TOWN OF BELOIT - Students at Beloit Turner High School will be able to obtain credit for Blackhawk Technical College starting next fall while taking classes at the high school.
Students of manufacturing and engineering teacher Nolan Otremba are attending welding classes at Blackhawk Technical College's Milton Advanced Manufacturing Training Center, but starting next school year students can take classes at Turner for college credit in introductory welding and machining. He said these classes will likely be meant for students who would like to get a head start on their education at Blackhawk Technical College.
Otremba wants the students to have more access to these fields, which are in high demand in the Stateline Area, including fabrication, machining and metal working.
"I had a company call me yesterday asking 'Hey, do you have any seniors? We're looking for fabrication and welding," Otremba said. "I have kids who are getting internships during high school as well as after they graduate."
Most of the fields require a two-year technical degree. Some companies will even pay their employees to attend college.
"There's a lot of advanced skills that go along with (manufacturing), like computer skills and math skills," Otremba said.
For example, senior Mark Zamora had a paid internship at Scot Forge in Clinton while he was still in high school. Otremba said many of the students have been offered jobs after graduation. Zamora has taken almost all of the manufacturing classes that have been offered to him. When classes ran out, he even began doing his own independent studies.
"Last semester I was in here every hour of the day except one hour, so I guess you could say I've spent my fair time in here," Zamora said.
Zamora has been accepted to the Universal Technical Institute, and automotive school in Chicago for a two-year program. He feels prepared for college after his hours in the shop.
"A lot has been thrown at me in here, especially from Mr. O, and I think I've exceeded his expectations on certain things," Zamora said.
Senior Logan Paulson has been involved in the manufacturing program at Turner for the last four years.
"I've always liked building stuff and putting things together and seeing what my mind can think of," Paulson said.
Paulson plans on becoming an automotive mechanic and has taken as many of the manufacturing classes as he could. He plans on attending Blackhawk Technical College after graduation.
Otremba said he attempts to find projects that will make the students enthusiastic about manufacturing, which can be a challenge. Some of the projects have included a miniature locomotive that was created using a 3D printer, the logo for the comic book character the Green Lantern and countless cutouts and sculptures.
Otremba has been teaching at Turner for five years, and the program has grown dramatically in that time. In the beginning, there were 10 to 12 students in his introductory class. Now he's up to 40 students.
"It's a mix of the kids seeing how neat some of the stuff is with the technology we've added...and I think it's also that jobs are coming back into this area, and kids see that they can get them," Otremba said.
In fact, students toured local machine and welding companies to see the real-life applications of the skills they're learning in class.
"Getting the kids exposed to the careers (the area) has is something I try to work on," Otremba said.
He's working on building relationships with local manufacturers and Blackhawk Technical College.
Currently Turner High School offers the following classes: Woods I and II, Metals I and II, Advanced Manufacturing and numerous engineering classes. This year, Otremba's Advanced Manufacturing class sold over $1,000 worth of cutting boards during the holiday season.