Garrett Rollins (seated, second from left) is surrounded by those who attended his National SkillsUSA Signing Day ceremony, May 5, at GNTC’s Walker County campus. Also pictured (from left, seated) are her father, Donny Rollins; Mark Collins, Metro Boiler Tube; and Teresa Phillips, Metro Boiler Tube; (left to right, standing) Julie Portwood, Secondary Education Coordinator and Walker LAUNCH, Walker County Schools; Deidrienne Gross, Walker LAUNCH instructor; Tayler Davidson, Welding and Joining Technology Instructor, GNTC; Jeremiah Cooper, Program Director and Welding and Joining Technology Instructor, GNTC; Sarah Jenkins, SkillsUSA Advisor; Lugenia Suttles, vice principal, LaFayette High School; Damon Raines, Superintendent, Walker County Schools; Maggie Stultz, principal of LaFayette High School; and Justin Carruth, coordinator of secondary and career curriculum, technical and agricultural education, Walker County Schools.
A Walker County Schools student enrolled in the system’s Walker LAUNCH Dual Enrollment partnership with Georgia Northwestern Technical College recently strengthened his commitment to the welding profession.
When LaFayette High School student Garrett Rollins graduates on May 27, he will already have multiple welding certificates and a full-time job waiting for him at a Metro Boiler Tube, where he currently works part-time. Walker County Schools and GNTC officials held a May 5 ceremony where Rollins signed a Metro job offer; the signing was held in conjunction with SkillsUSA National Signing Day, which celebrates high school and college/post-secondary students who have chosen to pursue a career as a professional in one of the skilled trades.
“At 14, my uncle, who was already a welder, said, ‘You’ll be a welder,'” Mr Rollins said, explaining that his uncle spotted his abilities early on. “Welding is something you can or cannot do. It is mainly based on skill and patience to learn. I immediately understood that this would be my career.
Mr. Rollins was also the first Walker County Schools student to enter the Regional High School Welding Competition for SkillsUSA. He said he found the December 2021 contest “unnerving”.
He took his time, stayed calm and focused on what he needed to do. “It’s about quality, not speed,” he explained.
“Once my welding hood comes off, all I can think about is the next weld,” he said.
He admits he still sometimes experiences frustration because it takes longer to prepare his work than more experienced welders do to prepare their welds, he said. His colleagues encourage him by reminding him that he will go faster with more experience.
Professional knowledge and personal growth are the goals of the Walker LAUNCH program, said Julie Portwood, secondary education coordinator and Walker LAUNCH for Walker County Schools.
“Garrett learned time management, stood up for himself and stood out as a leader among his peers,” Ms Portwood said. “His communication skills have improved. He now knows the right way to say what needs to be said.
The high school student has several professional goals. After graduating from high school, he will take six welding courses this fall and hopes to graduate from GNTC welding in fall 2022 or spring 2023, he said.
Mr. Rollins takes all of his classes at GNTC’s Walker County campus in Rock Spring. He said the environment differs from a traditional high school because “college treats you like an adult, not a high school student.”
While college instructors expect more from their students, his welding instructors think he’s passed the Walker LAUNCH program.
“If Garrett doesn’t know how to do something, he’ll learn how to do it,” said Tayler Davidson, welding and joining technology instructor at GNTC. “He is trustworthy, dedicated and very respectful. He listens well, follows directions, and is everything an instructor looks for in a student.
Jeremiah Cooper, Program Director and Welding and Joining Technology Instructor at GNTC, said as the first graduate of the Walker LAUNCH program, Mr. Rollins demonstrates to other students that they too can simultaneously take courses. college and high school so that they can enter the job market with a high salary.
“As a business decision, dual listing is a no-brainer,” Cooper said.
SkillsUSA National Signing Day celebrates high school and college/post-secondary students who have chosen to pursue a career as a professional in one of the skilled trades,” according to skillsusa.org. “Local SkillsUSA chapters are encouraged to host a signing day by inviting business partners, school administrators, teachers, elected officials, SkillsUSA alumni, family, and friends to honor students signing” letters of intent “for an offer of employment, apprenticeship, or advanced technical training.”
Dual-enrollment classes are free for Walker County juniors and seniors. Tuition is paid through program funding, books are provided, and most related costs are covered.
Since the Walker LAUNCH program launched in 2018, students have earned a total of 64 certificates and the industry certifications and soft skills needed to enter jobs directly, Portwood said. Career paths include Automotive Technology, Air Conditioning Technology, Welding and Assembly Technology, Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Network Specialist, Allied Healthcare, Medical Assistance and cosmetology.
For more information on Walker LAUNCH, visit https://sites.google.com/walkerschools.org/readyforwork/launch?authuser=0.