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Governor Reynolds says Eastern Iowa weld program highlights value in job skills training

Out of 100 employees welding snow and ice equipment at Henderson Products, about 33 are former students of the weld program. Each come to the company qualified with basic skills.

In Governor Kim Reynold's Condition of the State Address on Tuesday, she emphasized the importance in improving educational programs.

In particular, she proposed boosting state support of job skills training, and she highlighted a program in Eastern Iowa that is already paying off for one community.

It is a welding program, which started about five years ago in Manchester. Three manufacturing companies, including Henderson Products, partnered with West Delaware High School and Northeast Iowa Community College to help create a training curriculum for students in skills related to welding.

A former student of the program said it gave him and others invaluable exposure to what a career in the manufacturing industry could look like.

"I got to welding [and] fell in love with it. So I went after it, pursued it, and [I] took every class that I could," said Tyler Chapman, Welder at Henderson Products.

Tyler Chapman found his passion while in the program.

"Now, I have a career in it and i love it," he said.

He is only 18 years old and is working full-time at Henderson Products.

This is thanks, in part, to his training at West Delaware High.

"They gave me an 180 hour amateur certificate, and with that, that helped me on my application to Henderson [to] get the job," said Chapman.

"You're actually getting a very specific education in what we're looking for in our welders,"said John Sievert, President of Henderson Products.

Sievert said out of 100 employees welding snow and ice equipment, about 33 are former students of the program. Each come to the company qualified with basic skills.

"You had to build different things. You had to read blue prints, which is really helpful because I use them everyday," said Chapman

"Now you have students that are coming to us with an education that they don't need to be trained from the ground up," said Sievert.

Governor Reynolds recognized current weld students at the Capitol on Tuesday for their commitment to job skills training.

"I took the intro classes already. I've taken the industrial to make class already. It's been a really good experience," said West Delaware High Junior Spencer Hutchinson. "I like it."

Chapman said while many friends may have gone to college, his welding skills are helping the local manufacturing industry grow.

"You look at everybody else and everybody else is going to college, and then all these trade jobs and skilled jobs that are hands on they're depleted of a workforce while all the college jobs are saturated with employees that can't find job," said Chapman.

"The benefit of a program like this for students is you're learning a very valuable skill immediately," said Sievert. "Those skills are something nobody can ever take away from you."

The state's goal is for 70-percent of Iowa workers to have the skills needed for future jobs, which Governor Reynolds says begins with programs like the one in Manchester.

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