STONINGTON — Three graduating seniors at Stonington High School have a head start on the rest of their classmates: They've already been hired as shipfitters by Electric Boat through a workforce training program offered through the Westerly Education Center.
Ian Cote said his career counselor told him about the program last December when he told her he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after high school.
“The next day, she came up to me and told me there was this opportunity up at the Westerly Education Center for a position in sheet metal,” Cote said.
“It was a lot of fun,” Cote said. “It taught us new skills and helped a lot of people with teamwork effort. We learned a lot about weld symbols.”
Wyatt Werling said he, Cote and Riley Burnside, who is also graduating Friday, were trained in the workforce program for sheet metal work, but were hired as shipfitters.
”The weld symbols we’re going to need to know for shipfitting,” Werling said. “It’s going to help us so much with the job we got.”
“The majority of us who got in the program didn’t really know what we wanted to do,” Cote said. “I’m pretty positive that a lot of us really didn’t want to go to college because we didn’t see the benefit. So I think this was perfect timing for us. We don’t have to worry about what we want to do.”
“I’ve been wanting to get into EB because my grandfather worked there,” Cote said. “So this was really perfect.”
Werling said he was excited because he also wanted to work at EB as a welder before he found out about the workforce program.
“I really wanted to work with my hands,” Werling said. “College wasn’t the thing for me. School I struggle with, I struggle with taking tests. I kind of wanted to work directly after high school and not really go to college.”
Werling said he has always been one to work hard for his goals. He was 16 when he went to work with two of his high school friends on a commercial squid boat, the Mackenzie Paige, out of Point Judith.
“It was really good money,” Werling said. “I did it two years ago, so I was like 16. It’s tough work and it’s tough being away for a whole week straight. But the money was really good and I needed to work on my truck.”
Werling said he owns an older model truck that he bought with his own money.
“After I took it to emissions, I put a whole brand-new engine in there and I welded a bunch of stuff on it,” he said. “I’ve been doing mechanics pretty much all my life.”
“This (program) was a huge opportunity and I really jumped on it,” Werling said. “And once I get in and spend a couple years there, I’d really like to get into welding. I do welding in my free time … on my truck and my buddy’s truck.”
Werling said high school was tough for him, but he will miss being with his friends.
“I’ve had the same friend group for six years or something and we never had a fight with each other, or anything like that,” Werling said.
Cote said he is a hands-on person in his spare time and likes to go fishing. He has also worked as a ranch hand as well as doing some masonry and HVAC work.
“I think this program is a big help because we’re not going into Electric Boat not knowing one thing,” Cote said. “I think doing that now instead of after high school and getting us into work is a good thing."
“I think it showed that maybe we don’t need to go to college,” Cote said. “There are other opportunities. I think for people like me, I have ADHD. I think it’s good that they looked at us and said, these kids have potential.”
Cote, Werling and Burnside were chosen for their shipfitting positions through an interview process.