This past June, several South Tech students traveled to Louisville, Kentucky to compete in the SkillsUSA National Championships. Among them were Joel Besch, Jared Jacquot, and Jason Neier. With the help of Mark Carron, teacher and employee of the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 36, this team of three overcame some significant challenges as they prepared for the Welding Fabrication competition and finished 7th in the nation.
The South Tech Welding lab underwent a complete renovation over the summer but construction of their classroom began in late spring. Although the team had been through regional and state SkillsUSA contests, among several other competitions during the year, practice before nationals was still critical. Our campus didn’t have an appropriate place in which to prepare, so our partners at the Sheet Metals Local 36 graciously offered them the use of their extensive welding lab. By the time our students were ready to travel to Louisville, they also had an additional mentor and coach.
Mark Carron, a highly skilled and revered member of the union, stepped in to assist the team whenever they were at the union campus. Carron has been with the union for several years and also serves as one of their instructors teaching adult classes at night. He had never worked with high school students before and enjoyed inspiring them while sharing his vast knowledge of fabrication and welding. The competition required that students use both of these skills to design and build a combination welding and cutting table. “It was a complex competition”, said Harmon as he described coaching the team to think of fabrication in terms of working backwards from their finished project. Among many specifications, skills and tools required, Carron helped them as they used Auto Cad, learned to monitor cut lists, determined which tools they would use, and practiced efficient time management. Carron said they came up with “a really good design” and picked up fabrication skills very well considering the limited prep time. He felt brought together their ideas, skills, and personalities to create a winning team.
Besch, Jacquot, and Neier spent several evenings at the union prior to the end of the school year. Additionally, daytime sessions from 6am to 12pm were added during the summer weeks leading up to the competition. Carron was with the team for the bulk of these sessions and the Local 36 supplied all of the tools and materials the team needed. Carron’s time commitment was incredibly generous and the students were very grateful.
Senior Joel Besch learned a lot from Carron and felt he was really helpful. “He taught me a lot about torch cutting and had a lot of good ideas,” Besch said. Prepping for the competition required the team to troubleshoot their design as they progressed and Carron’s guidance helped them through brainstorming their developmental design process. Besch said each team member found their niche as they worked through the project. He focused on torch cutting, layout, and prepping proper edges, Jacquout did the bulk of the design and layout work, and Neier concentrated on the welding components. The assistance from Carron and the Local 36 was critical, Besch said, “We couldn’t have done this without them.”
Welding instructor Adam Holt agreed and credited Local 36 for their willingness to help and their ongoing support. The union donates equipment and materials to our programs and members serve on our Welding and HVAC advisory boards who are always available to assist our students and teachers. Holt felt Carron’s guidance helped his team develop their work ethic further as they perfected their teamwork. He noticed improvements in their communications skills as well.
South Tech’s business and industry partners provide our students with much more than a glimpse into the world of work. Through mentorship, internships, shadowing experiences, training and more, our partners help us provide students with the skills sought by employers that enhance their degrees and certifications. To learn more about the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 36, visit their website at http://sheetmetal36.org . Businesses interested in partnering with South Tech can contact our school at 314-989-7400.