Jarrod Hosking is a welder. But he recently found out he’s a pretty good artist, too.
The 19-year-old Newaygo resident used his welding torch, some pipes and a bit of inspiration from Michigan’s logging history to create a piece of metallic art to win the first Michigan Energy Workforce Development Consortium welding contest.
Hosking created a log out of a pipe that looks like it is being chopped by an axe. It’s an homage, he said, to the state’s history of logging and to those who use wood to provide heat during Michigan’s cold months.
For his efforts, Hosking won $500, another $1,000 for the welding program at his school, Newaygo County RESA, and welding equipment from Miller Electric.
“This was a really cool opportunity to make something on my own, something more creative,” he said. “And I got to help out our program, which made me very happy – I was overly excited about that.”
The contest, sponsored by MEWDC and supported by DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, was launched during Careers in Energy Week in October. That week, as declared by Gov. Rick Snyder, aims to inform Michigan’s high school students about the many career options in the energy industry.
For the welding contest, Career and Technical Education students from around the state were tasked with welding a metal structure with simple guidelines: that it depicted energy, Michigan and incorporated the Michigan Energy Workforce Development Consortium logo.
Students got creative.
Glenn Zorn, a welding instructor at Monroe High School – which had the second and fourth place winners – said his students made a Dutch windmill, a lightning bolt with a timeline of the history of electricity and a windmill that made and stored energy to light up a house and a barn, among many others.
“I let them be as creative as they wanted,” Zorn said. “A lot of times we don’t let them be too creative because a lot of what we do is getting ready for college and getting certified.
“But with this project, they were able to do many creative things,” he said. “They learned how to heat steel and bend it, for example. It was not just welding.”
In all, more than 60 high school students created structures on the theme, which were judged by welders in the industry. The winners are taking home cash prizes for themselves and their districts, along with welding machines.
It’s more than just art, though.
Zorn and Aaron Brandon, a welding instructor in Newaygo, said the skills used for creating the projects – and the skills learned in welding class – are essential to the workforce of tomorrow. Both said most welders working right now are nearing retirement and a new generation is needed to fill positions.
“We need people to replace them,” Brandon said. “We are going to be hurting if we don’t get young men and women with some skills to take over.”
Zorn said students who get into skilled trades like welding have many opportunities for good, stable careers.
“They have a great opportunity to get really good jobs with these skills, learning how to weld,” he said.
William Bass, a principal welding specialist at DTE Energy, was one of the judges for the contest.
“The judging was very difficult because every single one of the projects was so good,” he said. “Our industry, as well as several others, needs good welders and not just good welders, welders who are creative and able to create something tangible from a vision in their head.”
Winners were announced Tuesday at an event at Jackson Community College.
Hosking created the log getting cut by an axe. He said he started with a 24-inch long, 10-inch diameter pipe. He cut it at an angle on one end so it looked like a chain saw cut. Then he began applying welds to the surface “to make it look like bark,” he said. For the axe, he found another pipe, heated it up and hammered it to make it look like an axe. He then cut into the “log” to allow for the axe to fit into the log – making it look like it was impacting the object.
Hosking said first learned of the option to pursue welding during field trips to the program in the 8th and 10th grades.
“I thought, ‘this is what I want to do,’” he said. “it is really hands on and not a lot of people can do it. That’s what I really like about it.”
For now, he plans to learn as much as he can and then get a job.
“I just want to get as good as I possibly can, excel at it and get better,” he said. “Then, I want to get the best job I can find and make the most money I can.”
Tyler Lemerande, 17, of Monroe High School created a Dutch windmill, which spins. He modeled it after the structures seen near Holland. The Monroe students were tasked with conducting research on the history of the objects their structures depicted. With that in mind, Lemerande added an irrigation pump and irrigation lines to his structure.
Lemerande said he created the windmill because he often saw one when driving up north with his family, “plus, it looked cool.”
He said he plans to go to the police academy, but sees welding as a solid backup plan and a practical skill to have later in life.
“It’s helped me a lot,” he said. “I’m more confident now with this training. And it will help a lot later; if something is broken on my car or something, I’ll be able to fix it.”
For his efforts, he won $250 and new welding equipment. His school’s program also gets $750.
Kevin Arnold, 17, of White Cloud, attends Newaygo RESA. He created a utility truck next to a utility pole; the base is a piece of metal shaped like Michigan. He created three workers as well.
“When people think of energy, they think of power poles,” he said as way of explaining his inspiration. “And you need a bucket truck to get up there.”
For his place, Arnold won a new welder and welding equipment, which he says he will keep at home and “fix things that need to be fixed.”
After high school, he plans to attend Ferris State University to study construction management — and hopes to weld this summer to earn money for that education.
Arnold said he started working construction at 14 years old and started welding when he saw it offered at the local school.
“I wanted to explore a little bit, so I went into welding,” he said. “I’d like to learn a bunch of trades.”
Fourth place (three-way tie):
Jacob Smith of Monroe High School created a wind turbine. Despite suffering a broken hand in the middle of the trimester, Smith managed to complete the structure within the contest deadline.
“I learned a lot,” he said. “Including to weld with my left hand.”
His windmill is a working model: when the windmill spins, it creates electricity which is stored in a battery attached to the windmill. A flipped switch provides energy to a small barn and home.
Smith, who lives in LaSalle, said he plans to set up the welder he won at his house. After high school, he’ll likely continue either in an apprenticeship or at a skilled trades program at a local college.
He said he enjoyed the creative side of welding that the contest provided.
“At first, I was going to make something small,” he said. “I didn’t think I could make the windmill, so it’s pretty cool.”
Nick Simington, 18, of the Newaygo RESA, made a structure of a two-person saw with two people cutting a log — which, with the crank of a wheel, moved in a cutting motion. He said he was inspired by the fact that utility poles are a big part of the energy industry and his structure depicts the creation of one of those from days gone by.
Simington was inspired to get into welding by his father, who is a long time welder who works in an automotive body shop. He admits that his father can still best him in welding technique.
“He can do way better than me in his sleep,” he said. “Hopefully in time.”
Simington plans to attend Muskegon Community College, where he was offered a place on the baseball team. After that, he intends to follow in his father’s footsteps and work on cars.
Michael Koval, who lives in Diamondale and attend Eaton County RESA, created a tree that stands about three feet tall. His inspiration was the history in Michigan of using felled trees as fuel for heat.
For his effort, he won a welder. He plans to use it to create the metal parts for the furniture a friend of his makes.
After high school, he said he plans to continue in the skilled trades with either an apprenticeship or attending a community college to learn more about welding. He said he got into welding after visiting the technical school and trying it out.
“I like working with my hands, creating things, building,” he said. “I tried it out, really liked it and still like it to this day.”
In terms of the contest, he said it was a nice change of pace to the normal welding tasks.
“I was much more free to follow what came to mind instead of following a print,” he said. “I had an idea in my mind and just started making it.”