Northeast welders learn valuable lessons through expanded mentorship program

Northeast High School students watched educational sparks fly in their welding classroom this year thanks to a valuable partnership between two of Lincoln’s largest employers.
The Rockets learned tips of the welding trade from skilled trainers at Kawasaki Motors. They came to the school’s advanced welding class to observe and help students as part of a six-week residency program. The training initiative was the latest expansion of a partnership that first began at Lincoln Public Schools in 2020.
Cooper has been in Northeast’s welding program throughout his high school career. The senior first joined the class because his older brother is a welder, and he wanted to see if he would enjoy it too. He said the Kawasaki training sessions have been a fun way to end a fulfilling four years of welding.
“I think I’ve learned the basics of welding and obviously much more,” Cooper said. “It’s really been a great stepping stone for any job.”
Omar said he has also benefited from the school’s welding program. After showcasing his welding skills to trainers, the sophomore earned an internship opportunity at Kawasaki’s Lincoln factory this summer. He said Northeast skilled and technical sciences (STS) teacher Robert Park helped him climb a valuable rung on his career ladder.
“I learned all of the processes, like how to set up the machines,” Omar said. “I’m pretty confident.”
Kip Glantz is a welding training supervisor at Kawasaki and has worked in the industry for 25 years. He said partnerships like the one between LPS and Kawasaki are essential for the future health of America’s manufacturing base.
“Absolutely we’re looking at the future as far as skilled workers,” Glantz said. “We have people like myself that have been welding for 25 years, and we have people that have been out there for 30 or 40 years. That talent is soon going to be lost, so we need to have a pipeline of students to replace those welders with in the future. Obviously, it’s critical to the industry.”
Park said the partnership has also benefited LPS in many ways. He has taught woodworking, welding, power mechanics and precision machining at Northeast the past four years.
“Not only are we fostering a relationship between industry and those students, we’re also fostering a relationship where we can see that return come back to LPS, whether it’s an instructor or the gentlemen that are here with us now or alumni of this school,” Park said. “We need that continuation. If we don’t have that continuation, we lose the valuable resource we have, which is the knowledge base.”
The link between LPS and Kawasaki first began four years ago after the Nebraska Department of Economic Development provided a $117,000 grant. State officials wanted to encourage more students to consider careers in manufacturing and engineering, and they felt establishing deeper connections between businesses and LPS would help meet that goal.
The company provided hands-on activities, instructional videos and virtual field trips to students at every LPS middle school through the grant. It was so successful that both sides decided to expand the partnership to the high school level.
Kawasaki established a six-week residency program at Lincoln High in the Spring 2020 semester and developed a course at Northeast this year. Glantz said he and other Kawasaki trainers will start mentoring students at Southeast in 2024-25.
Kyle Petersen smiled as he helped Northeast students learn how to weld a 90-degree corner of a metal frame. The California native has worked at Kawasaki for three years and volunteered to join the LPS mentoring program. He said it was rewarding to work with the Rockets on their welding launchpads.
“It would have been awesome to have this type of program at the high school I went to,” Petersen said. “We didn’t have these opportunities, so it’s fun for me to help the kids here. It’s fun to know that we’re able to give the kids the resources they need to explore the industry and start gaining those skills.”
Park said he is happy knowing that students will apply their STS knowledge outside of his classroom.
“What we teach them in here, they can go home and every day work with their mothers and fathers in the shop,” Park said. “They can rebuild cars, rebuild tractors and repair equipment, so the application you see here is very intuitive to what they’re going to do every single day. It’s more practical for a student to take this course.”
Cooper said his STS experience at Northeast has solidified his professional goals. He is planning to become a welder with the United States Air Force.
What would his advice be to current and future Northeast students thinking about joining the school’s welding program?
“I’d say take it,” Cooper said. “You can take it for just a semester if you wanted to, but I think it’s a great experience for anybody in high school. It’s awesome.”
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Published: June 25, 2024, Updated: June 26, 2024

A Northeast High School student participates in a welding lesson in the skilled and technical sciences classroom. Skilled trainers from Kawasaki Motors came to Northeast’s advanced welding class this spring as part of a six-week residency program. The training initiative was the latest expansion of a partnership with Lincoln Public Schools that began in 2020. Students from Lincoln High and Northeast have both created educational sparks through their involvement with the mentorship program.