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Spark of success

Newton DMACC's Career Academy helps high school students launch skilled trade careers

Compared to Jared Kingery’s first teaching gig, working with the high school students in DMACC’s Career Academy is easy. His first class as an instructor was at the Newton Correctional Facility. After losing his job at Maytag Kingery enrolled in DMACC’s welding program, graduating in 2007. A former instructor called him to ask him if he’d ever thought about teaching.

“I had 16 convicted felons at the prison south of town,” Kingery recalled with a laugh.

Now a full time instructor Kingery runs the welding program at Newton’s DMACC campus,  part of the college’s Career Academy.The Career Academy program at Newton’s DMACC campus serves students from all five high schools in Jasper County, although students from the Newton Community School District make up two-thirds of the student population. Director Terry Norton said the Career Academy is designed to supplement classes already offered at the high school.

“The thought behind it was that it was a good way to create a partnership between DMACC and the high schools, we can help advance what the high school is already offering,” Norton said.

Kingery, whose students call him Cap is tall and lean, with close cropped hair and a goatee. The students in the program respect Kingery, leaning to listen to close as he speaks. After more than a decade of teaching experience under his belt, Kingery is an old hand. Students in the welding program have a sense of reverence for their instructor, they might be surprised to realize the feeling is mutual. Kingery’s goal to give every student an opportunity to succeed.

“If they’ve made it this far in high school there’s really no reason they can’t come back here and graduate,” Kingery said. I love watching them progress through the program, their success is why I do this.”

The offerings at DMACC’s Career Academy continue to grow, the welding program remains one of the most popular offerings at the college. Norton said the welding classes, which are limited to 16 students based on the lab space available at the college are often full. With the skilled trade industry seeing a nationwide resurgence as employers look to fill positions across the board Norton said students are enrolling in the Career Academy in record numbers. Obtaining a two year degree can pay off for students as well; Norton said students who complete a two year degree will earn as much as $400,000 more over the course of their career than students who only complete high school. Enrollment reached record highs this year at the Career Academy, with DMACC recording their second highest enrollment numbers last year.

“The only way you can really learn to weld is by doing it,” Norton said.

Why welding - Kingery rattles of the statistics one by one, pointing out the nationwide shortage of welders, estimated as high as 300,000 as well the opportunity to make a good living. On a daily basis Kingery said he gets calls from employers who are looking for welders to hire. After a career working on an assembly line at Maytag Kingery said he knows firsthand how lucky his students are.

“We’re getting it out in front of them now, we didn’t have this when I went to high school,” Kingery said. “That’s why I went to work at Maytag, I needed to pay the bills.”

Setting up the welding program isn’t cheap, Norton said. By offering the program at DMACC the college is able to provide students with an opportunity to earn college credits and build on the classes local high schools are already offering. Norton said the program isn’t an attempt to fill a void, rather they hope to give students a path to move forward.

“We don’t want to replace what the high school is doing, we want to enhance what the high school is doing,” Norton said.

Norton and other administrators in DMACC’s Career Academy work closely with high school administrators to stay on top of current trends. Identifying classes that students are interested in, and can fill a need in the community allows the college to identify “gaps” that may not be served by current programming. Since Norton took over the program several years ago the Career Academy has introduced several new programs, the Teacher Academy and the business administration program.

“I meet with the high schools every year, we always ask them, ‘where are the gaps, where would you like to see us,” Norton said. “We have a great relationship with the schools.”

Students who start the welding program at DMACC as a junior in high school and also complete the second level welding class during their senior year are already on track to graduate with a welding certificate. Norton said most students who’ve completed the first two years of the program can finish the program during the summer after they’ve graduated from high school.  Students who complete both years at the Career Academy will have earned 21 college credits, only 15 credits shy of the 36 credits needed for a welding diploma from DMACC. Once they’ve graduated from the program Norton said there’s a constantly growing job market for welders. Kingery said he’s had many local businesses reach out to him, some companies are offering a starting salary of more than $45,000 a year for a certified welder.

The promise of a good job was more than enough to bring students Rylan James and Kole Kinion the the Career Academy. The pair make the 25 minute drive to the Newton campus from Lynnville-Sully High School every morning for the class. This is Kinion’s second year, his friend James, a sophomore hopes to follow in his footsteps.

“My grandpa has always done welding, he has his own shop,” Kinion said. “I wanted to take it as far as I could and see where it led me.”

Kinion said he plans to continue his education after high school, he’s hoping to have his welding diploma by next January. With the money he’s earned from a part time job along with several grants and scholarships he’s received he should be able to graduate debt free, something he says he’s excited about. Even though many of his peers are planning to attend a four year college, Kinion said welding feels the right fit for him.

“I’ve been around a few kids at our school that think you won’t get anywhere without a four year education, but that’s totally wrong,” Kinion said. “There’s always going to be welding.”

While many of the students in the welding program plan to being careers in the welding industry, that isn’t the case for all of the students. Norton said some students just want to get the experience of learning how to weld, they still plan on attending a traditional four year college after graduating from high school. Whether or not students finish their certification at DMACC or go on to another school Norton said he’s confident that DMACC offers an unbeatable educational experience for students.

“I know that just by providing a great experience here, a quality education that they’ll probably end up back with us because they’ve had a good experience,” Norton said. “Our goal is to provide a great educational experience for students regardless of where they plan on going, they see this as a great place to go.”

For Norton, seeing the impact that program has made on students who’ve passed through the halls of the Career Academy is the most rewarding part of his job. Without the programming that DMACC offers many of those students may not have gone on to post-secondary education, Norton said. Having students who’ve passed through the program and gone on to graduate always brighten’s Norton’s day, he said.

“Seeing the students gain success and figure out what they want to do,” Norton said. “These are students that may not have gone on to college.”

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or

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