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RCC Welding Class Begins Feb. 1; Skilled Workers Needed

ASHEBORO (January 26, 2010)

Randolph Community College is expanding its welding program in anticipation of a higher need for welders in the replacement and repair of America's infrastructures, including roads, bridges, and power plants, according to Gerald Hubbard, who recently joined RCC to help build its welding program. A new class starts Monday, Feb. 1, at the Asheboro Campus.

Hubbard, who is a certified welding and taught welding at Guilford Technical Community College for 11 years before retiring in June, recently received a call from a former welding student of his who was working in Virginia. "He wanted to know if I had any students who wanted a job," said Hubbard, who is working with Lonnie Hamm, RCC's Small Business Center director, to make sure RCC's Welding classes will prepare students to certify when they leave. RCC works with the American Welding Society to certify its students in four areas of welding, according to Hamm: vertical, horizontal, flat, and pipe welding. Pipe welding is the most difficult and it pays the most, said Hamm.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs prospects should be good for skilled welders because employers are reporting difficulty finding enough qualified people.

"For the past few years, the metal fabrication and construction industries have faced a challenge in finding skilled welders," said Ray Shook, executive director of the American Welding Society, in the Welding & Gases Today Online journal. "With approximately 500,000 welders in the workforce, the average welder today is in his or her mid-50s and nearing retirement. With welders retiring at twice the pace of new welders coming into the field, it’s anticipated that in the years to come, we will have a significant shortfall of qualified welders."

In addition, about one-third of President Obama's $285 billion stimulus package will go to infrastructure – roads, mass transit and railways. These projects will take years to complete and should creates thousands of jobs for welders nationwide. Hubbard noted that power companies will be building new nuclear power plants and repowering old power plants. "This will create lots of jobs," he said, although he noted that they may not be local jobs. "Workers will need to follow the jobs."

Following the jobs is key to increasing compensation in welding jobs, too, said Hubbard and Hamm. Median wages of welders in the U.S. in 2008 were $16.13 an hour, but an experienced welder who is willing to travel can make much more. "It's not uncommon for welders to make $150,000 a year," said Hamm, "but they have to follow the work."

RCC's MIG and TIG Welding Fundamentals class will meet on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings, from 6-9 p.m., Feb. 1 through May 12, on the Asheboro Campus. The course is designed to teach basic fundamentals of MIG and TIG welding that will qualify one for entry-level employment in welding jobs. This course will begin with an introduction to welding safety, fundamentals, and techniques. Students will be introduced to Oxy-Acetylene Welding and Torch Cutting, Arc Welding, and then progress to MIG and TIG Welding. The primary emphasis in the class will be hands-on training in MIG and TIG welding techniques allowing the student to develop basic skills in the use and application of these techniques in various welding applications. Students will be evaluated on basic welding knowledge and skill development at the conclusion of the training.

The registration fee is $201.25. For more information or to preregister, call RCC at 336-633-0268.