Caden Cunningham is the first high school junior this year to be chosen as the Associated General Contractors of Western Kentucky Technical Center Student of the Week, but his enthusiasm to join the workforce after graduation is as intense as the seniors chosen to the honor.
The Caldwell County High School student is in his third year in the welding program at the Caldwell Regional Career Center.
Cunningham said his grandfather welded in coal mines and that pushed him toward studying welding.
Now that he has studied it for three years, he finds the variety involved in welding to be interesting.
“I’m enjoying learning about the different types of welds that are able to be made on different types of material,” he said. “I enjoy MIG (metal inert gas welding) because I can do that in multiple ways.”
Cunningham’s class has been working on lawn mowers, trailers and grills to perfect their skills. He said he was looking at welding as a potential career.
“(After graduation), I’ll probably go to a technical school in Paducah or Lincoln Tech (in Nashville), then get a job and further my career,” he said.
Mickey Bayer is Cunningham’s welding instructor at CRCC, and he said that Cunningham has caught on to welding well.
“He’s one of these kids that’s willing to learn, no matter what it is,” Bayer said. “He might not be the best welder in the shop, but he’s what employers look for in that he’s got perfect attendance, he’s ready to work, got all of his stuff ready and he’s willing to try anything, no matter what you put in front. of him.
“Employers don’t call here and say, ‘Send me your best stick welder or your best overhead welder.’ They say, ‘Have you got anybody that comes to school every day, gets along with the other students really well and can pass a drug test?’ If you answer ‘yes’ to those, they say, ‘Send them to me.’ ”
Bayer said that Cunningham always seeks out challenges and sticks with the challenges presented to him.
“We did a fire pit for the Nashville Metro Police Department for their K-9 training,” he said. “We rebuilt hog feeders; that was another big project we did. We built a 60-foot fence for a lady that goes alongside her driveway using 2-by-2-square tubing, and she was a tornado victim here in Princeton.”
Cunningham plays football for CCHS and works at Pagliai’s in Princeton. In his spare time, he enjoys hunting and fishing. He is the son of Nikki and Tim Cunningham of Dawson Springs.
A story featuring the AGC of Western Kentucky Technical Center Student of the Week will run in The Paducah Sun each Friday through March 31 with recipients chosen by instructors and administrators at the seven area technical centers that serve students in the state’s 13 westernmost counties.
In addition to the Caldwell Regional Career Center, the 29 AGC of Western Kentucky Technical Center Students of the Week are chosen from the Ballard County Career and Technical Center, Four Rivers Career Academy in Fulton County, Marshall County Technical Center, Mayfield-Graves County Area. Technology Center, Murray-Calloway County Area Technology Center and Paducah Area Technical Center.
The Caldwell Regional Career Center serves students from Caldwell County, Crittenden County, Dawson Springs, Lyon County and Trigg County high schools.
Along with welding, the area technology center offers courses in automotive technology, carpentry, electricity, health science, information technology and plumbing.
AGC of Western Kentucky will host a banquet in April for this year’s 29 Technical Center Students of the Week. Students will receive prizes, and Technical Center Students of the Year and an overall Regional Technical Center Student of the Year will be announced.
At the area technical centers, students are learning skills in many career areas that will help them join the workforce upon graduation and help fill the need for skilled workers in western Kentucky.