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The by se an mitchell • phot o gr a phs b y w. g a rth d owl ing How the new, STEM-CENTRIC WELDING


MERIT BADGE can ignite your Scouts’ interest in a career that’s actually hiring.


s two dozen Scoutmasters and other adult volunteers from the North Texas area’s Circle Ten Council and Longhorn Council are learning, welding is the hands-on process that holds much of America together — quite literally. Those in attendance at a train-the-trainer session held near Dallas/Fort Worth


International Airport get laboratory instruction in how to safely teach Scouts the basics involved in fusing two pieces of metal along a molten joint, all while using professional-


grade equipment. The process sounds complicated, but the goal’s simple: keeping the BSA’s STEM focus burning white-hot. But STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — isn’t the only goal. There’s a merit badge at stake, too. The Welding merit badge, which debuted to great youth interest in 2012, fuses both manual technique


and technical knowledge — not to mention the excitement of actually burning metal. Nearly 11,000 Scouts earned the Welding merit badge in 2013, igniting its popularity among youth and raising its rank from No. 101 in 2012 to No. 55 last year. This creative and constructive trade skill also happens to be critical in a market that is crying out for new


workers. According to the American Welding Society, 140,000 new welders will be needed by 2019. A skilled welder can earn $40,000 to $70,000 a year, whether repairing bridges, working in manufacturing, diving underwater or serving as an inspector. “The roots of this are in the BSA’s strategic plan from 2008,” says Bill Evans, former BSA director of program impact. “We need to create relevant programs, not just teach kids how to build a fire.” It’s hard to find many fields more relevant these days


than welding. “Everything is pretty much affected by welding, from the razor they shave with to the bus they took to school to the building they’re sitting in,” says Charlie Cross, head of technical training for Lincoln Electric, the leading welding machine manufacturer that partnered with the BSA to provide equipment for Scouts across the nation. Each council, as well as the BSA’s national high-


adventure bases, will be armed with at least one SP-140T compact wire welder from Lincoln Electric, plus safety equipment. These machines retail for more than $700, so that’s no small giſt. Along with the obvious tie-ins to STEM education,


SEPTEMBER•OCTOBER 2014 ¿ S COUTING 33


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