Students from the Tongue Point Job Corps Center gathered around Keane Randall of Gearhart Ironwerks, taking turns at forging their own links in a chain made entirely by community members visiting the Marine and Environmental Research and Training Station.

Others took their chances in the Fire Response building, donning firefighting equipment and braving the smoke-filled confines.

Clatsop Community College’s campus on the river – the Marine and Environmental Research and Training Station – opened its doors to the community Tuesday, showing off the resources of the career technical training center to nearly 400 visitors.

The station isn’t visible from the wooded road that descends from U.S. Highway 30 about four miles east of Astoria. Drive down the hill on Liberty Lane, though, and an expansive campus and the riverfront property on the Columbia opens up.

“I wish it was larger,” said John Emmerling, about MERTS. He is owner of Gearhart Ironwerks and an adjunct historic preservation instructor with the college.

“I wish there was more industry in this area.”

Randall, one of Emmerling’s employees, operated the the forge at Ironwerks’ blacksmithing exhibit. Emmerling hired him at age 19, right after he graduated from MERTS with his welding credentials.

For Alexxa Hendershott, a Job Corps student learning welding, the forging exhibit was just another bit of fun moving toward her life’s goal.

“It’s exciting; it’s different,” said Hendershott, who wants to own her own business making home furniture - much like Emmerling does. “It’s not a career; it’s a hobby.”

Hands-on work

Teachers from throughout MERTS’ programs hosted similar hands-on exhibits showcasing their specialties. CCC has one of the highest proportions of career technical education of any similar institution in the state. MERTS?focuses on maritime science, coastal resources, environmental studies, scientific research training and industrial and manufacturing technologies.

“It’s great to see the variety and diversity of what we offer,” said CCC President Larry Galizio. “It’s a great reminder of what we have down here.”

Automotive instructor Stephen Sanders didn’t have the forge or fire simulator to draw students, but he used the universal usefulness of his program to draw in passersby.

“It’s nice to know that your vocation is transferrable,” said Sanders, who helped organized a car show at the event, mostly frequented by Lower Columbia Classics Car Club members. Sanders said one of the biggest draws of an automotive program is that a graduate can basically choose where they want to live, with a near guarantee of a job.

An auction recently held by the college raised most of the money to fund several projects, including a classroom for Sanders’ program. That will bring the program one step closer to certification by the National Automotive Technicians Foundation, which helps establish it as a nationally recognized program training technicians to the same standards as any other school.

Christopher Paddon, an instructor who prepares students to work in energy conservation and renewable energy production, was at the open house promoting his two new online courses, which are now available to anyone. “Introduction to Sustainability” explores a broad range of nonrenewable energy resources and technologies, impacts of energy sources and how to develop practical plans for local renewable energy production and conservation. “Building Energy Analysis” teaches students how to design homes and commercial businesses to be more energy efficient and prepares them for the certification exam to be a building performance analyst.

For more information on Paddon’s program, call (503) 338-2669.

Welding instructor Jesse Fulton invited people to practice and brought in industry leaders to show off the cutting edge of welding technology.

“I want people to know that everyone in the community has their own welding shop; it’s right here,” said Fulton, who added that welding is much more complex and scientific than people would first think. He will offer a class this summer where students will weld a flower.

And on the water

Down at MERTS’ dock where the college has its own vessel – the Forerunner – instructor Albert Little said his program grabbed at least eight high school students interested in taking maritime sciences.

“The boat’s a big draw,” said Little, who had visitors throwing lines and watching his students perform the drills that train skilled mariners.

Along with the abovementioned programs, MERTS?offers training in fire science, historic preservation, computer-aided drafting and design and other technical and career subjects.

“Sometimes we’re seen as being a hidden jewel,” said Kristen Wilkin, dean of workforce education and training. “If you’re new to the community ... you may not be aware that we provide so much.”

She talked about how MERTS is expanding, including a new two-year degree in welding and fire science career pathways.

• Tours are available at MERTS at 6540 Liberty Lane?from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. After June and until Labor Day, tours are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

For more information or to schedule a tour, call Toni Middleton at (503) 325-7962.

 

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