Hartford Area Career & Technology Center
Hammers bang on steel, MIG welders pop and crackle, sanding discs scrape and whirr. The scent of hot metal is prevalent. These are the sounds and scents of the Hartford Area Career and Technology Center’s(HACTC) Industrial Mechanics and Welding class.
At the HACTC, the opportunities to learn and grow as either a student or an adult after high school abound. The HACTC offers 14 programs ranging from a Career and Technology Exploration program for incoming high school sophomores, to an IMW (Industrial Mechanics and Welding) program for both high school students and adults.
The IMW class is taught by instructor Gary Hutchins who is a Vietnam Veteran, and extremely experienced mechanic in automobiles, welding, and even carpentry. He has taught at the HACTC for ten years. “I just enjoy passing on my knowledge to the kids,” says Hutchins.
The IMW class is always overflowing with projects. Currently, the biggest projects are an electric powered M151 Jeep replica, a boiler that Hutchins will use for heating his home, and a 1978 Mini 1000 restoration.
There are eleven students in the morning senior class and thirteen students in the afternoon junior class in IMW. Each IMW class starts out with solving a math problem projected on the board that Mr. Hutchins created. This question is occasionally followed up by a video from a YouTube channel called “Welding Tips and Tricks.”
When finished, all the students make their way into the IMW shop and look at their assignments, which are written on a white board. Some are eager to work, while others need a little motivation but each and every student is very talented in what he does, and definitely thrive when we all come together and work as a team.
“This class and our teacher has really helped in motivating me and inspiring me to pursue my goal to be a mechanic,” said Josh Spaulding, a senior at Windsor High School, who plans to enter the field of being a diesel mechanic.
Logan O’Brien, a senior at Hartford High School, started off using his skills as a welder early. O’Brien is a welder at Woodstock Soapstone Co., a company that designs and makes wood and gas stoves. His job is working in the sub-assembly process of building stoves. “This class has helped me in practicing and further making me a better welder as well as making me realize when you have a job that at the end of the day you can see the results of all the hard work I complete as a student,” said O’Brien.
I am a senior at Woodstock Union High School and attend the IMW morning class at the HACTC. I have always enjoyed working with my hands and I enjoy the IMW class because we do a lot more than just weld here. Mr. Hutchins always has a project we can work on so there is never a dull moment. Each project is not just about welding either, my personal favorite to work on is the 1978 Mini 1000.
The best part about this project is one day I could be working on the Mini’s engine, enhancing my skills as an automobile mechanic, while the next day I could be bending and shaping new floor pans and spot welding on new rocker panels, making me a better welder and auto body mechanic. This kind of work keeps me on my toes, constantly learning new skills each day and never getting bored with doing one thing over and over again.
Like O’Brien and Spaulding, I plan on taking these skills and applying them to the real world after high school in the automotive or welding field. Because of HACTC, all three of us are going into the workforce with experience.