Talking shop at MAHS
MORRIS - It's said it takes community to raise children and that includes educating them, too.
The Morris Area School District and community members have joined in many ways to further children's educations, one of the most recent being an attempt to meet the growing demand for technical and industrial education in the district while also preparing students for potential jobs in a part of the state that can really use that type of workforce.
The district and community volunteers have worked this summer to renovate, reorganize and modernize the welding, metals, agriculture and automotive shop areas at Morris Area High School. Superior Industries, of Morris, also is lending its expertise and training facilities and equipment to school students and staff in a variety of ways.
The district shop rooms have been cleaned and painted, lighting has been improved and an interior door is being installed to connect the rooms so larger projects don't have to be moved outdoors from room to room. A classroom area, with technology improvements, has been added.
"It's going to be really nice when it's done," said Morris Area Superintendent Scott Monson. "People have been so supportive and they enjoy doing this. And it's in an area where they have expertise." Donations, a grant and an infusion of money from the district School Board helped get the project going. It was much-needed, Monson said.
"When the new (elementary school) was built, there were other upgrades made in the high school, but this was the only area that was not fixed at that time. We needed to improve the area and it probably should have been done at that time."
Ag and tech education programs have been growing in recent years and it's the district and community's responsibility - and to their benefit - to keep up, Monson said.
"The industrial-ag base is such an important part of our school district and community," he said. "Students should have job opportunities in those areas so they won't have to leave the area." Superior Industries and its related companies have given generously of their time, money and know-how to improve area schools. Ag and tech education is an important component to its future.
Superior opened a welding school near its Westmor Industries complex in Morris' Industrial Park to train current and future employees, as well as others in the community. Morris Area ag teacher Natasha Mortenson took welding instruction there this summer.
And now, Superior is making available a valuable piece of equipment and the skill of Weld Instructor Dave Dybdal. Dybdal recently brought in a Lincoln welding simulator, which allows students to train using a "virtual" welder that mimics working conditions and various types of welding and then grades the user on a variety of technical and motor skills.
While the welding simulator - which is the only one in use between Bismarck and St. Paul, Dybdal said - is intended primarily to train and retrain Superior, Westmor and Hancock Concrete welders, it will be loaned to the school district for students to use, he said.
Superior's Paul Schmidgall said the simulator allows for training without the cost for using material in live welding, and it fits well with the company's goals of expanding its welding force.
"These are important job skills for well-paying jobs," Schmidgall said.
Dybdal is in constant contact with other educators and employers, and he and others estimate there is a need for about 250 welding jobs in a 140-mile area around Morris.
The simulator and weld school are ways to get people into those jobs, Dybdal said.
"It's better than hand welding from a teachable standpoint," Dybdal said.
"It feels like the real thing but it doesn't replace what we do out here (in the weld shop)."
Lee Whiteneck and Ben Broberg, welders in Westmor's tank shop, were training in the shop and on the simulator recently in an effort to add certifications. Both said the simulator allows for very little error in technique. Dybdal said the simulator was instrumental in helping a veteran welder rid himself of bad habits that had crept into his work.
"If there things you need to correct, you can correct it here," Dybdal said. "The only way to correct it out there (the live weld shop) is to practically have my head on your shoulder watching. There is novforgiveness with the simulator."
The simulator has a video-game feel to it, which might appeal to young students looking for a career and get them to take a look at welding, he said.
"If it gets them excited about welding, that's part of it," he said.