PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

April 2, 2013

PN-G students weld partnership with Ashland

PORT NECHES — John Michael Brown, welding teacher at Port Neches-Groves High School, always tries to take a hands-on approach to his job.

“You can read a book all you want,” Brown said. “But there’s nothing like the actual hands-on process.”

It was for this reason that Brown’s welding classes teamed up with Ashland Inc., a rubber manufacturing plant in Port Neches, on a maintenance project.

“Towards the end of the first semester, we had a project out here in the plant to build some handrails around the storage tank to keep people from falling,” said Ray Smith, Ashland maintenance manager. “Our draft department put together a drawing and specifications package to present to the kids to build this handrail project.”

After a full day of safety training, Ashland donated the necessary materials — 1.5-inch piping, 6 by 6 angle and 4-inch flat boards.

The three classes — which consisted of approximately 20 students — began work on the project at the beginning of January. By the end of March, their task was completed.

“I taught them how to read the blueprints, how to figure out their isometric cutlinks, how to do the fabrication,” Brown said. “Then they did all the blueprint reading, all the calculations, all the cutlinks, all the fabrication, all the welding — and it’s going to be actually used right here in the refinery.”

The project was not without its challenges, Brown said.

“At first they had no idea what was going on,” he said. “They had to perform each job — one day this one would do the calculations, and then the next one would jump in and do the fitting. You’d go from one class working on the project, and they’d leave and another class would come in, and they wouldn’t know where the last class left off. Basically it was run exactly like a construction job — you’ve got day shift coming in, and then night shift comes in.”

The students agreed that the project tested their skills.

“The hardest part was figuring out your cutlinks and where the centers go — there was a lot of math involved,” said senior Todd Weaver, 18. “We ran into a few mistakes, but we worked them out.”

Both Brown and Smith were highly impressed by the quality of work the students produced.

“The kids did a great job,” Brown said. “I was in industry for a little over 20 years, and I was shocked. It’s one of the best educational tools I have seen.”

“It was very well done,” added Smith. “The teacher is an experienced welder who once worked in plants, and he understands the requirements. The quality control is very good because of him.”

Smith said he plans to utilize the students’ skills again — for their benefit as much as his.

“I really wanted these kids to get real-life experience,” Smith said. “In plants and industry, there’s operators who operate the plants, and then there’s construction and projects and maintenance. These young craftsmen are the future guys that are going to keep industry thriving and running. Without the maintenance in a large project, these plants don’t grow and they don’t run. We need the young craftsmen to get involved.”

Particularly these young craftsmen. Once he had equipped the students with the skills necessary to complete the project, Brown found there was very little left for him to do except oversee their work.

“These kids came together — I could sit back and just let them go,” Brown said. “That’s uncommon for this age. It was unbelievable.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA

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