New beginnings: Open house at Oshkimajiitahdah Institute of Technology held in Redby

REDBY -- A vocational school and social services hub in Redby showcased an expansion Friday that leaders there hope will get more Red Lake residents into a high-demand trade.

Derrik Jourdain, assistant welding instructor at Oshkimajiitahdah Institute of Technology, explains the benefits of a welding truck Friday during a grand opening and open house event. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)
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REDBY -- A vocational school and social services hub in Redby showcased an expansion Friday that leaders there hope will get more Red Lake residents into a high-demand trade.

An open house at the Oshkimajiitahdah Institute of Technology featured an expanded area for the school’s welding program, which staff say has approximately doubled the number of students there.

“In the 90s...the whole mantra was to get everybody into computers and web base and all of that technology. Well, they forgot about the trades,” said Jerry Loud, the institute’s executive director. “And now they're saying, 'wait a minute, we have all this infrastructure that we need repairing. Where are all the welders?'”

The school boasts a truck with mobile welding equipment that students can use to do just about anything they could at the new shop, which closely resembles the kind of professional environment they might work in one day. The truck also doubles as a catalyst of sorts for students, who could use one of their own to start a small business that caters to farmers, loggers and area resorts.

“It’s the only one we’ve seen in this area,” assistant welding instructor Derrik Jourdain said of the truck as a student behind him worked on another truck’s undercarriage, sending sparks cascading onto the new building’s floor.


Loud said institute staff plan to expand the welding program even further to incorporate industry representatives and focus on what potential employers look for in new hires. Beyond that, the school could also start employing its own recently graduated welders, head instructor Al Belleveau said.

Oshkimajiitahdah also helps residents with federal family assistance programs, employment services, and offers programs that help students learn nursing and commercial driving, among other pursuits.

Loud drew a line between Oshkimajiitahdah and the far-reaching decisions of earlier generations, who, he said, negotiated treaties between themselves and the U.S. government with “the children” in mind.

“Who are they talking about?” Loud asked rhetorically. “They were talking about us….This is kind of what we’re doing now. We’re doing this for generations, now, to come. This isn’t just a fad. We’re building and keep building just kind of like our ancestors.”

Jerry Loud, executive director of Oshkimajiitahdah, shows photos of differing welding training projects completed by students at Oshkimajiitahdah Institute of Technology. (Maggi Stivers | Bemidji Pioneer)

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

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