The welding program at White Mountains Community College will have a new look this fall thanks to a $1.6 million grant from the US Department of Labor. The transformation will include a new welding lab with cutting edge equipment, a Mobile Welding Training Lab and a newly updated curriculum.
The Advanced Welding lab on campus in Berlin is currently under renovation and will be ready for classes in September. Once completed, the entrance will house a newly designed Virtual Welding Lab with three virtual welding machines. Travel through the virtual lab and you will find 24 new welding booths each with its own fume extraction arm, piped gasses and all new welding equipment. There will also be new booths for plasma cutting and grinding, a CNC Plasma Cutting table, an automated Oxy cutting and welding machine and a whole series of modern welders and other associated equipment.
“The Virtual Welders are the cornerstone of our new Advanced Welding Lab,” states project coordinator John Holt. “Nothing can replace the need to learn hands-on, but research has shown that the Virtual Welders improve student’s techniques and also reduce the time it takes to learn. Students have the ability to practice the basic techniques with immediate feedback on speed, body position, angles and other traits. It also engages students in a way that we couldn’t normally. When you flip down the virtual hood, the room around you disappears and you are in a simulated Motorsports Garage. It’s hard to beat that experience in the lab. It also scores your welds against AWS standards. The unit motivates the student to compete with friends and stay engaged in the learning process.”
The overhaul of the lab was made possible through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grant. The Community College System of NH was awarded about $20 million through the TAACCCT grant to provide updated skills and training in Advanced Manufacturing. At WMCC, the funds were focused entirely on the welding program.
A new opportunity planned for this fall will center on the new Mobile Training Lab that is currently under construction at MMIC in St. Johnsbury, VT. The unit will be housed in a 50’ trailer with its own generator that has been custom designed by MMIC. The lab will have six welding booths, a fold-down table for cutting and grinding work outside and a classroom area with another Virtual Welding machine.
The lab will be will be available for on-site custom training and used at the Littleton campus to offer a SMAW (stick) welding program on evenings and Saturdays. The program will start on October 14th and run three nights a week for about four hours and on Saturday for eight hours.
The shortened program will provide basic SMAW safety, theory and practical welding skills as well as an introduction to Oxy Cutting and Beveling. A second program will run in the spring and will expand upon those skills and prepare the student for an AWS structural certification. The programs will be the same credit-bearing courses that the students take in the Welding Technology program spread out over a longer period. The courses are financial aid eligible and will give the student the basic skills needed to enter the workforce as a welder during a period of high demand for the occupation.
An aging workforce is causing a shortage of skilled applicants throughout the state and beyond. Between 2008 and 2018, NH will create 223,000 manufacturing job vacancies from new jobs and job openings due to retirement. Welding as a trade has not been emphasized for many years and is a perfect example of this growing disconnect. Welding job growth is expected to be over 10% per year for the foreseeable future and there aren’t enough new welders entering the field.
“Last summer we had 18 graduates, all of them passed the externally administered ASME Pipe Certification Test and 17 of them had welding positions within weeks of graduation,” says Michael Pike the lead welding instructor. “This year, a good portion of the class will have jobs before they graduate. We’ve already had five organizations visit or schedule visits to recruit in the classroom. And these are good jobs starting between $17 and $20 an hour, many of them with benefits.”
In addition to recruiting, the organizations do demonstrations or presentations. Recently, Bremco Inc., a power generation contractor out of Claremont, came into the classroom and demonstrated ‘mirror welding’. It’s a technique often used in boilers to weld the back of pipes where there isn’t access for traditional techniques. The students all watched the demonstration and had a few hours of advice and support from Quality Manager Dan Ogara and Dan Martin a CWI and Lead Welding Supervisor as they tried the technique themselves. At the same time, Bremco was able to meet the students one-on-one. They will be returning to class later in the semester for interviews and on-site welding tests.
“Bremco has been very pleased with the quality of students that WMCC has been providing,” states Don Revane, VP of Operations at Bremco. “Our industry demands high quality and trained people to keep us competitive in today’s market. The ability to come to the college and observe the students in a working atmosphere is also very beneficial to our selection process for hiring. We look forward to meeting and hopefully hiring more students in the future.”
The Welding Technology Certificate program in Berlin begins September 3rd and is still accepting applications. The courses are during the day and amount to 20-25 hours a week. At the completion, the students have the opportunity to take an AWS test for structural welding certification. Many of the students continue on over the summer for the Pipe Welding Certificate.
For more information on how to enroll in the Welding Technology Program or the shortened courses in Littleton, visit www.wmcc.edu or call the admissions office at (603) 752-1113, ext. 3000.
This program is sponsored by (or in part by) a $19.97 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration TAACCCT Grant #TC-22504-11-60-A-33. The Community College System of NH is an equal opportunity employer, and adaptive equipment is available upon request to persons with disabilities.