Published May 19, 2022
Colton Stein, a dual-credit student from Bucklin, graduated from high school on May 14 with a DC3 welding certificate. Three days later, he began a full-time job at Koch Industries in Dodge City. [Photo by Luke Fay]
The Dodge City Community College (DC3) Tech Ed has made high school students a priority the past two years. Because of this focus, Bucklin High School (BHS) dual-credit student Colton Stein was able to graduate on May 14 with a Manufacturing Technology – Welding B Certificate and begin a full-time job at Koch Industries on May 17.
Stein first heard of the welding program at DC3 at one of the many talks Dr. Clayton Tatro, Vice President for Workforce Development, made at schools across southwest Kansas.
“If Dr. Tatro had not come, I don’t think I would have ever thought that Dodge City had this type of program,” Stein said. “The fact that he goes around and talks to all the schools in the area is awesome, because a lot of high school students don’t know exactly what they want to do.”
Stein’s first experience in the field of welding was his freshman year of high school. BHS had a welding machine where students could practice and learn the basics of how to weld, Stein said.
This initial exposure early on, coupled with Tatro’s visit, gave Stein direction on what career path he wanted to take.
“I thought it’d be smart to better my education,” Stein said. “The fact that I could graduate with a Certificate B in welding and almost my associate degree was a big deal for me, because I’d have to spend less time when I’m older if I decide to go back to school.”
Juggling high school classwork with college welding was not much of an issue for Stein, he said. The high school senior went to class Monday-Friday 8-11:10 a.m. at the college and then returned to his high school to finish up the rest of his day.
For some, being in high school and attending college classes can be intimidating, but that wasn’t the case for Stein.
“I didn’t think very much of it,” Stein said. “I thought I was going to be one of the only high schoolers, but once I actually got here, almost the whole entire shop was surprisingly full of high schoolers. There were not as many college level students as I thought.”
Stein has excelled since arriving on campus, said Kimberley Cummings, DC3 Instructor of Welding.“Colton stands out in the way he immediately found his favorite welding process, TIG welding,” Cummings said. “He told me that at first he thought he would give up on TIG welding, because it’s the hardest process to master, but he stuck with it and hasn’t stopped since.”
Although Stein may still be in high school, Cummings said he exudes maturity beyond his years.“He is here every day. His classroom grades are very high,” Cummings said. “His shop grades are all A’s in every process. Anytime I ask him to help me with something, he has always obliged. He really is the ideal student to teach.”
This hard work has led to an offer of full-time employment for Stein at Koch Industries in Dodge City.“My professor Lester Green [Professor of Welding] got in contact with eight or nine different businesses on behalf of his students, and Koch was one of them,” Stein said. “I knew that name, and for what I wanted to do, TIG welding, Koch was big.”
The process of securing the job with Koch was not simple. Stein went through a series of phone interviews and meetings before Koch offered him his first job out of school at the age of 18.
“I’m just taking it step by step,” Stein said. “I’ll start off shadowing my coworker, and he’ll show me exactly what I’m going to be doing. I’ll probably be welding and rebuilding pumps for them.”
Tatro said students like Colton are the reason he spends so much time traveling throughout the state recruiting high school students into Tech Ed at DC3.
“In Tech Ed, employment is the end product,” Tatro said. We want high school students in our programs. If they come in as juniors and seniors, and are planning on going straight to work, good jobs are out there with good money. Employment is readily available for hands-on learners, and Colton is the perfect example.”
By Luke FayDC3 Marketing and Media Specialist