GREENE — Using a tool and knowing how to use it are two different things.
A recent addition to North Butler Middle/High School’s industrial technology programs aims to fill that knowledge gap.
Officials announced this week the school is offering certifications to students in precision measuring instruments, mechanical and electronic torque and multimeters. It’s being done in partnership with tool-making company Snap-On, the National Coalition of Certification Centers and local businesses. The school started rolling out the courses in mid-November.
“Before Christmas, we had 16 students get certified in unit one of PMI,” said industrial technology teacher Dave Brown, noting he’s got twice as many students ready to take more courses. That includes learning how to use English and metric rulers, tape measures and calipers — an instrument that allows for figuring out the size of three-dimensional objects. It’s one of six precision measuring certifications.
Torque deals with using different types of wrenches. “Basically, what we do is talk about fasteners,” said Brown — like bolts — and “what happens as we tighten” them. Multimeters are used in electrical work to check voltage.
Brown noted the certifications are useful for careers in engineering, automotive, tool and die, buildings trades and more. “Just a lot of trades, it will give them a leg up,” he said.
“Dave is one of two high school teachers in Iowa to be trained in this,” said Joel Foster, North Butler Community Schools superintendent. The district’s certification is the first stand-alone program in the state and its middle school is the only one in the nation involved in the training. The certifications will be part of the middle school exploratory courses.
“Each program has multiple certifications across the board,” said Foster. Students need to earn at least 70 percent on the course tests to be certified. Earning the certification “makes our students more employable.”
The cost of the tool chests and tools for the courses “was just under $50,000,” said Foster. The expense was largely covered by the district’s vocational curriculum funds with a portion offset by donations from partnering businesses.
“It’s really good for us to get skills that may help us later in life,” said Lucas Martzahn, an eighth-grader who is among the first students to get one of the certifications.
Freshman Layne Freiberg noted the precise measurements he learned were possible in taking the first course. He believes continuing on in the certifications will be helpful with his plans to work as an auto mechanic.
“It makes a difference between you and the other guy,” said Tate Menne, a junior who also was certified in the first course.
Brown said students do course work online and complete labs before taking the tests. Each takes one to two weeks, depending on how fast the student works.
“Businesses are very excited,” said Brown, about the school offering the certifications. “In our area, we have a lack of plumbers and electricians, just tradesmen.”
American Tool & Engineering, one of the partnering businesses, hopes to offer some school-to-work experiences for students who complete the certifications. The Greene company supplies molds for consumer, automotive and industrial customers across the U.S. Other partners include Wedeking Electric of Marble Rock, Cooper Motors of Allison, and Allison Farmers Feed and Grain.
Snap-On and the National Coalition of Certification Centers were involved in creating the curriculum. Dan Prather, an account manager in Snap-On’s education division, attended the event.
“We’re really trying to help bring real-world, real-life experiences into the classroom to make better workers,” he said.