In 2011, when Ben Myhre was hired for a welding position at Felling Trailers, he never imagined six and a half years later he would be teaching a weld training course to classrooms of fellow employees and high school students. In early 2016 Myhre was approached by Felling Trailers ownership and asked to take part in the creation of the company’s Weld Training Center.
“Since Ben joined the Felling Trailers’ Manufacturing Team in 2011, he has displayed strong leadership skills with his co-workers on the shop floor and determination to improve on training operations,” said Paul Radjenovich, Felling Trailers’ vice president of operations. Myhre recently received his Certified Welding Inspector certification from the American Welding Society, which will play a key part in his continued instruction.
Felling Trailers Weld Training Center, housed in a recently acquired property connects to the southeast corner of its Sauk Centre, Min., location. It was here that Myhre worked with Byron Emery, a Dakota County Technical College welding instructor to create the curriculum and the welding lab. The state-of-the-art welding lab consists of six welding booths, an instructional booth, and a small classroom adjacent to the lab.
“Byron and I created the entire process,” said Myhre. “We pooled our experiences together both on the job and in the classroom and came up with a curriculum that was driven towards processes and operations within Felling Trailers. Later Myhre worked with Jake Fisher, an Industrial Technology teacher at Sauk Centre High School to create a structured curriculum for high school students based off Felling Trailers’ welding curriculum. The training course is an 80-hour course, 25 percent classroom, 75 percent lab work.
Experience varies. One of Myhre’s first classes was taught to fellow employees. "I had a great mix of students in the first run,” he said. “All of the students had some welding experience, and some had more than others. One thing is for certain: none of them had any formal training on welding. They all were super eager to learn. The high school kids came in with a much higher technical knowledge base with the majority of them having previously completed welding courses in school.”
The course starts with a review of the basics of welding. "We review the basics of gas metal arc welding to create training that breaks down the ins and outs of welding,” Myhre said. “The course is designed to give a real world look at the manufacturing industry in Central Minnesota, as well as what it takes to perform at a high level in the industry. I am in charge of the grading process. The grading process is pass or fail. We perform destructive testing on the welds to ensure they meet a tight set of standards.”
When asked what the hardest and easiest parts of being an instructor was, he said "I will start with the hardest. I feel the hardest thing to do is stand there and watch people struggle with their welding techniques. Welding requires repeatability. Repeatability takes time. I give them the tools they need to succeed and refine them through practice. The best part of my job is when people lift their hood smiling, look at me and say ‘this is the one Ben.’"
“Manufacturing skills are vital to our success, and it is our desire to ensure Sauk Centre Public Schools continues to offer quality manufacturing education,” said Brenda Jennissen, CEO of Felling Trailers. “We enjoy giving the industrial tech students tours of our facility each year, and we wanted to do more. We wanted to see what we could do to help students see and experience the opportunities in their backyard. Our mission for this program is to provide high school students and employees with the skills and tools needed to succeed in our growing manufacturing business through career experiences that are both hands on and real world."
With the first year of Felling Trailers’ Weld Training Program in the books and a great success, the spark remains strong. For more information, visit www.felling.com.
Felling Trailers is a family owned and operated full line trailer manufacturer located in Central Minnesota that was started in 1974 by Merle Felling.