Graduating Students Back at It

Welding after pandemic
May 21, 2020

After two months of empty hallways and silent classrooms, students were back in action on the SCTCC campus this week.

Gov. Walz signed an executive order on May 11 that allowed the Minnesota State colleges to offer limited face-to-face classes in critical areas for students who were set to graduate this May. At SCTCC, this included nearly 300 students.

This week, the nursing assistant, welding, machine tool, plumbing, HVAC, and carpentry labs opened up to students. Proper precautions are in place: students enter through one door and sign in; masks are required; and everyone social distances.

Ben Noard, a welding student was happy to be back.

“I’m very glad I was able to come back and get my degree. I paid for it, and I wanted to get it done this year. I’m a little bummed out the cafeteria wasn’t open. Other than that, it’s perfect - it’s awesome,” Noard said.

Four students were welding in the lab Wednesday morning along with instructor Chuck Haus. While the stay-at-home order was in effect, they had weekly Zoom classes, and according to Noah Swanson, the skills came right back after being gone.

“Once you figure out the skills in welding, you know how to do it and you’re able to get back to it. It’s like riding a bike.”

Brandon Blotnicki, an HVAC student, was also happy to be back, although the online component was the best it could be.

“Our teacher has been really good during this time. Before this, he wasn’t very tech savvy, but he stepped up and did great,” Blotnicki said. “He showed us in our books what we’d be working on, but in our field, we definitely need that hands-on experience.”

The best part about visiting the labs this week was the positive vibe from everyone who was on campus. Students who are finishing up their degrees in these programs are considered essential, and they’re proud of it.

“I love that we’re essential because a lot of people aren’t working right now,” Swanson said. “There are still jobs for us.” He’s trying to decide on which job he should interview for after he’s finished up his degree.

Kyle Goenner, another welding student, has an interview lined up already and is really grateful to be an essential employee. “A lot of people I know are struggling. Their costs are building up and they’re not working. Being essential, I don’t have that worry.”

Fellow student Noard was working in the field while getting his degree, and he worked fulltime while the stay-at-home was in effect.

HVAC student Blotnicki is ready to finish up his residential HVAC degree so he can “get out and get a job in the field and make some money.” His HVAC classes are tentatively set to be finished up May 29. Even though he’ll have a degree, he has plans to come back.

“I want to come back to get the 2-year commercial side. If we’re doing in-person classes [this fall], I’ll definitely want to come back and get that 2nd year option.”

Even with the extra precautions in place, those who are on campus are feeling good about being here. Welding instructor Chuck Haus summed it up best: “We’re very happy to be back. It’s good to have our students back in classes and cranking out work.”

Kate Wallace