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Pirates Ag Welding Team Fired Up to Melt Competition

Santa Ynez High teacher Genevieve Bishop is main cog in Ag Department operation

Among other skills, ag mechanics students learn fundamentals of welding, woodworking, electricity, and shop safety.
Among other skills, ag mechanics students learn fundamentals of welding, woodworking, electricity, and shop safety. (Santa Ynez Valley Union High School)

For possibly the first time, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School (the Pirates) has an Ag Welding Team and will be traveling to competitions in California this spring.

Ag teacher Genevieve Bishop is responsible for the team's formation and for the welding instruction. Bishop graduated with a degree in agriculture education, and a masters from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She joined SYVUHS in 2013.

Bishop teaches a variety of classes in the Agriculture Department, including beginning and advanced ag mechanics, with 28 students.

Students learn fundamentals of welding and shop safety, as well as woodworking, electricity, concrete, rope work, equipment usage, project design, and career and college preparation.

Bishop also advises and guides seniors who are eligible to take college level-welding courses at Alan Hancock College.

The co-ed team is open to any SYVUHS student enrolled in an agriculture course. Ag mechanics is open to any student who wants to learn a skill in the trades such as welding, learning to make and repair machines and equipment and knowing how the machines and equipment work.

The mission of the Pirates Ag Welding Team is to teach welding skills that will develop high school students into well-trained, competitive welders. These skills will carry with them beyond high school to new opportunities in college,and a secure future in today's job market.

Bishop's husband Chris Bishop brings 15 years of welding-industry experience to help coach and prepare students to use the skills they learn for future jobs and competitions.

"We greatly appreciate the generous donation from Bragg Crane, which was facilitated by Jason Ealand (SYVUHS Class of 1999)," Bishop said.

Ealand learned to weld from a Mr. Smith, who was the history teacher at the time and also taught a welding class. Ealand's skills in welding developed into a life-long career as a union ironworker. He is a superintendent for Bragg Crane and Rigging on the Central Coast.

His brother, Mark Ealand (SYVUHS Class of 1991) also learned to weld at the school. Hes a superintendent for Bragg Crane and Rigging in Florida. They've worked a variety of jobs from skyscrapers to roller coasters, and towers for building rockets on the East and West coasts.

Brian Clausen (SYVUHS Class of 1982), also a Bragg Crane employee, said, "As a professional welder, I have worked in the mining, military, industrial and commercial industries.

"It was always a dream to work for a big company as a welder, and my dreams came true as I have worked for Northrop Grumman, Newmont Mining and on various military bases," he said.

"At first, I welded just for fun. I never thought I would make a career out of it until later in life. My hobby that I enjoyed learning in high school turned into a career — a well-paying career," Clausen said.

Bragg Crane and Rigging and Santa Ynez Valley Youth Recreation, sponsors of the Pirates Ag Welding Team, recognize the need to inspire and support the younger generation to learn a trade.

In a 2014 Bloomberg article, Welders, America Needs You, Matthew Philips reports: "Decades of attrition have left the U.S. with welders who largely lack the advanced skills needed today.

"The average age of a welder in the country is 55; the wave of coming retirements will leave manufacturers at a disadvantage," Philips writes. "The American Welding Society estimates that by 2020 there will be a shortage of 290,000 professionals, including inspectors, engineers, and teachers.

The article adds: “ 'We’re dealing with a lost generation,' says Gardner Carrick, vice president for strategic initiatives at the Manufacturing Institute, the workforce development arm of the National Association of Manufacturers. " 'For 20 years we stopped feeding young people into the trades, and now we’re scrambling to catch up.' "

The Pirates Welding Team is traveling to three or four competitions this school year and up to eight competitions next year. Students also can submit their work for judging and prize money in the Santa Barbara County Fair.

The 2016-17 welding competition schedule includes:

April 8: South Coast Showdown FFA Welding Field Day
April 22: Ag Welding Contest — Clovis East High School
May 6: FFA State Finals - Cuesta College Ag Welding Contest
May 13: Alan Hancock Welding Contest

For more about the Pirates Ag Welding Team or to make a donation, contact Genevieve Bishop at [email protected]

— Tonya Crandall for Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.

 

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