By Aaron Mudd – Bowling Green Daily News
Sparks flashed and gave off smoke as Warren East High School junior Amber Tolliver learned the basics of industrial welding Monday during SKY CAM Camp at Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College.
Tolliver was among a group of high school students and teachers exploring careers in advanced manufacturing through demonstrations and factory tours this week.
While Tolliver isn’t sure if she’ll pursue an advanced manufacturing career, she appreciates the camp’s approach. “It’s hands-on,” she said. “You learn about it, and then you actually get to work with it.”
SKY CAM Camp, which is in its third and final week, was offered to students, teachers and counselors from Warren, Barren, Allen and Simpson counties.
“The purpose is to change the perceptions about careers in advanced manufacturing,” said Brian Sparks, an associate professor in engineering and electronics technology. It also shows “students and teachers what options are available with a degree from SKYCTC,” he said.
This week’s group includes 13 participants, and the previous two weeks attracted 14 campers each, Sparks said. The careers that are explored will be high wage and high demand, he said.
Throughout the week, students explore industrial maintenance, robotics and other areas of advanced manufacturing through activities and tours of area industries.
As the students took turns handling the equipment Monday, welding professor Steve Hatcher watched over them and offered advice.
For Hatcher, the camp “gives them an opportunity to see things they normally wouldn’t get to see.”
That’s important because advanced manufacturing needs younger workers skilled enough to replace older employees who have aged out of their careers, Hatcher said.
Janet Martin, an English teacher and speech coach at Bowling Green High School, was hoping to learn more about advanced manufacturing to educate her students.
“I’m always looking for ways to connect students with viable job opportunities,” she said. “There are multiple pathways to a successful future.”
Martin is attending the camp with her son Nick, a sophomore at BGHS.
“I thought it was a really cool experience,” said Nick, adding that he likes working with his hands and getting out of the traditional classroom.
David Knight, a BGHS senior, hoped the camp would help him decide between welding and robotics.
“I like the idea of making your own stuff,” he said.
As for Tolliver, who was initially hesitant about an advanced manufacturing career, she’s keeping an open mind after trying out welding.
“It was really fun,” she said.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.