Shondrea Tarpley was not at all sure about the welding course she signed up for at Miami Northwestern Senior High School.
Then, she talked to her dad.
“He told me it would be good for me,’’ said Shondrea, a freshman. “With a skill, I would be more independent and not have to depend on a man. I can do stuff on my own.’’
Her teacher, Dustin Welch, said he encourages young girls to consider welding.
“It’s a growing trend for women to go into welding,’’ he said. “It’s just another option for our students to consider.’’
Giving students more options – particularly in skills that will prepare them to enter the 21st century workforce – is what brought FIU, JPMorgan Chase and Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) together to expand the welding program at Miami Northwestern.
Welding, along with an aquaponics lab and organic garden, are all part of The Education Effect, a university community partnership between FIU, Miami Northwestern and M-DCPS that was launched in 2011 through a $1 million investment from Chase. The goal of the partnership is to promote 100 percent graduation at Miami Northwestern and ensure that students are college and career ready.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with our schools and with the (MNW) Bulls,’’ said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “By aligning our efforts with the future industry needs in Miami-Dade, we are ensuring all students are provided a pathway to success, as well as creating a pipeline of talent for the most in-demand jobs in our community.”
Funded through an additional $600,000 grant from Chase, the welding program will allow students and adult learners from the community to obtain a welding certification – making them eligible for jobs that are in high demand throughout Florida.
The state projects a need for 5,000 welders in the next four years; Miami alone will need to fill more than 300 positions to support the booming trade, logistics and construction industries.
Already, the program at Miami Northwestern has trained 150 students in welding skills and expects to train 150 more through the expansion.
“Today you’ll see our Bulls hard at work – in our welding lab, in our auto body shop and in our aquaponics lab – building things and making things that our community needs,” said Principal Wallace Aristide. “Our students can excel and they can do amazing things in this world.”
Sen. Mel Martinez, the southeast chairman for JPMorgan Chase, said the company is dedicated to supporting the school and the entire Liberty City community. The expansion of the welding program is part of a larger “New Skills at Work” initiative by Chase to improve workforce skills throughout Miami-Dade.
“We are closing the gap that exists for our workforce,’’ Martinez said. “Whether it’s providing training in technical skills like welding – or preparing students for a four-year degree at FIU, we are committed to this school and this community.’’
M-DCPS Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said he was proud of the transformation taking place at Miami Northwestern – and throughout M-DCPS.
“We are building hope and opportunity,’’ Carvalho said. “And the key is in partnerships – with FIU and The Education Effect and with Chase – together, we are cooperating to build something good, something great.’’
Sophomore Christopher Quiceno said he was excited about the opportunities a welding certification could provide him.
“Welding is more and more in-demand,’’ he said. “And the more opportunities you take, the better your future will be.’’
“Plus, building stuff is fun,’’ he added.
Freshman Daniel Johnson said he enjoyed learning a valuable skill through the program and plans to get his certification in welding. But he is also keeping his options open.
“I’m still considering college,’’ he said. “I want to go to FIU. I love FIU.’’
Nicole Kaufman Glasgow, interim vice president for engagement, said the work at Miami Northwestern is just one part of the university’s work to serve as a solutions center for the community.
“Whether it is in Liberty City or elsewhere in the school district, we are dedicated to improving student achievement and promoting their readiness for college or career,’’ she said.
For more information on The Education Effect, visit the program’s website.