With North Carolina considered a top state for manufacturing jobs (it boasts the largest manufacturing workforce in the Southeast), Guildford Technical Community College (GTCC) is prepared to groom more workers to fill any potential skills gap.1 GTCC’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing opened the doors of its 250,000 square-foot facility in 2018; the six-acre building offers more space to five college programs and more state-of-the-art equipment. Thanks to program expansion, its welding program now has over 70 welding and cutting stations as opposed to its previous 32.
“I have partnerships with several employers in the community. That way, we design a program so that students are prepared to go to work for that company,” said longtime welding instructor Don Ellington. Ellington has been at GTCC for over 15 years and played a major role in the renovation and opening of the center. Ellington knows the community has a need for quality welders, and he believes his program can help solve that gap.
With the expanded facility a few things are crucial to making it successful: recruitment, ensuring students are engaged and ensuring that Ellington is producing quality workers for the community. One addition he made to his program to address each of these requirements: virtual welding simulators.
“These kids can try out welding on the simulator to see if
this is something they are even interested in and I can evaluate their progress
before putting them in a booth,” said Ellington. “I can adjust the simulator to
create a WPS to meet the needs of a local employer. We create modules that are
custom to those employers with very specific WPS’s.”
Another benefit of the simulators is cost savings. Ellington
believes he will save about 10% on metal by using these machines. More
importantly, his students will receive proper training to ensure they are a good
fit for this career path.
“I see value in saving material costs, but more, I see value in students getting a common understanding of the basics, such as travel angle, work angle, nozzle distant, speed and straightness,” stated Ellington.
GTCC’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing utilizes several Realityworks, Inc. products, including the guideWELD® VR welding simulator and guideWELD® LIVE real welding guidance system. Both tools were created and are used in educational institutions around the country to help today’s 21st Century students learn correct welding techniques and engage them with authentic, hands-on learning experiences while addressing classroom management and safety concerns. For more information on Realityworks products, visit: www.realityworks.com
Note: This article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Techniques. ACTE members can read the complete article on page 8 of the current issue. Not a member? Click here to join and access this monthly career and technical education publication.
THE DRIVE FOR CREDENTIALING IN CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION (CTE) HAS BEEN A BOON
for students, inspiring educators to rethink how they prepare students for high-demand, high-skill and high-wage jobs. CTE program administrators strive to hire certified instructors, and funding is often based on the number of students to achieve certification in high-demand, high-wage and high-skill fields.
In the past, this might have meant purchasing high-cost equipment to mimic the workplace. Students would train on those products and perhaps become proficient. But now preparing students for these jobs is less about equipment, and more about the skills necessary to move into a career in a chosen field.
The Cost of Hands-on Learning
When you think about a hands-on learning resource for welding programs, you might consider that welding is hands-on by nature. Often, welding students gather at a distance, all dressed in protective equipment and darkening helmets, as they observe an instructor demonstrate a very intricate technique. Students are expected to watch, understand and then practice. is can be a very costly endeavor; students learning to weld can go through materials very quickly, and they don’t always develop a deep understanding of what they are doing. Simulation, in comparison, allows students to
experience welding in a way they can’t in the booth — learning, for example, why a work angle is critical to creating a weld that will hold. Simulation allows them to experience and improve the skills they need to become certified welders.
Simulation is a method for practice and learning. It is a technique (not a technology) to replace and amplify real experiences with guided ones. rough simulation, students can replicate the real-world welding experience and become immersed in an interactive fashion. is results in a deeper understanding of the necessary skills, and it enables them to transfer those skills even faster. In welding, students can master techniques like work angle, travel angle and speed in a safe environment before they enter a welding booth.
Studies show that students who learn to weld in a virtual environment learn faster and more efficiently (Stone, McLaurin, Zhong & Watts, 2013). To create a quality weld, you need to master speed. Welding procedure specifications require a welder to perform an optimal weld at a specified number of inches per minute. If you were told to move your hand from left to right at 11 inches per minute, how would you know how to do that? How would you know if you were going too fast, too slow or just right? You would practice and practice, examining your welds for defects and hoping you would eventually gain mastery.
In the virtual world, students are guided so that they gain muscle memory from the start. They receive immediate feedback and are given the opportunity to alter their speed if necessary. Once student welders have mastered their technique in the virtual world, they can move on to real equipment and welding metal. Making these resources available to many students at once is crucial to the success of the welding workforce.
