Montevideo School's welding program undergoes a revamp thanks to help from J&D Construction, Inc.

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

After years of working on the idea of working with the Montevideo School, J&D Construction, Inc, recently found a path to a new partnership that benefits both the district and the company. J&D Construction owner Jamie Pauling says the partnership came to fruition after a conversation with his wife, school board member Becky Pauling about Superintendent Wade McKittrick’s initiative to enhance the technical classes at the school. “At my daughters swim meet, I ran into Wade and we talked about the need the school has, and the possibility of me and J&D Construction, Inc. helping out in the Ag Welding Shop, both of us not yet knowing what that would entail,” Pauling says. 

After some email communications with school staff and a conversation with Ag Teacher Maquelah Schueler, to help define what the needs of the Ag Welding Shop were, Pauling decided to set a start date and work out what the contribution would be as the project went along. “I discussed with my partners at J&D Construction that I was intending to use J&D’s resources on this endeavor, and we set a budget and moved ahead,” Pauling says. 

The Montevideo High School's Ag Welding Class is learning functional welding skills through staff from J&D Construction, Inc.

On November 1st, Pauling, along with J&D’s Welding Shop Supervisor Bennett Hagen and Safety Director Paul Carlson attended their first day of class with the students. “We concentrated on safety topics, introducing ourselves to the students, and talking to the students to find out what welding experience they have had,” says Pauling. “Maquelah has limited experience with welding, and I felt that we were going to be needed daily to teach the students and her about welding so she is better able to teach welding in future classes.” Because the J&D staff is regularly teaching in their work environment, the transition to teaching in a classroom environment wasn’t difficult. “Essentially, we have taken over the welding shop and are treating it as if it was our shop, making improvements that are needed to accomplish a good working environment while teaching the students how to weld and work with steel,” he says. 

Pauling refers to the instruction as “Functional Welding”. The instruction is not as in-depth as what a technical school would teach, but is meant to be an introduction to welding for at-home projects, or working in a welding shop in the summer, or right after high school. “During this process, I had been making notes of what I wanted to accomplish and teach the students and am continuously designing projects for them to complete. The students are now coming in with projects they want to build,” says Pauling. They have also worked along the way to de-clutter and deep clean the shop, organize work areas, take welding tests to establish skills, engage in safety lessons, learn how to use cutting and grinding equipment, built several welding tables, and learn the basics of wire feed and stick welding. The students are also learning how to fill out a job application, identify safety hazards and work together to set up a proper welding shop. 

In order to make the class function well, J&D Construction, Inc. has donated Stick Welders, time, and materials. They have also worked with J&D’s vendors to gather donations of steel from West Central Steel of Willmar, and Valley Manufacturing of Montevideo. Additionally, Runnings has offered a large discount on tools. “We are continuing to work with others,” says Pauling. “I have been working with school administration to get money budgeted for improvements, tools, and equipment.”

New Stick Welders were donated by the company to help make the workspace in the classroom more functional.

Pauling says the long-term goal is to have a welding class primarily taught by the Ag Teacher, but enhanced by local industry professionals. “As we are establishing what the welding program should look like going forward, I hope to help the school set a template to be used to partner with other local companies,” Pauling says. “I want to continue to help make improvements to this and other technical skill classes. I also want to have technical classes be more inclusive of life skills. We hope to increase students’ interest in this type of work by providing a satisfying educational experience.”

With the local region being heavily agricultural and manufacturing based, Pauling says teaching these skills in high school is needed. “Our goal is to provide education while working toward filling a need for our community. This partnership with ISD 129 will be beneficial for our students and our community for years to come,” Pauling says. “It has been a fun, exciting, and challenging experience and we, at J&D Construction, Inc., are excited to be working with the ISD 129 Ag Welding Program.”

Montevideo High School Principal Chris Weber expressed gratitude for the partnership, saying, “We are very excited about our two-way partnership with J&D Construction. Jamie, Bennett, and Paul have been great with our students. We are very fortunate to have a business like J&D in our community willing to give their time and resources to our kids. The donation of the welders and other materials to our Shop class has been a great upgrade to our shop and provides our students with more opportunities to learn and grow.”