North Hills High School CHS Welding Program Attracts First Female Participant
May 01, 2017 08:21AM
● By Beth Gavaghan
High school senior Anna Marchese became interested in working with materials after taking technology education classes as a middle schooler. These “tech ed” classes, offered in seventh through twelfth grades, expose North Hills School District students to subjects such as material processing, structural engineering and robotics, among others.
Today, Marchese is one of nine students and the first female participant in the district’s College-in-High-School (CHS) Welding Program, conducted in partnership with Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC).
“Since then, I was just always interested in materials,” Marchese said. “And reading through the course descriptions, picking classes coming to the high school, I thought it sounded cool.”
Marchese added that while the welding class is challenging, its hands-on nature offers a break from normal classroom activities. “It’s a lot of fun,” she said, noting that she especially enjoys practicing vertical uphill welds, which are used in applications such as hitches on aircraft tugs and cranes.
Students must complete three prerequisites as part of the welding program—Intro to Metal Technologies, Advanced Metal Technologies and Material Engineering.
“CCAC gave us benchmarks to hit and sprinkle throughout the evolution of our metal classes to culminate in the CHS course,” said Matt Demharter, high school welding instructor and technology education teacher. Because facilities are limited, the CHS welding classroom can only accommodate 10 students, and priority is given to seniors.
North Hills’ CHS welding program is designed to give students entry-level skills to work in welding and fabrication. Students take two American Welding Society certification tests upon course completion, and can use the 12 credits earned toward an associate degree at CCAC or to position themselves halfway through the college’s welding certification program. A bonus is that the CHS credits are free.
“This is a nice feather in anybody’s cap,” Demharter said. “It lets any employer or interviewer know that these individuals care and are driven to accomplish above and beyond what is offered in the normal high school setting. It proves their merit on some level.”
Since North Hills began the partnership with CCAC in the 2013-2014 school year, Demharter said that about half of the students enrolled in the CHS class have pursued careers in welding in the building trades, including as ironmakers or boilermakers. Others, like Marchese, plan to use their welding knowledge to give them a leg up at college or in the military.
Marchese said that while she has not yet decided on a university, she plans to study material engineering in the fall. Senior CHS classmates Hunter Homic, Zach Hood and Brad Sobien all plan to study mechanical engineering while Nick Palley intends to enlist in the military.
“It will position me above and beyond everyone else that I’m going to be competing with for jobs and scholarships,” Homic said.
Hood, who enjoys working with cars and welding vehicle frames, noted that his welding knowledge will also provide the benefit of having something to fall back on.
“Welding is a really cool skill to have,” Sobien said.
Palley’s welding skills will give him the opportunity to "rank up" in the hierarchy of the U.S. Navy. He is hoping to become part of the Navy construction battalion better known as the Seabees. “It (welding) is something that I’m going to be able to use for the rest of my life,” he said.
While Marchese has been the only female enrolled in the high school’s CHS welding class, Demharter said about 20 percent of the students in his other classes are girls. Marchese’s advice for other female students considering taking the CHS class: “Don’t let the guys scare you. Just do what you enjoy. Jump into it.”