ACTE members, log in to read the complete article on page 8 of the May Techniques issue. Not a member? Click here to join.
Diane Ross is the education development manager for Realityworks, Inc., where she works with states and school districts to develop better programs, products and pathways in career and technical education programs. She has a master’s in secondary education from Marshall University and is an advisor for the National Standards for FACS Education. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jamey McIntosh, Realityworks RealCareer Product Manager
“Ultimately, everything we do at school is an investment in our future. Our return on investment in CTE programs is extremely high.” – Dr. David Mandel, Principal, Marana High School, AZ
I had the privilege to walk into one of the top high school welding and manufacturing shops in Arizona. It was a privilege for many reasons (not just because it was 97 degrees outside and air-conditioned in the shop). It was a privilege because once I stepped into Marana High School Welding Instructor Kenton Webb’s welding shop, I knew there was something special about this program.
Located about 20 minutes northwest of downtown Tucson and about 5 minutes from Saguaro National Park, Webb’s welding program sees about 250 students go through the shop doors every year – an increase of almost 200 students from when Webb started the program almost a decade ago. In the last nine years, the program has come to be one of the premier high school welding shops in the state, which is why our team jumped at the opportunity to visit in person and learn how Webb utilizes Realityworks’ welding training tools and others to engage his students and help them develop skills.
As we walked around Webb’s impressive shop for the first time, we asked him to tell us how the shop came to be. As Webb recalled expanding from a single small shop to two, securing the support of school administrators and funding from grants, etc., I found myself becoming more impressed – especially when he shared that he designed most of the shop’s layout himself, and his students built many of welding booths themselves.
What we saw and heard made Webb’s passion for educating clear. Webb knows that being able to help his students truly understand where an in-demand skill like welding could take them is key to engaging them in welding training, and the impact of that understanding was obvious with every student we spoke with. We talked with Kylie, a senior who, of her own accord, took a week-long underwater welding class during spring break. During our conversation, her excitement and pride in the skill Webb has helped her hone came through loud and clear. With every discussion we had, it became more and more obvious that Webb’s students saw welding not only as a skill, but a career.
Our visit happened to occur two days before Marana High School seniors graduated, so there was a palpable excitement in the air. When I asked a few of them of their post-graduation plans, I was struck by how confident they were – a trait I credit in part to the great work being done at Marana High School. These students had plans; they had summer jobs and post-secondary educational opportunities lined up. They were getting offers out of high school for well-paying jobs and they were being accepted at tech schools and colleges.
I had a chance to speak briefly with Marana High School Principal Dr. David Mandel. One of the statements he made stuck with me. He stated that no matter what each Marana High School educator is teaching, “all kids are career-bound,” and they take that very seriously. It’s clear to me that with hard work comes success, and with a passion for welding education and training, Marana High School and Kenton Webb are making a huge difference for welding education, and for each and every student that goes through his classroom.
At Realityworks, our Account Managers and other team members attend nearly 100 tradeshows over the course of a year. So, what is tradeshow season? Of those 100 annual tradeshows nearly HALF occur during the summer, between June, July and August. In addition to our typical FCS and Career and Technical Education Conferences, we’re excited to be talking with you once again at Agriculture Teachers Education Conferences featuring our new interactive animal models and Health Science Education Conferences introducing our new hands-on nursing skills training.
Our Account Managers are passionate about our products, love sharing the newest educational tools and enjoy seeing you interact with our great hands-on learning aids in the booths. Based out of Eau Claire, WI, many of our products that you see at tradeshows are shipped cross-country and put on hundreds of miles before they return home.
Did you know that Realityworks…
has only 9 Account Managers traveling to the nearly 50 summer tradeshows? We also send employees from our home office to help support them.
has the Account Managers traveling to about 30 states in 10 weeks.
expects to meet over 46,000 conference attendees this summer.
supports national conferences and organizations such as AAFCS and HOSA.
will be giving approximately 40 presentations during this time, highlighting our experiential products and providing you with useful tips and tricks to help you in the classroom.
Have you heard of the education kits that we offer? These great products offer out-of-the-box learning experiences for your students. Each one includes curriculum, interactive student activities and hands-on learning tools that will bring your lessons to life
How can these kits benefit your classroom?
