Owen Cherry/Mainstream
Kylee Aldstadt, a UCC welding student, works on her vertical welds while building a fish club in the UCC welding shop.

College welding program builds students’ skills to succeed in a competitive industry

Welding — for some, it’s just an elective they’re talked into taking in high school. For others, it inspires a lifetime career filled with creativity. But not everyone whose mind is sparked by the art of welding follows it through to a college degree. Too many are left confused about the importance of proper training and intermediate classes.

Some believe that the skills they’ve learned as a high schooler are all they need to carry them forward, but this is likely inaccurate. UCC’s welding program is looking to highlight the many differences between high school and college courses to encourage enrollment. “There is a really strong need for both high school career and technical education programs and community college CTE programs, but they are definitely not equivalent,” says welding instructor Ian Fisher. The amount of time, resources and “academic rigor changes” are key differences between the two programs.

In one high school class, a student will spend typically spend 45 minutes with the material, while students at the community college level spend four whole hours. Yearly, that means welding students at UCC spend more than five times the amount of hours learning than their younger counterparts, according to data collected by Fisher himself.

A school’s budget alone can impact the quality of the programs it offers. Paying for any hands-on instruction, equipment and lab resources is costly, but welding materials are exceptionally more so; it takes a lot to pay for the crucial aspects that make a program. “Filler metal, gas, abrasives, consumable parts and components of equipment” are all required for any welding program. The average high school only has the ability to allocate $2000 to $6000 a year on these necessary materials and services while a community college typically dedicates at least $16,000 to materials.

Perhaps most crucial to the individual student is the difficulty that more advanced classes can present. Unlike high school, community college requires more dedication. Harsher late work policies, longer homework, more reading, more assignments and accelerated exams all play a role in shaping welders.

As America’s infrastructure (roads, bridges, highways) continues to age, the need for new sets of hands in the industry is rising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that by 2028 the job outlook for “welders, cutters, solderers and brazers” is expected to grow by 3% creating 14,500 new jobs in the process. With a growth slower than other occupations, competition for these jobs is heavy, further stressing the need for a quality training program, expertise and a nice resume.

A welder’s job is usually anything but easy. Averaging a salary of “$41,380 per year, or $19.89 an hour,” overtime hours are very common. Some manufacturing firms even have three 8 (or 12) hour shifts each day, pushing work around the clock on evenings and weekends. Whether it’s from lifting heavy objects, being forced into awkward positions, cuts or burns, welders put themselves in danger every day to literally build the country from the ground up. If welding is a passion, however, why not turn it into a fiery career?

In one high school class, a student will spend 45 minutes with the material, while students at the community college level spend four whole hours.

1 year welding programs

-Covers training in SMAW, GMAW, GTAW, FCAW, OFW, PAC, OFC, and ACAC.

-Will learn how to weld in flat, vertical, horizintal, and overhead positions.

-Provides Skills for entry-level jobs.

2 year welding programs

-Focuses on advanced skill sets required for pressure piping and boiler fabrication.

-Covers standards set by AWS, API, and ASME Section IX

-Graduates will have knowledge and skills required for positions as pipe fitters, pipe welders, and fabricators

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