CMC Welding Program Gave Him Wings

German Aguirre CMC welding student in Leadville

German Aguirre, Welding student at Colorado Mountain College

Welding Classes Create Job Opportunities for CMC Student

Light aircrafts fly at an average altitude of 10,000 ft.—which happens to be the elevation of the Leadville – Lake County Airport. German Aguirre, a 20-year-old Leadville local, is an Airport Operations Technician at the highest public use airport in North America. Just two miles down the road is Colorado Mountain College Leadville, the highest college campus in North America, where German is finishing up an Associates degree.

Since it’s a small airport, German is able to gain hands-on experience in almost every aspect of the job, from fueling aircrafts to welding snow removal equipment.

“I felt comfortable doing all that welding work because of the CMC welding program,” says German, “These classes taught me the skills and helped me feel confident in my capabilities.”

Thanks to the dual enrollment program, German began taking classes at Colorado Mountain College as a junior in high school. Dual enrollment, also known as concurrent enrollment, is a partnership between Lake County High School and Colorado Mountain College that allows high school students to earn college credits from CMC free of cost.

German Aguirre, CMC welding students making a weld in the Leadville welding shop.Dual enrollment students graduate high school having completed many of the required general education courses like College Algebra and English Composition. Others, like German, use the free tuition opportunity to learn welding skills in addition to collecting college credits. Some even earn Basic Welding & Cutting certificates before their high school graduation ceremony.

German took his first welding class in 2017 as a junior in high school. He excelled in the welding shop, learning about the oxyacetylene joining processes and shielded metal arc welding. The following summer, German landed a job as a welder.

“The fact that I got a job as a welder right after taking the CMC welding class really shows the quality of the program,” says German.

After graduating from Lake County High School in 2018, German started working full-time at the Leadville – Lake County Airport. Though he hadn’t completed his degree, the credits he earned from the dual enrollment program remained. About a year later, German got a text from Geoff Lautzenhiser, full-time welding faculty at Colorado Mountain College.

German Aguirre welding outside of the CMC Leadville welding shop“Geoff would reach out and ask me how I was doing,” says German, ” He really cares about his students and wants to see us succeed. He’d ask about my job, if I was still welding, and if I was going to come back to school.”

A few months later, German was back in school, taking Intro to Multi-Process Welding, Layout & Fabrication and Interpersonal Communications. He plans to graduate from Colorado Mountain College in the spring with an Associate of General Studies Degree, as well as two welding certificates for Basic Welding and Cutting and Welding Design & Fabrication.

German’s job at the airport has introduced him to various aspects of aviation and inspired his future career. He’s met many pilots and explored the different aircrafts. It’s this exposure that has inspired him to study aviation and ultimately become a pilot.

“It’s a small airport, and I get to see and touch every aircraft that lands,” says German, “Sometimes the pilots let me sit in the cockpit and they show me different controls. One pilot even brought me for a helicopter ride and let me co-pilot.”

Though he loves his job on the ground at the airport, German is destined for greater heights – and Colorado Mountain College is excited to watch him fly.