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Welding class prepares students for future careers

Berlin High School welding students pose for a photo with their teacher, Dennis Carrier. (Photo by Kyleh Lurvey) (click for larger version)
April 17, 2019
BERLIN — Dennis Carrier has been teaching Welding Technology for the last 13 years at the Regional Career & Technical Center at Berlin High School. Under his leadership, this two-year program has produced many accomplished trades workers.

Carrier credits the quality of his students' work to the small class size which allows for one-on-one attention, keeping himself informed of the current industry needs and providing the students to obtain high standards so they may be competitive for the state competition with SkillsUSA.

Carrier said, "Towards the end of the year, like right now, I start getting emails from construction people, and they say, 'Hey, send them my way!'"

At the competitions, Carrier is often handed business cards, opening their door for graduating students.

None of the nine Career & Technical Education courses are required at the high school. Students looking to enter the Welding Technology program are chosen by lottery to fill the fourteen seats. There are ten seats held for Berlin High School students and four for Gorham High School students.

"Every year my class fills up. I can only keep fourteen and I've always had more than enough that sign up. So, some don't get in," Carrier added, "Every year, I get a waiting list, one year it was eighteen kids."

He values the small class size, saying if it were larger, "They wouldn't get what they get. They get one-on-one, they have their own station, they don't have to wait in line to use a machine; they've got their own machine. You get better success out of the kids."

In May, the students receive American Welding Society Certification and an OSHA 10 card upon graduation. A Certified Welding Instructor comes into the class once each year to oversee the students work and guide them as to what is needed for their AWS Structural Unlimited certificate. Another way Carrier makes sure his students are performing at current industry levels, is by inviting his advisory committee into the classroom. The Industry Partners discuss curriculum and new trainings.

Carrier discovered that SkillsUSA held competitions in New Hampshire during his first year of teaching, and said he jumped onboard. In the thirteen years that he has been bringing students to the competition, they have won medals eleven times. Five times, including the last two years, they've swept the competition, taking home the gold, silver and bronze. This year's sweep was made by gold medalist Sawyer Sanchagrin (BHS), silver medalist Declan Blair (GHS) and bronze medalist Jeffrey Harrington (GHS).

From his class of fourteen students, Carrier decides who will go to the Manchester Community College to compete in the SkillsUSA welding competition for the state title. The students are chosen by the highest three scores of two in-house competitions put together by Carrier and some of his Alumni. The Alumni have included former students working at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, including one former gold medalist who is a nuclear pipe welder. Ten of his former students are currently working at Bath Iron Works in Brunswick, Maine. Former students also work for Cianbro Construction, Milan Lumber Company and Cross Machine. A "Wall of Fame" behind his desk is where Carrier hangs newspaper articles celebrating accomplishments of his past and present students.

This year's state gold medalist, Sanchagrin, is raising money right now to go with Carrier to compete in the SkillsUSA National Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. He will compete against fifty two of the best high school welders in the country, some of which have come from four and six-year welding programs. Out of the eleven years his students have made it to Nationals, they've finished in the top-ten seven times.

"Every CTE program you can think of is out there competing. It's pretty amazing," Carrier said about the SkillsUSA National Conference, where he has met Mike Rowe from "Dirty Jobs."

"The whole idea is career-readiness," Carrier said regarding the entirety of the programs and resources he provides to his students.

He believes that each student in his class learns differently and knows that they all have different plans for their careers. He encourages them to follow their own path and to keep this welding experience "in their back pocket." Josh Poulin is a senior who plans to enter the barbering trade after high school, and noted that this class has taught him good work ethic that he'll take with him.

Senior Connor Brown, said, "Ever since I've been here it's taught me a lot of things about work ethic. Mr. Carrier's taught me a lot about just life in general, even outside of welding. Just good things that have to do with no matter what you're going to do when you graduate high school."

Sanchagrin explains how he began his welding journey: "My brother took this program, and as a little brother you always look up to your older brother, so I wanted to take it. I tried out the weld tech and all the trade programs that had the nine-week course and I knew welding was the thing I wanted to do. I didn't get in at first. I came into this program nine weeks late, and Mr. Carrier put in the extra effort to catch me up to speed with all these guys, which was really awesome and I appreciated that a lot. Now I have a part-time job welding at Milan Lumber and after high school I'll have a full time job there."

Sanchagrin is also going to White Mountains Community College in the fall for the Industrial Mechanic Millwright program. By winning the gold medal at the SkillsUSA state competition, Sawyer received a $5,000 scholarship to use at one of New Hampshire's community colleges. Silver medalist, Declan Blair, is interning at Capone Iron and was offered a full-time job there after graduation.

Senior Sam Styles wants our readers to know, "I don't think people realize what a good career any type of trade is. They can get looked down on, like you're not good enough to go to college, all you can do is this. That's not true. Some people are meant to go to college, and some people are meant to do this. I think our community, coming from an industrial town where we support trades pretty well, but I think people need to realize it's a good thing to get into. You shouldn't be disappointed if someone you know goes into it, it's something to be proud of. They're putting in work to make an honest living, and keep places running, really. I think if I could tell them anything just keep supporting trades."

Carrier has brought 48 years of industrial experience to the program, as well as resources and challenges for students.

"My career started right after high school, age 18, and I've been in it ever since. I worked 26 years in the pulp mill and when it shut down for bankruptcy I got a call right off. I mean, you build yourself a good reputation, people are going to want you. I never collected [unemployment] once. I started working at a local fab shop, Cross Machines on Glen Avenue where I worked there for six years and then this job was posted in the paper. My wife, if it wasn't for my wife I wouldn't be here today because she's the one that encouraged me to apply," he said.

Carrier plans to make this coming school year his last year of teaching.

"To the community, I would say, I'm very proud of what I do and my achievements throughout the years being the instructor here at the Berlin High School. I take my program very seriously. I'm very passionate about my program and very lucky to have great students, because we have a great rapport, great relationships with the students. Respect goes both ways. When it comes time to retire it's going to be a tough day," he said.

Matin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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