HUMBLE, Texas (KTRK) -- With welders retiring, high school competitions and mentorship programs are working to lure new workers.
This wasn't your traditional classroom assignment. More than 40 students from across Texas competed to win prizes not by sport but by a spark.
"We need these people," Northern Tool + Equipment Store Manager Myra Galland explained. "We need welders. So, we're excited to be able to determine if these students can help decide if they can have a career outside of high school."
The Texas High School Welding Series hosts these events to get students interested in welding. At Northern Tool + Equipment in Humble, teams from 11 school districts had four hours to build a table.
"It's really just like being together and making things and being able to show it and being able to say, 'Oh, I made this,'" Katy ISD student Jada Williams explained.
"You can be yourself," Cleveland ISD student David Cardenas said. "You can express yourself. You have this freedom."
"The key is getting industry in the classroom with those students and show them the opportunity and then give them mentorship and pathway to be successful through high school," Texas High School Welding Executive Director Eric Pesak explained.
One of those mentorship programs can be found at the Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council with its three-week apprenticeship readiness program.
"They'll learn about all 13 trades within the industry and then select their path in the career," Houston Gulf Coast Building & Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary Paul Puente explained.
Welding is one of the skills students learn. You have to be 18 years old and pass a drug test. Once enrolled, you can start working in an industry and get paid while doing it.
"It's an earn while you learn (program), which makes a huge difference," Puente said. "It's not just based inside of a welding booth. It's out in the industry."
It's an incentive industry experts hope to get more people interested in welding.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said because of retirements, the industry needs 50,000 new people a year. Some of those could be coming from this group of students.
"It looks cool," Cardenas said. "I could build stuff. I learn a trade, and I could make money out of it."
It's a spark that could change your life.
For updates on this story, follow Nick Natario on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
WATCH RELATED: Women in welding: Alvin Community College program aims to bridge gender gap