Streator High School student Olivia Perez wanted to try something not so girly, so she signed up for welding class her freshman year.
Her classmate, Dominic Roach, was naturally drawn to working with his hands after helping his father work on cars and motorcycles, while Tyler Trotter and Andrew Ross started welding their freshmen year, and after a lot of dedication, they say they enjoy the accomplishment of finishing a product.
The four of them, scheduled to graduate high school in May, each were offered full-time jobs at Vactor Manufacturing beginning at $23.60 per hour with benefits in 90 days. They worked at Vactor through the school's co-op after taking welding classes at school.
During the school day Tuesday, Vactor and Streator High School hosted an event to applaud the accomplishment.
Vactor Human Resources Manager Katie Muntz said the company has not hired four students all at once out of high school in the more than 15 years of teaming up with the school's work program. They have hired students out of high school from time to time.
"We want to recognize students locally who choose the manufacturing field," Muntz said. "There's really good opportunities in those fields."
The students represent four of the 90 new jobs Vactor will add in its $25 million expansion. Vactor is planning on having 10 students next semester in the high school's work program, its largest class.
Streator High welding instructor David Taylor and cooperative education coordinator Chris Peterson said Vactor is working closely with the school to develop career skills.
For instance, every other Tuesday night a representative from Vactor comes to the high school's welding shop to give a presentation to interested students.
With the welding night, Taylor said students get exposure to real-world situations and Vactor gets to meet potential employees.
The work program also builds up students' skills.
"It's a lot more active than in the classroom," Perez said. "In the classroom, we practice a lot of techniques."
Taylor said instructors also teach students how to make their own budgets, work ethics and the value of always improving skills on top of the vocational techniques.
"It's a blessing to have a good job out of high school," Roach said. "There's not a lot of opportunities, but there are if you work hard for it."
Ross added: "I think more people should get into it and try it."
It might pay off.