By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Like the metal pieces he welds, Jared Stibal’s career plans are coming together nicely.
Jared, the son of Jerry and Stacy Stibal of rural Lester Prairie, recently won first place in his division at the SkillsUSA Minnesota state welding competition. In late June, he’ll advance to the national level.
“I’ve been working my butt off,” Jared said, explaining that he’s been practicing every chance he gets.
A senior at Lester Prairie High School, Jared has been taking welding classes post-secondary at Ridgewater College in Hutchinson.
The one-year program in Hutchinson includes 32 credits, with classes covering gas welding, computer-aided manufacturing, prints/symbols/joint designs, applied mathematics, and more.
“I push my students really hard. I have a high standard,” welding instructor Jason Eastling said.
Every year, Eastling’s students participate in an internal competition, and up to three college-level welders, plus three post-secondary students, are selected to participate in the state SkillsUSA contest.
“We go down there thinking that we can win,” Eastling said.
This will be the third year in a row that one of Eastling’s students has advanced to nationals.
“I have a lot of talented welders,” he said, adding that student success is directly related to how hard they are willing to work.
Eastling noted that Jared is one of those hard workers, and he comes into class every day with the goal of continuous improvement.
“He’s taken his education seriously,” Eastling said.
Jared said he’s always enjoyed working with his hands, and prefers working with metal over wood.
“My dad welds sometimes on the farm, and I thought it was really cool,” Jared said.
His first time welding was at Ridgewater last fall, and he remembers thinking, “This is awesome!”
At the state competition, Jared got to demonstrate many of the skills he’s learned, including flux-core wire, hard wire, tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding, 60-10 stick welding, and 70-18 stick welding.
At each station, participants had to read a blueprint, and perform a specific weld in 40 minutes or less.
Contestants also took written tests about welding and about SkillsUSA.
For his first-place finish in the post-secondary division, Jared received two scholarships and two welding helmets.
Nationals, which will take place in Kentucky, is similar to state but “twice as hard,” according to Jared.
Eastling noted that the top 20 percent at nationals advance to international pre-trials. From there, the top finisher gets to compete at the world level.
“It gets huge,” Eastling said. “It’s a long journey to get there.”
Whether or not he wins nationals, it seems that Jared’s future is looking bright.
“I have people calling me from North Dakota,” he said, explaining that companies in the oil industry have expressed interest in hiring him.
Jared said he is definitely interested in that type of work, and is also exploring other possibilities, such as welding on skyscrapers, or underwater.