White Mountains Community College’s advanced welding program has a student-hire rate of 120 percent, or at least that’s what instructor Mike Pike will tell you. In practical terms, he’s actually right on.
Every single student to successfully complete one of the community college’s welding training programs and pass industry exams in the last two years has been hired in his or her chosen field, bringing the hire rate to a perfect 100 percent. The extra 20? Well, Pike chalks that up to the fact that manufacturing employers have come to trust the quality of WMCC graduates’ work so much that they regularly send requests for more recruits before the next class even gets into the lab.
“What makes our program unique is that we focus on hands-on welding skills,” said John Holt, Advanced Manufacturing Partnerships in Education project coordinator for WMCC. “We don’t produce entry-level welders. We expect that our students can walk into industry and perform from Day 1. To accomplish that, all concepts are taught in a hands-on fashion on the most cutting-edge equipment. Our ability to train on 21st-century technology without losing our focus on practical welding skills has made us a valuable resource for our industry partners.”
Indeed, it’s created constant demand, and WMCC wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, the college has expanded its advanced manufacturing lab twice in the last three years to satisfy employer needs. It now houses 36 independent welding booths, a virtual welding lab and an Inspection and Test area. In addition, it’s rolled out a fully outfitted mobile lab that can be parked nearly anywhere to offer on-site training for employers, school campuses and more. Enrollment in advanced welding programs has more than doubled since last year. The college offers Advanced Welding Technology, Precision Welding and Pipe Welding certificate programs, as well as an Advanced Welding Technology associate degree program. Each program includes multiple American Welding Society (AWS) qualification tests for industry recognized certifications.
Welding and cutting processes covered in the programs include shielded metal arc, gas metal arc, flux core arc, submerged arc and gas tungsten arc, plasma and oxy-acetylene cutting, as well the necessary safety, blueprint reading and practical application skills needed for success in today’s welding industry. Students start with 3-D virtual welding practice and then move on to professional-grade equipment like advanced process welders that continuously send performance data to the cloud, a CNC plasma cutting table, liquid cooled GTAW welders, or a submerged arc welding setup with an automated LT-7 tractor.
To encourage and support hiring, Holt organizes regular meet-and-greets between students and industry partners such as Canam-Structal, the Eastern Millwright Regional Council and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, as well as interviews and performance tests.
“We have worked closely with Canam-Structal over the last year or two with great success from a partnership and hiring perspective,” said Holt. “They have been to class a few times each year to assist faculty and demonstrate to students on the submerged arc process. We also visit them each year with the whole class for a tour. In the summer, they came to interview and test students (all passed their tests!) and made six hires with whom I hear they are very happy. It’s a great success, as they have had a very hard time finding people.”
WMCC recognizes the need for strong foundational and “soft” skills in any successful workplace. To this end, the tuition-free intensive WorkReadyNH program is available to eligible students at all NH community colleges. WRNH helps job-seekers and career builders improve math, reading, information-gathering, communication, team-building and problem-solving skills. Its assessment and training services enable students to earn two nationally recognized certificates, while helping employers identify qualified career candidates.
WMCC and its six sister colleges are part of NH’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnerships in Education, a statewide initiative that unites the colleges with more than 200 industry, state- and federal- agency partners to offer flexible, industry approved education and training. Under a $20 million USDOLETA TAACCCT grant, advanced manufacturing labs at each of the colleges were opened or overhauled with state-of-the-art equipment.
Five ways NH community colleges serve employers:
1. Their diverse selection of more than 30 advanced manufacturing certificate and degree programs was designed in partnership with industry, ensuring delivery of relevant skills across myriad disciplines.
2. Programs customized to meet specific employer needs can be offered online, on campus or on the worksite.
3. In-class visits, industry tours and the AMPed NH Student Online Suite (offering an online networking community, ePortfolios and more) put employers in touch with potential employees.
4. Career-focused training at the colleges reduces on-the-job training time once students are hired.
5. Staff can connect eligible students and employers with resources for traditional financial aid and funding from the Workforce Investment Act and NH Job Training fund.
“At WMCC, I learned how to be a professional — how to be independent. Technically, I’ve learned a lot: MIG, stick, TIG. Compared to other 18-year-olds, I’m way ahead of the game; I can go into any machine shop and know how to run each machine and have experience with all different types of material and metals.”
— Jon Lam, WMCC student and employee of Cross Machine
TO LEARN MORE
Visit www.ampednh.com or call White Mountains Community College at (603) 752-1113, ext. 3008.