Hansen bestowed with state honor

Thursday, October 28, 2021
MMCRU Industrial Technology instructor Matt Hansen, center, was presented with the Howard E. Adkins Memorial Instructor Award by American Welding Society President Bob Roth, left, and Joe Bailey, Vermeer senior welding engineer.
(Photo contributed)

REMSEN/MARCUS — An MMCRU High School welding instructor has been honored with the “Howard E. Adkins Memorial Instructor Award” for the State of Iowa.

Matt Hansen was presented with the award by American Welding Society (AWS) President and RoMan Manufacturing President & CEO Bob Roth and Vermeer Senior Welding Engineer Joe Bailey on Oct. 5 at a meeting in Pella.

Hansen’s position at MMCRU is 9-12 industrial technology instructor and Skills ISA adviser.

Above, Hansen works with a student on a project. Class offerings and student numbers have increased since Hansen took over in 2014.
(Photo contributed)

The Iowa section of the AWS, hosted its monthly meeting and presented a tour through Vermeer’s new facility that was built following the destruction by an F3 tornado. The event was led by Roth, who was on his 50-state tour, and gave a speech on the history of the AWS and his personal journey with the industry, followed by a Q&A.

This award is presented annually by the AWS and is sponsored by the family and friends of the Howard E. Adkins. It recognizes welding instructors for their outstanding teaching accomplishments at the high school, trade school, technical school, and community college levels.

“I was able to attend that monthly meeting for the Iowa chapter where the president of AWS was in attendance to give me this award, which was a huge honor,” Hansen said.

Hansen was acknowledged by District Director Karl Fogleman and Roth. He will now be automatically nominated as a potential recipient of the national award.

Hansen, a native of Turin, now lives in Marcus with his wife Kayla and son Dane, and has taught at MMCRU High School since 2014 upon graduating from Wayne State College.

The American Welding Society (AWS) was founded in 1919 as a non-profit organization to advance the science, technology and application of welding and allied joining and cutting processes, including brazing, soldering and thermal spraying.

Headquartered in Miami, Florida and led by a volunteer organization of officers and directors, AWS serves over 173,000 members worldwide and is composed of 22 districts with 250 sections comprised of regional chapters.

Hansen said the MMCRU program has changed tremendously since he came on board.

“I came to this school district fresh out of college in 2014 with the idea and excitement that this would someday be a ‘new school district’ and I essentially came into two programs that were on life support and had very little interest as I saw less than 30 students a day between the two schools as a shared instructor,” he said.

“The summer after my first year, I started meeting with area businesses and asking the simple question of ‘what can I be teaching in a high school shop class that will prepare students to come work in local businesses?’ That simple idea completely changed my direction as a teacher and revolutionized our class content and industry involvement with our school, and essentially laid the foundation for our program as it stands today with equipment, technology, and classroom content that isn’t just ‘getting kids interested’ but actually preparing them to go straight to work after high school and giving them a great head start on post-secondary training in trade school,” he explained.

Hansen grew up working with his dad as a kid and always had an interest in “shop work,” so naturally industrial technology classes were a draw for him when he got into high school.

“Outside of sports, industrial technology classes were one of my biggest reasons to enjoy school everyday and I had a great industrial tech teacher who continuously supported me and inspired me to do great work,” he said. “Needless to say, it was a pretty easy choice to get into this field as I loved shop class so much, ‘why not just do it the rest of my life’ and inspire kids to work with their hands the way my dad and high school instructor did for me.”

Today, the program sees over half of the entire high school student body as Hansen has well over 100 individual students a day and many girls (which wasn’t happening when he first started).

“We actually got to a point this past year where we felt it was best to hire a second instructor to make classes and offerings more manageable. We hired Nick Long, who is also a 2014 graduate of Wayne State College, to take the reins of the cabinetry and construction trades program. Our average class size is 15-plus,” Hansen said.

The list of classes offered has grown since 2014, too.

“I think it would be easier to list what we don’t teach here in this program as I pride myself in offering a wide variety of opportunities. We offer multiple sections and varying levels of robotics, machining, mechanical design, civil design, architecture, cabinet making, construction trades, welding-fabrication, heavy equipment technology, as well as freshmen intro classes and junior high exploratory coursework,” he said.

Hansen said it’s important to offer the industrial technology classes in the high schools.

“I have felt that for the past 30-plus years we have somewhat placed the skilled trades in the basement as far as education by labeling it as a second-class form of education for those who couldn’t attend college, which has now put us in a scenario where employers and consumers are gasping for air as we wonder ‘where is our next generation of welders, plumbers, carpenters and so on going to come from?’” Hansen said.

“The reality is that here in northwest Iowa, outside of agriculture, the skilled trades is ‘what we do’ in the sense that you would be hard-pressed to go into any community in our area and not find a skilled trades company that isn’t hiring, and offering good-paying jobs that don’t necessarily require a 4-year degree.

“For years we’ve said that students have to go to college to be successful, but the reality is that’s just not true in this day in age where the skilled trades industry has evolved so much that it requires highly trained and well rounded individuals,” he said.

“What might have been viewed as a ‘dirty job’ 30 years ago in a dark dingy manufacturing shop is now a highly impressive career involving multi-million dollar technology in an automated and state of the art facility,” he continued.

“We have hundreds of great skilled trades companies hiring for great careers here in northwest Iowa and the truth is that kids coming to the workforce have the upper hand and the greatest opportunity as we need more people in this industry, but it all starts with getting kids involved early by offering coursework like we do here at MMCRU,” Hansen emphasized.

For example, the MMCRU welding curriculum is based around training requirements and input from area manufacturers and welders that are going to hire these students.

“What kids do in these classes is what they will see when they enter the manufacturing workforce I think that what we do here is unique in the sense that we are doing a lot to be sure our kids are work ready when they leave this program whether it be how we prepare kids, or the certifications we offer to students in welding,” he said.

Hansen said his students have benefited from the industrial tech classes that have been offered at MMCRU, as the program has been an avenue for success for students who get involved in it.

“There are very few opportunities where a kid can step into a high school classroom and learn skills that will almost guarantee them a career after high school and we’ve seen that first hand in our industrial technology program, specifically in welding, construction, and cabinet making industries,” he said.

“We have students who have become certified welders through AWS before graduating from high school, cabinet makers who begin journeyman apprenticeships before graduation, and construction students who get all of their college schooling paid for because of internships they completed while participating in our program. The sky’s the limit with what kids are able to achieve when they truly buy into the opportunities that we present them with,” he said.