North Hills students can earn college credits with welding course

| Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 5:12 p.m.

Students at North Hills Senior High School hoping to jump-start a career can take advantage of next year's new welding program, which also will allow them to earn tuition-free college course credits from the Community College of Allegheny County.

As part of the district's College in High School program, students in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades who take all three of the welding courses offered can earn a total of nine college credits from CCAC, said Matt Demharter, metal-technologies instructor at North Hills Senior High in Ross Township. They also will have completed half of the courses required for the community college's welding-certification program, he said.

All the courses will be offered at North Hills through its technology-education department and will get the students ahead on their welding career path. There is a demand for people who know the trade, Demharter said. The students must complete all three courses in high school for the opportunity to earn college credits.

“There's a growing trend, especially in western Pennsylvania, for a need of very specialized-trained individuals in welding,” said Demharter, 38, of Sarver in Butler County.

Students who take the three courses at North Hills will be eligible to take two American Welding Society certification tests upon high school graduation and will have the welding and fabrication skills necessary to enter the work force in an entry-level position, Demharter said.

Students who continue the program at CCAC will prepare to earn the higher-level welding certification as well, he said.

To earn the college course credits from CCAC, students must take at least one for-credit course at the community college after high school graduation, said Gretchen Mullin-Sawicki, dean of academic affairs at CCAC's North Campus in McCandless.

She said college officials often try to collaborate with those in local schools that might offer similar programs as a “community-outreach” effort and to prepare students for life after high school.

Whether it's in high school or college, getting certifications or degrees helps people along their career paths, the dean said.

“You need to have a good education to get a better job,” said Mullin-Sawicki, of Bellevue.

Demharter said welding certifications can lead to jobs working on railroads or gas lines or in the boiler-maker and steamfitting industries.

North Hills Senior High School Principal John Kreider, 45, of Ross Township, said this program will help put students on the “fast track” for starting a career after high school.

Once students start taking the courses, Demharter said, he expects the program to be quite popular.

“As soon as word gets out, we expect it to flourish,” he said.

Natalie Beneviat is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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