Hands-on tools quickly engage students and provide tactile learning
Manipulatives give students a deeper understanding of complex concepts
Students are able to interact and learn from one another
Lesson plans are provided for easy implementation
Activities and assessments integrate different learning methods to reach all students
Four of the kits we have available are for teaching topics related to plant science, welding, child care and food safety.
We have recently released a series of pathway-specific scenario cards to teach students those soft skills that are essential for entering today’s workforce. Right now you can get a free set of scenario cards with the purchase of one of four educational kits.
Research continues to tell us that across the country, businesses of all kinds are prioritizing soft skills like problem-solving, time management and work ethic over technical, job-related skills. Check out the webinar below for more great information and activities to help you incorporate these essential soft skills into your lesson planning.
Today’s students are looking to learn classroom lessons in
more unique ways than in the past. They crave information they can immediately
connect to their future goals. They want to interact, experiment, learn from
their mistakes, and practice.
At Realityworks, we develop
products that enable CTE educators to do exactly that: give students hands-on
learning opportunities that are relevant, authentic and highly engaging while
teaching important career skills. We spoke with our customers to create a list
of our 10 most popular training tools for Health Science, Family and Consumer
Science, Agriculture and Welding classrooms.
10 Cool Tools CTE Educators Use to Engage Students are:
Welding is one of the high-wage,
high-demand careers we hear about in the workforce today. With this engaging
and interactive simulator, students can learn basic techniques while exploring
a potential career.
Requested by ag instructors to
teach fundamental skills for agriculture and vet tech students, this simulator
gives students hands-on experience giving injections, applying ear tags and
more, without leaving the classroom.
Key skills for all students
entering healthcare careers include empathy and understanding of their
patients. With this wearable tool, students can “walk in the shoes”
of elderly patients and gain true insight into their aches, pains and other
One of our newest products on the
“cool tools” list, this interactive kit was created in partnership
with a child care facility owner. It teaches students how to properly set up
child care rooms for ideal learning environments.
Our most popular trade skills kit,
this unique product teaches students what can go wrong during welding, how to
identify improper welds and most importantly, how to fix these defects and
prevent them from occurring on future welds.
While this product has been
offered for several years, the lessons it teaches and the impacts it makes on
students is incredible. We are proud that educators still consider our Shaken
Baby Simulator a “cool tool,” as it provides unforgettable lessons on
child abuse and prevention that can truly save lives.
Ready to learn more about these cool tools and others offered by Realityworks?
The importance of storage space in CTE classrooms and shops cannot be understated. After all, the more organized you are, the better you can manage your classroom and keep your students safe, on task and productive. Yet teachers constantly tell us that they don’t have enough storage space in their classrooms – and much of the time, the storage solutions that are in place take up valuable work space.
That’s why we created our Portable Workstations. These sturdy carts feature locking wheels, three drawers (one of which locks), plus a rugged, grated worksurface that is tough and durable.
Roll this mobile welding workstation into any area of your classroom or workshop to:
Store tools and Personal Protective Equipment
Complete woodworking, metalworking or small engine repair projects
Keep your favorite tools close at hand, and safely locked up when not in use
Work with up to 500 pounds of materials
Safely store gas cylinders for even the largest welders and projects
Protect your equipment from slag and grinding dust
Work on welding projects by incorporating the removable welding curtain that comes with the cart
Demonstrate techniques and best practices from a point of view that all students can effectively observe
Store projects and extra scraps
Set up a portable welding workspace or learning station anywhere
Learn more about our Portable Workstation from the Realityworks team member who helped develop them, Mechanical Engineer Mike Zaborowski:
We recently hosted a panel discussion about why virtual reality welding works for today’s CTE students. Featuring Realityworks RealCareer Product Manager Jamey McIntosh, Realityworks Support Specialist and guideWELD® trainer Chris Potapenko and Arizona welding instructor Kenton Webb, the webinar featured candid conversations about how instructors across the country are implementing this technology into their programs and using it to engage students, foster skill development, boost confidence and save money.
Below are excerpts from the live presentation (watch the complete recording here).
