David McCoy, the lead welding teacher at Pleasure Ridge Park High School (Jefferson County), has taken the program from its beginning in an old locker room to a bustling program with 141 students in just six years.
McCoy has established collaborations and partnerships with local businesses to grow the welding program. The welding academy at Pleasure Ridge Park gives high school students the chance to be career ready immediately after graduation, as students who complete the program are eligible to receive a welding certification.
In October, McCoy was named as a winner of the 2023 Harbor Freight Tools for School Prize for Teaching Excellence, a competition that grants top trade educators with a $50,000 cash prize to supply their programs with equipment and tools. More than 1,000 applications were received for the 2023 competition.
McCoy works actively to close the gender gap in trade work. In January 2023, Jefferson County Public Schools and Pleasure Ridge Park’s welding program hosted the first all-women’s welding competition in the state.
“Our first annual all girl’s competition was a complete success, with 46 competitors from across the state,” McCoy said. “This year’s competition dates have already been set for Jan. 18 and 19, doubling the size of the competition.”
At the competition, females from across the state showcased their welding skills, an opportunity that wasn’t possible before McCoy’s advocacy for women in trade.
“This competition was a major confidence builder for our young ladies in our field and it really empowered them to want to be a part of it,” he said. “It made them truly feel they were a part of it. It was awesome.”
McCoy has created a diverse and highly competitive program. The welding program at Pleasure Ridge Park has grown into a three-teacher program just within the past six years.