MUSCLE SHOALS — Deshler High School senior Clay Hites already has a short-term certification in welding from Northwest-Shoals Community College.
He has been taking welding classes at the Muscle Shoals Center for Technology for two years, and Friday he put his skills up against 11 other high school welding students in the district Skills USA welding competition.
Hites decided years ago welding is his career choice. He plans, after high school graduation, to finish the welding program at Northwest-Shoals before pursuing a welding career.
“I can’t see myself doing anything else,” he said.
Also factoring into his decision is the anticipated influx of welding jobs.
Zeb Ferguson, welding instructor at Lawrence County High School and coordinator of the Skills USA district competition, said the American Welding Society projects a shortage of 500,000 welders in 2015.
“Industry has a high demand for welders,” Ferguson said. “All of the baby boomers working as welders now are beginning to retire.”
Some of that need will likely be in the Shoals. Among companies expected to need welders soon is FreightCar America which announced plans earlier this week to start building railcars at Barton Riverfront Industrial Park in western Colbert County.
Carson Holt, 16, is a student at Allen Thornton Career Technical School in Lauderdale County. He started taking welding courses because he likes to work with his hands. He said welding gives him that option and also provides the benefit of job stability.
“There is a lot of job potential with welding,” Holt said. “That was part of my decision to learn welding.”
The district competition involved students from Allen Thornton Career Technical School, Blount County Technology Center, Central High School, Florence High School, Haleyville Center for Technology, Lawrence County Center of Technology, Muscle Shoals Center for Technology and Winston County Center for Technology.
The top three from the district competition move on to the state competition in April in Birmingham.
Jennifer Edwards can be reached at 256-740-5754 or jennifer.edwards@TimesDaily.com.
SkillsUSA district welding competition:
First place: Chaz Hardy, East Limestone
Second place: Caleb Burden, Lawrence County
Third place: Jacob Sprinkle, Lawrence County
* Winners will go on to compete in April’s state SkillsUSA competition in Birmingham