1. It’s a great tool to use with beginning classes
“I’ve found it best to start off with my beginning level classes where a lot of those kids have never welded before so they don’t know the difference in between live and virtual. It’s definitely helped them as they’ve started off with something harder and then when they get out into the shop it’s a lot easier for them when it comes to the live application of it. It also helps them build their confidence. Sometimes welding equipment is terrifying to kids and they’re scared of the sparks and the heat and the fire.” – Kenton Webb, Welding Instructor, Marana High School, AZ
“It’s a great tool and utility to bring in new students to get them started with the basics of welding. It eliminates some of the fear factors that go into getting them out on the real machine where they’re dealing with the heat, the sparks, the fumes. It’s a great resource to have in that safe classroom environment, it’s going to teach them all of the core functions of welding and give them that immediate feedback as well that they’re looking for.” – Chris Potapenko, Realityworks Support Specialist and certified guideWELD® trainer
2. The guideWELD® VR welding simulator by Realityworks comes with WPS’s (Welding Procedure Specifications) and the ability to make your own WPS’s, to gear it towards your own curriculum.
“I’ve created 9 separate WPS’s that the students have to go through and hit at an 80% or higher before they can move on to the next WPS,” said Webb. “Once they’ve finished and hit that mark in the classroom then I also have the guideWELD Live and they go out and use those with the actual hands-on weld.” – Kenton Webb, Welding Instructor, Marana High School, AZ
“Being able to create your own welds that your community might be doing. We have schools that say, ‘just down the road we have welding jobs open, I want my students to be able to get those welding jobs, and I want my students to be able to practice those kinds of welds.’ They can put into guideWELD VR the exact parameters that they need to do. It ties in that career interest.” – Jamey McIntosh, Realityworks RealCareer Product Manager
3. Virtual welding can improve learning for students
“Because they do get immediate feedback and they can actually see what they’re doing wrong immediately as they’re going through the weld that definitely helps them. Even with my special education students, it gives them more feedback that they need and gets them more comfortable using it before they go out and use the real thing. It covers your basic work angles, travel angles, distance and all of that so when I’m using that terminology out in the shop it’s not going over their head because they’ve been introduced to it.” – Kenton Webb, Welding Instructor, Marana High School, AZ
4. Virtual welding can save your program money, and guideWELD VR will help prove how much you are saving
“I was able to go and figure out, ok this is what I would pay for the steel, if I was doing these joints this is what it would cost per joint. So, I was able to see, each class by the time they were done with the 9 modules, and it counts every attempt that they do whether they pass it or fail it, so there were some of my classes that if they were out in the shop they would have burned through $800 worth of material and that’s not even including the gas and wire, nozzles and tips that they would have burned through learning how to do it on the live thing. It definitely helps educators justify the cost for it, in terms of down the road this is saving us money and for some of those programs that don’t have funding for unlimited metals and stuff like that it gives them a little more time to start them off in the class but then still not worry about running through all of their material before the end of the year.” – Kenton Webb, Welding Instructor, Marana High School, AZ
5. Students love the gaming aspect of virtual welding
“With kids being more tech savvy and gamer savvy, they really do enjoy doing it because they are coming to school to play a game so you are getting a little bit more buy in and interest as well. Another thing I noticed is some of them will turn it into a competition where they see one kid get a 95 then the other kids are ‘oh I can do better’ and they are going back for more and trying to beat each other with a little competition.” – Kenton Webb, Welding Instructor, Marana High School, AZ
These responses were extracted from our webinar, “Why VR Works: A Panel Discussion,” which can be found here or viewed below. This discussion was facilitated by Kenton Webb, welding instructor from Marana High School, Tucsun, AZ; Jamey McIntosh, product manager for Realityworks; and Chris Potapenko, technology support specialist for Realityworks.
By Emily Kuhn, Realityworks Communications Specialist
We created the guideWELD® VR welding simulator to give instructors an inexpensive yet effective way to engage students in welding career exploration and train them on the fundamentals of welding. We know demand for skilled welders is growing, and tools like these help students develop the basic skills they need to succeed in related careers. Five years later, we’ve visited welding classrooms and shops from Arizona to Alaska, helping CTE instructors implement virtual reality welding simulators in their programs. Along the way, we’ve learned a few key lessons:
Students and instructors alike have shared the fun they’ve had trying to beat their peer’s scores on the guideWELD VR welding simulators, which assess users on their work angle, travel angle, speed, nozzle-to-plate distance and straightness, then provide a cumulative score.
Rodian Manjarres was a high school welding student at J. Harley Bonds Career Center in Greer, SC when we caught up with her at a National SkillsUSA competition. She told us of her own guideWELD VR use, “We were all trying to beat each other’s scores and kept taking more turns. Everyone was really excited about it.”
In fact, the simulators’ competitive aspect was a particular benefit to this female welder.
