Welding program melds job experience with classroom study

Published by Jazmin Ode on

Shyla Passieux-Herrera, second-year welding A.S.S. student, works on her welding project using a tungsten inert gas welder. TIG welding is taught in first-year students in the third term. Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

The UCC welding program is filled with innovative and modern ways of teaching students how to build skills and increase employability. To help students enter this competitive, high-wage field, the program gives students opportunities to work with welders in the community and get hands-on experience.

Ian Fisher, welding instructor and certified welding inspector, sits in the lobby at Lockwood Hall building on campus. Fisher has taught welding to numerous students throughout 23 years of teaching. Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

Ian Fisher, welding instructor and certified welding inspector, has been teaching in the program for 17 years with six more years at two previous high schools. In total this accounts for 23 years’ experience in welding. “I’ve had the CWI credential for probably 15 years,” Fisher says.

Fisher also brings job experience to the program with lot of field work throughout the years such as inspection jobs at America Bridge, a seismic retrofit for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridge, inspections on the Hoover dam bridge and inspections with quality control at the local Con-Vey Keystone employer.

Fisher found that this industry work benefited more than just him, bringing many valuable connections for graduates looking for work. “That was a win-win for the college,” Fisher says.

The program can customize a student’s journey to suit their needs and/or ambitions. The program offers a one-year welding certificate, an Aluminum Welding Pathway Certificate, and a Welding Associate of Applied Science degree.

(Left to right) Duane Thompson, full-time welding instructor, and Noah Hill, welding student, discuss welding topics in the Lockwood Hall workshop. Thompson is one of two instructors that run the entirety of the welding program.
Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

The Aluminum Welding Pathway Certificate is another program option. This pathway certificate is 23 credits over a course of two years. Fisher explains that this is due to lack of space and the small number of instructors.

“We’ve had a few times where someone is like ‘I know I’m just going after aluminum,’ or ‘I want to open up my own shop and I’m just going to target aluminum stuff.’ So, then they just just go through those 23 credits.”

Duane Thompson, full-time welding instructor, primary teaches the aluminum welding courses and is more focused on the second-year students.

Nate York, second-year welding A.A.S. student, uses a metal inert gas welder on a project. Students typically learn how to use MIG welding in their first year. Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

The Welding Associate of Applied Science degree, A.A.S., is a two-year degree. Students completing the A.A.S. will also be completing the welding program’s other two certificates. This degree requires 94 credits at minimum.

After the first year, the curriculum begins to overlaps with American Welding Society, AWS, level one certificate. “You’ll actually get a one-year welding certificate from UCC and from AWS,” Fisher says. “Additionally, in the course work for your first year, we have precision measurement class through Starett, which also provides a NC3 certificate.”

Starett works with NC3 and Snap-On to provide professors and students with the most current education on how to use modern measurement tools with precision and accuracy. “There are eight different certificates available all together in the first year,” Fisher says. “The UCC, the AWS and the six through Starett.”

During summer break, welding students can participate in cooperative work experience. Those taking the A.A.S. have program options to choose from in the course catalog. This allows students to work in the industry side of welding while working on their degree.

Huery Kersher, first-year Welding A.A.S. student, works on a stick welding project. This assignment requires students to use an E-6010 rod to weld a piece that is square and fits a jig of the instructors choice. Mason Ramirez / The Mainstream

Despite Fisher having worked so many years in the wielding program, he is not the founder. “Prior to me, it was a gentleman named Tim Johannes. Tim put a whole career in. Interestingly enough, the other instructor full time instructor, his name is Duane Thompson, was a student of Tim Johannes back in 1975,” Fisher says. “At that point I was still in diapers.”

Thompson is a graduate of UCC and now teaches the next generation of welders. He had put nearly 30 years into the welding industry working as a welding fabricator on jobs similar to what Fisher had previously described. As a team, both Fisher and Duane, teach the entire program.

“Literally, we have certified probably over thousands of welders in our county,” Fisher says.

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