Listen to the audio story below:

Eric Adams, creator and owner of the Grand River Welding Institute (GRWI photo)

BROOKFIELD, Mo. — As a veteran welder, Eric Adams used to see lots of issues with new welders on job sites. He then began teaching them how to properly weld and fit on the job – and doing it safely. And that got him thinking.

Three years ago, Adams opened Grand River Welding Institute, a post-secondary welding school from scratch in Brookfield. Some were skeptical a trade school would be successful in rural Missouri.

He describes how he turned an old grocery store building into an up-to-date welding school.

Adams says he’s proud to sponsor youth sports teams, civic organizations, the Linn County fair and festivals. And that his school is helping the local economy.

Classes are small with one instructor for every 12 students. Grand River Welding Institute can accommodate up to 72 students, which is typically the case during the summer after high school seniors graduate. The school also gives discounts to veterans. Additionally, it offers courses in sanitary welding, essential for breweries and food suppliers. That niche, he says, is only offered in Brookfield, which is generating a lot of interest from businesses.

The old adage, “Skills pay the bills” is true – and demand for skilled welders is high, he says.

That’s also includes women welders.

On Friday, Grand River Welding Institute will sponsor a skills competition with 96 high school juniors and seniors from 30-plus schools. Michelle Villalobos, a welder with national following through her Industrious Company and Weld like a Girl podcast and social media.

All competitors will receive a $2,000 scholarship to GRWI for participating in the event. Top winners get a lot more.

Tuition is around $19,000 for the 23-week program for students who receive discounts, like being an honor roll student. Without discounts, Adams says tuition and living expenses are around $25,000.