Sparks will be flying this fall as the Lewis County 4-H program plans to kick off a pair of manufacturing-based clubs, including a welding club expected to be the first of its kind in the state.
“It’s very much geared as a workforce-development process,” said Kathleen Lehman, 4-H program educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Lewis County.
The idea for the two clubs — focused on welding and electrical/robotics — came from a business leaders breakfast, organized by the Lewis County Department of Economic Development, held earlier this year, Mrs. Lehman said.
After hearing manufacturing representatives discuss the need for college-level workforce development, Extension officials after the breakfast floated the idea of forming clubs so younger students could try out these relatively well-paying trades and see if they may be interested in pursuing them as careers, she said.
“What we really need to do is get them exposed earlier,” Mrs. Lehman said. “We can create a 4-H club out of pretty much any interest.”
With skilled laborers from a local manufacturer agreeing to serve as volunteer instructors and the George R. Davis Fund of the Northern New York Community Foundation awarding the project $900 over the summer, plans for the two new clubs — a departure from the group’s typical ag- and home-related programs — moved forward, she said.
However, it took quite some time to get all necessary approvals, particularly a sign-off from insurance companies on the welding club that was only granted recently, Mrs. Lehman said.
“It’s been a long process,” she said.
The welding club, once organized, will likely hold two sessions per month at i2i Automotive, 7383 Utica Blvd., and plans are to start out small with four to six members aged 16 or older, Mrs. Lehman said.
There is already some interest, and students could be placed on a waiting list, if necessary, she said.
“We’re very excited that we are the first in the state to be able to offer a welding club,” said Michele E. Ledoux, executive director at the Lowville Extension office. “I think it’s definitely in line with what the manufacturing companies are looking for.”
Meanwhile, the electrical/robotics club will likely meet once a month at the Lowville Extension office on Outer Stowe Street and will be open to middle-and high-school-aged students.
Anyone interested in learning more about the new clubs can call the Extension at 376-5270.
Other community clubs offered by Lewis County 4-H include a beef club started last year, plus dairy, shooting sports, small-animal and teen ambassadors, while numerous family clubs are also available throughout the county.
Source:Journal & Republican; By STEVE VIRKLER
4-H Youth Development Program Manager
Last updated December 21, 2022