seniors limited to Welding II.
“In Welding I, we provided students with a basis that teaches them how to weld and to learn the different styles of welding and cutting metal,” Shelton explained. “With the hope that students stick with the class and move on to Welding II, we want to help them take that next step after they graduate and help them find a job with which they can support their families and become productive members of society.”
Shelton says his students will be competing in the Welding division of the Skills USA Competition this year.
“I have a few kids that I know are quality welders and have the ability to compete,” he noted. “They have a specific weld pattern that they must follow in terms of the type of metal they use and its thickness.”
Some of their tasks include a filler pass, which is the amount of weld bead necessary to fill the weld joint and a cover pass, which finishes the joint. Students will also perform aluminum TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding, which is an arc welding process, undertaken by a specialized aluminum welding shop, and makes use of a non-consumable tungsten electrode (or a non-filler metal electrode) in order to produce a weld.
“This will be very exciting,” Shelton said of the latter technique. “I don’t think a lot of my kids have ever had much experience on the aluminum TIG side.”
Like many of the other programs at the Wythe County Technology Center, Welding offers the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10-hour safety course certification as well as the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute certification. For welders with collegiate aspirations, the Apprentice School of Welding in Norfolk offers an opportunity to work on the big ships of the navy among other high-tech options.
“For those wanting to go that route,” Shelton offered. “We want to help them get all the classes they need to advance on that level.”
For students who are ready to enter the manufacturing industry, there are plenty of career opportunities right here in Wythe County. The next step upon graduation, according to Shelton, would be for students to attain a certification from the American Welding Society, which enables them to become a certified welder and helps place them in the workforce directly out of high school.
“Here in Wythe County, we have several machine and welding shops that are having difficulty finding people to go to work,” Shelton pointed out. “There are even bigger companies that are still local such as Volvo in Dublin or Utility in Atkins.”
Shelton noted that most of his students are interested in a career after high school, although a couple have expressed a desire to follow the college route. He is particularly proud of his students who have a natural passion and can delve into the art of welding. His students have participated in projects such as the refurbishment of the goalpost on the George Wythe High School practice field, which Shelton says involved very old and tainted metal.
“A couple of the kids really stepped up and did a great job cleaning and welding the metal,” the teacher commended. “I merely gave directions and a couple of tips while standing by.”
In terms of the art of welding, Shelton notes that there are welders and fabricators. The fabricators can not only weld something to be functional, but they can make that product visually appealing as well. Those who truly embrace the art of welding can envision a piece of scrap metal as a totally functional piece of work which is also pleasing to the eye.
“This is the true art of welding,” Shelton remarked. “Students who can visualize and create these things are natural-born welders and fabricators.”
“Trade classes like welding involve relationships, which are very much like the relationships that are formed among colleagues within the workplace,” he added in closing. “Those relationships are crucial for a positive working environment and can forge lifelong friendships.”
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