“Being a welder doesn’t sound like the most glorious job in the world. However, there are things that being a welder can give you: job security, a sense of accomplishment, and it can make you lots of money, just to name a few.”
Brad DeMent is a welding teacher at the Delaware Area Career Center (DACC) North Campus, located in Delaware, Ohio. Driven by his passion for welding, DeMent began teaching welding and sheet metal fabrication at DACC in 2011 following a career as a successful welder. Building on his training after high school, he undertook a few “half-hearted attempts at college” and ultimately graduated from the Hobart Institute of Welding Technology. In 2017, DeMent was one of 54 semifinalists for the inaugural Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence.
DeMent worked as a welder for McKinney Corp, based in Indiana, which builds chassis for top fuel dragsters and nitro funny cars, some that race at speeds over 330 mph. This experience provided DeMent with wonderful mentors and exposure to the highest levels of welding expertise. He then went to work as a TIG welder/fabricator, and rose to welding shift supervisor for a company in Ohio that builds cryogenic equipment for NASA, where the weld requirements call for 100% x-ray quality. DeMent said it was there that he came to think about supporting industry by educating students that were job-ready, observing that job openings were plentiful, but that most applicants lacked sufficient skills to fill them.
DeMent shares his knowledge and passion for excellence with his students, beginning with training in the fundamentals of safety, the value of developing good habits, and consistency in each bead and cut. In his coursework, major areas of welding are covered, along with learning machine operations, cutting, layout and fabrication techniques, and reading blueprints. Students learn and are graded daily on their employability skills as well. DeMent mixes in fun projects like the design, fabrication and welding of a trebuchet to compete in the state’s annual Pumpkin Chunkin contest, and collaborative projects with students in the auto collision program.
DACC also has articulated agreements with Columbus State Community College so students can earn college credit hours while in high school. As an Education Institution Member of the American Welding Society, his students are allowed to test for the AWS D9.1 welding certification, and in 2017, 13 of 14 students achieved this certification. DeMent is lead advisor for his school’s SkillsUSA chapter; students have won first place for three of the last four years in its national competition.
DeMent’s enthusiastic stewardship has enabled the welding program to grow from only six students to 45 and a waiting list. By introducing students to job shadowing, multiple interactions with industry leaders and practitioners, and by insisting that students practice employability skills daily, 70% of DeMent’s students now actively participate in job placement/internship programs. Enrollment in college or technical school by his students has grown from 10% to 55% under his leadership.
“I have learned that if there is no buy-in from the parents, the students will not get the support that they need from home. My goal every time I speak to parents and guardians is for them to understand that this path can be the right path! I let them see and hear about the possibilities that are available to the students who want these opportunities. Skilled trades are exactly that: Skilled. Students that work hard will be rewarded! This industry changed my life and it can change theirs, too!”