KTECH students are learning a new skill that will make them some of the most well-rounded candidates for employers in today’s job market.
The current group of students recently finished their second week of soldering classes. It’s a skill that they can use in almost any manufacturing job one could think of, and KTECH is one of the few places teaching it.
“A lot of companies in this town are looking for talent to be able to solder because the general work force is aging out,” said KTECH instructor Chris Dow. “It’s 5, 10 years from retirement and there’s nobody coming up with these skills from behind.”
Soldering, or electronic assembly, is used to connect electronic components to printed circuit boards. It’s used in everything from smartphones to those singing birthday cards you see in the greeting card aisle.
Most KTECH students started with little or no soldering experience but when they’re done, they’ll have soldering knowledge that is up to industry standards for “can’t fail” components like missile systems and defibrillators.
KTECH student Ryan Demos had done a little bit of soldering before the class, but after a couple of weeks learning and practicing, he can see the difference in his work.
“I feel much more confident in doing it too,” Demos said. “I know much more about heat and I’m actually much more competent now as a solderer. And you can actually see the improvement as you go, which is really neat.”
Students spend about 25 percent of the soldering program in a classroom, learning about the different types of soldering. The rest of the time they are hands-on in KTECH’s soldering lab, putting what they've learned to the test and getting the practice they need.
It’s a part of the program that a lot of students find therapeutic, Dow said, because they can just put in some earbuds, play some music and focus on the work.
“It’s almost like sewing,” he said. “Some people like to sew, some people like to crochet, some people like to work with their hands in carpentry, and it’s not necessarily about what they’re creating; it’s just the fact that they’re having this kind of serene moment where they’re by themselves and can do what they want. Soldering’s pretty similar to that.”
The soldering certification students get is a great combination with their Mechatronics and Robotics class certifications, Dow said. It makes them more marketable to industry employers who might hire them for their other skills.
“If something goes down on the line, two wires come loose — which happens a lot — they’re not stuck,” he said. “They can say ‘give me the equipment, I’ll do it right here.’ All of a sudden, they become a step above everybody else.”
Demos, who was medically discharged from the military because of a complication from a previous injury, now plans to pursue a maintenance technician career after completing his KTECH classes. He said KTECH has exposed him to a whole new field of opportunities and people.
“There’s just a whole new field that I never thought to try that I actually really enjoy,” he said.
KTECH supports foster children as they age out of the system, veterans, and nontraditional students and gets them ready for work in the advanced manufacturing industry. Since 2016, KTECH has produced 261 certifications in Mechatronics, Robotics, Solid Edge, and Soldering. KTECH’s VR Academy will open to the public this fall.
KTECH is a workforce initiative of the Kids to Love Foundation.