Standing behind a blue curtain wearing a black welder’s mask, Ryland Rimmasch is already training for a career that pays more than some of his teachers at Central High make.
“I like working with my hands,” Rimmasch said, as he showed a few middle-schoolers how to fire up a welding torch.
He’s a member of Central’s SkillsUSA chapter, which hosted the first career and technical education open house Wednesday night.
In addition to opening up the welding shop, Rimmasch joined other students in demonstrating what goes on in the fully outfitted woodworking, construction, engineering technology, auto body and agriculture shops at Central.
Many of the students who take classes in those shops are, like Rimmasch, members of SkillsUSA, which is a national organization that partners with students, educators and industry leaders to prepare students with “personal, workplace and technical skills.”
The chapter’s approximately 30 members saw Wednesday’s open house as an opportunity to get the word out to other students about viable career paths outside of a four-year college degree.
“Sometimes we have focused on our college-bound students to the detriment of our skilled trades,” Michelle Aldrich, state director of career and technical education, said, noting Wyoming’s high need for skilled tradespeople in fields like construction and agriculture.
“I think there’s a resurgence, especially among millennials, of looking at skilled trades and labor as an opportunity of making a great living without incurring student debt.”
That’s one of the advantages Rimmasch, who prefers his three welding classes to his more traditional classes, sees in pursuing a welding career. “It’s interactive. There’s just so much to learn,” he said.
He took his first technical education class freshman year and already has a few different levels of welding certification.
Next year, he plans to attend Laramie County Community College’s welding program – partly with scholarship money he won at a local welding competition.
As of 2019, he’d also be able to tap into funds from the Hathaway Scholarship. Last year, the state Legislature added career and technical education pathways to the scholarship’s parameters.