The McDuffie County School System recognizes learning a trade in school is beneficial for some students. 

In tonight’s board meeting, Georgia Power awarded Thomson High School a $100,000 check to build a new welding facility.

“What we learned is there is a critical need for welders currently in our area,” said Dr. Mychele Rhodes “Plant Vogtle currently has 250 job openings for welders.”

McDuffie County is looking at what’s next for its students after high school. They are building a welding lab at Thompson High School.

The training coordinator for the Local 150 Plumbers and Steamfitters Union says exposing students to a welding program may spark an interest when it’s time to choose a career path. 

“It’s a skill, and it’s a hard trade to learn,” explained Jeff Rice. “Introducing these kids at the high school level and getting them into the welding program is going to help spawn their career into the welding path.”

Rice says there is a shortage in the United States for welders, leaving more than 200,000 jobs looking to be filled.

“All the guys that have been welding forever are retiring at age 50,” said Rice. “We have to replace them with the new young guys, and getting them qualified.”

According to ZipRecruiter, on average the skilled welder in Georgia and South Carolina makes more than $30,000 a year….with the ability to make more depending on their skills. 

“If you want to work with your hands and learn a trade, welding is a good trade,” said Rice. “You can make a good living anywhere in the United States if you have a trade behind you such as welding.”

The superintendent for McDuffie County tells me the board is making sure every student has an opportunity to be introduced to a career they are interested in.

“Not all of our students will choose a college route,” explained Rice. “We have to ensure through our career technical and agricultural education programs; we are preparing them for careers straight out of high school.”

The welding lab is currently under construction. Thomson is expecting to cut the ribbon on the lab next school year.

Photojournalist: Antony Sherrod