Alliant Energy tour

Instructor Henry Jones, left, shows the students of his Interpreting Engineering Drawings course around the Alliant Energy plant in Portage. Lodi and Poynette students get to see how the drawings apply to the machines.

Students in high school are getting a jumpstart in the trades with new industrial power classes available to them.

Lodi and Poynette students are taking classes at the Madison Technical College Portage campus where they are earning credits toward a basic industrial power technical diploma. The classes will teach students about repairing, overhauling, installing, testing and inspecting pneumatic and hydraulic system.

Henry Jones, instructor for the Interpreting Engineering Drawings course, has been in the field for 30 years as a mechanic and electrical worker and is currently working at Alliant Energy. He is helping lead this pilot program for high schoolers and is excited for getting students interested in the trades.

“They’re getting their feet wet while they’re in high school and gives them a little bit of a chance to see what it is before they get out of high school and get a jumpstart on things a little bit,” Jones said. “The trades are really hurting for some good, energized younger generation to kind of get involved, and these guys are all pretty excited about it, it seems.”

The Interpreting Engineering Drawings course is helping students learn how to read and interpret blueprints and machining prints so they will be able to know how to use the prints as a guide if they were to do mechanical work on the different machines. Jones took the class of 11 students in September to Alliant Energy to tour the plant and see how the drawings apply to their equipment.

If the students want to continue pursuing the basic industrial power course next year in college, they can finish out a two-year technical diploma or add some classes for an industrial maintenance technician diploma.

Jones said there’s already a few students in the class who are working jobs in related fields, either for small engine companies, doing farmhand repair work or other areas. He said the class already has a good variety of aptitudes and skill levels for high school seniors.

Jones said this program will help boost the interest in the trade industry and will bring more skilled workers to the area. He, the college and the school districts are working to show how the trades can offer a good living and a worthwhile career option that’s just as viable as a four-year college degree.

“When you’re talking about Pardeeville, Poynette, Lodi, you’re not far from the Madison market, either,” he said. “There’s a lot of jobs available for good mechanically minded and skilled workers.”

According to Madison College’s website, a survey of the 2018 basic industrial power program graduates showed 100% of the graduates were employed and 100% of them were in a related occupation.

Jones said there’s a number of companies offering apprenticeships as well, from mechanical heating and air condition to electrical and mechanical technician. Madison College also offers apprenticeship classes to local employers and industries to offer more resources to students.

“I just think it’s a great opportunity and I hope for the sake of industry and the sake of opportunity that they can keep this thing going and keep rolling with it,” he said. “I’ll do whatever I can to help the kids succeed after the program.”

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