O’NEILL, Neb. – High school students enrolled in welding classes at Northeast Community College in O’Neill put their skills to the test in a competition at the end of the academic year.

Six students performed nine different shielded metal arc welds (SMAW) in welding booths in the lab during the Fridays @ Northeast Weld-Off held at the extended campus at 505 E. Highway 20 as well as outdoors for an ‘out-of-the-booth’ experience to give them a sense of what it is like to be employed as a welder.

“Most of the students’ hands-on experience in class is completed while in a welding booth in a controlled environment but working as a welder often requires the job to be completed out in the wind and elements,” said Robert Stout, instructor and competition organizer. “The experience outside of the booths affected the students’ final results.”

Winning the Weld-Off was Dalton Dearmont, Bassett. Luke Popkes, Emmet, took second with Will Schmitz, O’Neill, placing third. In addition to sponsored prizes, each of the top three winners received a welding trophy. 

“All of the results were very close with only one point separating 2nd and 3rd place,” Stout said. “Welding outside was similar to welding out in the field. You won’t always be in the most comfortable position or able to move your material around to make it easier to weld. Sometimes you just have to jump in there and do what you were trained to do and get the job done.”

Stout encouraged students to keep a focus on the task at hand. He encouraged them to let their work do the talking for them.

“I told them that on competition day/weld test day experience and confidence in their abilities will carry them through. I said, ‘Don’t get nervous or let the pressure get to you; that’s when you start making mistakes. Believe in yourself and have confidence in what you do. A good welder never has to brag about how good he is. Someone else will do it for you.’”

Judges for the competition were John Knapp, Northeast welding instructor, and Frank Heying, a welder from Stuart.

Stout spent a considerable amount of time coordinating the event which was sponsored by four businesses. Western Welder donated gift certificates to the top three finishers; “Doogie” Hats donated welding caps and gift certificates to the top three; CMR Fabrications donated two hats to the top two finishers; and Stout Welding donated a hat to the winner. 

The students participate in the Fridays @ Northeast program which gives high school seniors the opportunity to spend the final day of the school week on one of three Northeast campuses using lab spaces and classrooms. The courses offered introduce students to a variety of technical programs and lead right into a program of study upon high school graduation.

Students in Northeast’s welding program learn how to perform modern welding processes on the latest equipment. Through classroom and shop application, they are instructed on gas and arc welding, inert-gas arc welding, and continuous wire production welding and a background in metallurgy, blueprint interpretation, and mathematics. Classes are held Monday through Thursday, allowing for a three-day weekend.

Successful graduates are then able to move into an entry-level production welding or job shop employment. They may also test for and receive American Welding Society (AWS) certification.

Fridays @ Northeast also features another technical program – building construction and blueprint reading. The program provides students a basic knowledge of carpentry and related fields. Combined with classroom theory and applying skills through construction projects, students have an opportunity to become familiar with tools of the trade and other building trade competencies.

Other Fridays @ Northeast classes offered at the O’Neill extended campus are pre-engineering, Nurse Aide, Medication Aide and General Biology.