“I liked it a lot because I could beat the guys at it,” said Manjarres. “There are only a few of us that can get the gun to turn gold.”
Instructors have found that competition encourages students to continue enhancing their form and technique and build muscle memory. And the more students use this training tool, the more developed their welding technique becomes.
“Cool tools” can impact fundraising efforts.
We’ve spoken to several ingenious instructors who bring their guideWELD VR units to open houses and other community events. The simulators grab attendees’ attention, helps them understand what students are learning and help generate support for their classrooms.
Dan Leinen uses the simulators in his agriculture classes at Harlan Community High School in Harlan, IA. He told us of one event where letting a community member try the simulator directly impact that individual’s willingness to donate to his ag program.
“This particular company owner had an FFA background but had never welded,” said Leinen. “He sat down and tried the simulator and almost instantly committed to donating funds.”
guideWELD VR is portable, and its virtual nature means there is no gas, ventilation or sparks to worry about. By showing the community what you’re doing in your classroom, they see what they could be supporting.
Technology is attractive.
Recruitment might be one of the most common ways we hear guideWELD VR being used. The tool’s video game-like environment appeals to today’s technology-driven students, and the lack of sparks calms common welding fears. And in regions where students aren’t coming from farms or other environments where welding is the norm, instructors enjoy having a safe way to introduce the skill to new users.
John Paulus uses the simulators in the Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Mobile Manufacturing Lab. The lab travels to various locations across Western Wisconsin to provide middle- and high-school students with manufacturing career exploration opportunities.
“A lot of these kids have never touched a welder or turned a lathe in their life,” said Paulus. “We’re trying to get these kids excited about getting skilled and getting into manufacturing careers. This equipment is enhancing our ability to do that.”
Ready to learn more about the guideWELD VR
Soft skills, employability skills, people skills… however you refer to them, soft skills are critical to career success. Research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center concluded that 85% of job success comes from having well‐developed soft and people skills, and only 15% of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge.
So how can we ensure that skills are being taught in every CTE class?
Realityworks created its own program: the RealCareer™ Employability Skills Program. Through our research, talking with educators and confirming information with business owners, we found a lot of great ways to not only engage students in this topic but to help them carry these skills on in life.
We know that adding additional topics to your curriculum can be scary. We also know educators do not have a lot of time and sometimes are unsure how to start incorporating this topic into their program.
Use the 5 ideas below to incorporate soft skill development into your classroom without stress.
Keep in mind, these ideas could work for different CTE areas, including engineering, nursing, Family and Consumer Sciences, welding and business. The goal is to start addressing these skills in your classroom!
Create Conversation Cards. Write a variety of conversation topics onto note cards: “Describe the last book you read,” “Discuss the previous assignment and how you handled the questions,” or “What do you want to do after high school?” Then take 5 minutes of each class to pair students up with one conversation card and have them discuss the topic. Use this activity to teach communication skills and show your students how to converse with their peers.
Great for: ANY PATHWAY! Make your cards about topics in class or make them generic!
Bring in guest speakers. Ask community members in your area of education to speak to the class on soft skills topics. Recommended questions include: “What soft skills are important to your profession?” “What soft skills have you used in the last week at work?” “How can working on soft skills get me a job?”
Great for: ANY PATHWAY! Invite someone in that has a career your students might want someday.
Take time to reflect. If you are working on specific soft skills, make sure you give students a few minutes at the end of class to write about what went well, what could be improved on and what they noticed. For example, if they are working in a group, they are developing the ability to work on a team. Have them reflect on what it is like working in a team. If they just presented on a topic to their classmates, have them reflect on how they felt presenting, what could have made the presentation go better and what they did right.
Great for: ANY PATHWAY! Reflection time is working on critical thinking – one of the big soft skills needed in today’s workplace.
Create responsibility in the classroom. This could mean:
Having students use day planners to help with time management (encourage blocking time for homework)
Having students take care of a plant for the semester – plant it, water it, feed it and care for it. While simple, this is great for responsibility!
Great for: ANY PATHWAY! No matter what class you teach, your students need to show up on time, prepared and ready to listen and participate in class. These are all soft skills.
Get the RealCareer Employability Skills Program. This program is filled with activities that hit on the KEY soft skills needed to succeed. It includes a full curriculum, workbooks, scenario cards and presentation slides. This out-of-the-box program makes it SIMPLE to incorporate soft skills in ANY CTE pathway.