Raider Products introduces students to the real world

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Pulaski High School program combines business with learning
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Logan Bellow works on the side of a shuffleboard in the Raider Products woodworking class Wednesday at Pulaski High School. (Times Herald photo by Warren Bluhm)

Students at Pulaski High School are getting some real-world training for careers that will leave them better equipped to step into a well-paying job after graduation.

The Raider Products program is providing hands-on experience in welding, woodworking and auto mechanics that students and teachers alike say will help launch their full-time careers.

The high school held a media day Wednesday to give the community a glimpse at the program, which began in the metals shop. Woodworking instructor John Pitzen said Raider Products has expanded this year to the woodworking and auto shops.

“The basis of all those Raider Products is to give the kids real-world experience, and with that we treat it as a business,” Pitzen said. “Our customers have been in-district (the facilities and grounds department). It has been community members approaching us. It has been organizations. For example, we just talked to the Lions Club last week, and we are helping them make a float for the Pulaski Polka Days Parade.”

Customers contact the teachers, but the students take it from there.

“We go ahead and design it, give them a quote, and we go ahead and make it,” Pitzen said.

Jerad Marsh, the automotive teacher, said the shop has done everything from small engine repair to fixing starters.

“We have three different days that we’re able to have the class,” Marsh said. “We organize it just like we would a shop: We have a shop manager; we have two lead mechanics; we have five different groups. We have a kid that takes care of parts orders, parts look-up, that kind of stuff, and we go from there.”

The metals program, overseen by Max DeHut, has built soccer goals, grills and a sap cooker and sap cans for maple syrup. This spring’s big project will be building a shelter or mobile dugout for the soccer program.

Although it’s technically a class, students need to apply to get a position in Raider Products just like any business.

“That’s one of the really neat parts of the class — just because you sign up doesn’t mean you’re gonna make it,” DeHut said. “You submit a resume. You’ve got the interview part. You have to make that cut.”

Some of the students in the program are also in the youth apprenticeship program at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and work part-time for area businesses.

“They’re basically honing their skills here,” DeHut said.

Matt VandenLangenberg, a senior in the woodworking program, has a part-time job with a cabinet maker in Freedom and said he enjoys the work enough to keep going after graduation.

“I think I’ve found my niche, and I think I’m just going to keep sticking with it,” he said.

The Raider Products program has been helpful in preparing VandenLangenberg for the business world.

“You work right with the customers and get that one-on-one, the real-world experience,” he said, “even to the point where if, after this, if I want to move on to my own business or something, I have that further training because of this.”

Another benefit of being in Raider Products is a merit scholarship program. Each student has the potential of earning an equal portion of the net profit in the form of scholarships.

Eighty percent of the company’s net profits are set aside for the scholarships, which can be applied toward any post-secondary institution that aligns with an approved manufacturing career pathway, or reimbursement for costs related to professional training programs.

The other 20 percent of Raider Products net profit goes back into the program itself.