Welding students head back to the shop

Welding students at Harlingen High School South are now back in the shop for hands-on learning. (Courtesy photo by Roland Anzaldua)

HARLINGEN — How do you weld a bead in virtual time?

You don’t.

But now the welding students at Harlingen High School South have emerged from the world of virtual learning to start laying beads, bending metal and earning their certifications.

“It feels good, you know, like hands-on, get back to welding, it’s what I like to do,” said Adrian Garcia, 18, a senior.

When the pandemic struck in March, the Harlingen school district closed its campuses and converted its academic classrooms into virtual learning platforms. This was difficult enough for academics, but it presented even greater challenges for trade students, whose curriculum requires extensive hands-on training. Sandra Lopez expressed her frustration very well back in April.

“All I do is homework,” said Sandra, a welding student who preferred working on BBQ pits in the shop to doing book work at home.

Just last week, however, the school district began offering some face-to-face instruction. Those who chose some in-person instruction have specific days they can be in class. Trade students can attend in-person instruction twice a week. It’s a good start for students in Richard Alvarez’s welding class at South.

“We’re working on their certifications,” Alvarez said Tuesday afternoon.

“I have some of my students from my first period and my fourth period, those are my advanced classes,” he said. “Hopefully by the end of the year we should have them at least certified at NCCER Core and NCCER Welding.”

NCCER stands for National Center for Construction Education and Research. It’s a not-for-profit 501c education foundation for professional craft certification.

“Right now they’re working on their Level II and Level III certification tests,” Alvarez said. “They have to weld two pieces of material together, and there’s an actual bend test. We weld them, we cut them and we bend them.”

Adrian didn’t have to wait before practicing his trade. He used his own TIG (tungsten inert gas) equipment to keep welding during the lockdown.

“I helped my neighbor, because she was making like a shade, and I helped them weld it,” he said.