Last updated: December 03. 2013 9:39PM - 1221 Views
By - cwarner@civitasmedia.com

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UNION COUNTY — The Union County Advanced Technology Center will reach a milestone when it graduates its first class of welding students, all of whom are already earning a living with what they’ve learned in the course.

Site Coordinator Kathy Jo Lancaster announced this week that with the end of the current semester this Friday, four of the 12 students enrolled in the center’s welding program will graduate. She said the four graduates — Deon Craig, Bradley Cain, Wesley Gault, and Donald Nix — along with two other members of the class, have already found employment using the skills they’ve learned in the course of their studies.

“This week will mark a milestone for the advanced technology center as we graduate our first class of welders with an academic credential,” Lancaster said. “In 2012, 12 students began the welding certificate program through Spartanburg Community College. Four of those students will graduate this week and we are extremely proud of these young men as they begin a new journey in their lives. Each of them has excelled in their program of study and all are currently working in the field.”

As for the other eight, Lancaster said they have opted to pursue advanced degrees in welding, mechatronics, and manufacturing. She said at least part of the remaining course work these students will take will be at Spartanburg Community College.

Lancaster pointed out that whether they have opted to graduate or to continue their education, the students who enrolled in 2012 now possess the skills needed to get high-paying jobs. She said they acquired those skills in a relatively short period of time because of the nature of the welding certificate program.

“The benefit of that certificate program is that it is a relatively fast-paced program,” Lancaster said.” Students are not required to go through years of instruction. Instead, they can quickly learn the skills needed to secure employment by mastering all of the various techniques common today.”

Welding Instructor Jason Pace said the skills taught in the certificate program include “structural welding which includes T-joints, socket welds, V-groove, open butt, and 8-inch Schedule 40 pipe. Their next step is 4-inch Schedule 40 Tig All Pipe. Then the next step is stainless steel 3-inch Schedule 40 Tig All Pipe and that’s when they graduate.”

Pace said that upon successfully completing their studies in these areas, students can get jobs in the power industry, manufacturing, construction, and as self-employed welders. He said that with the welding certificate they receive, students who get work in these areas can command salaries ranging from $12 to $40 an hour.

In addition to the certificate program, students can also pursue a diploma in welding. Pace said the diploma program offers training in pipe fitting and blueprint reading. There is also an associate program in welding which requires an additional 12 hours in an industrial course. Pace said that many students who enter the associate program get their 12 extra hours in machine tool technology.

With advanced degrees under their belts, students have even more opportunities for high-paying jobs with employers, especially if they are willing to travel.

“There’s Fluor Global, a worldwide construction company; Boiler Tube, which builds tubes for the power industry; Shaw Construction, which is involved in nuclear energy; GE in Greenville, which makes gas turbines,” Pace said. “These jobs begin at $20 an hour and there’s overtime, bonuses, and per diem. If you are willing to travel it is possible to get $400 a week per diem, in living expenses alone.”

In addition to companies outside Union County, Lancaster said the welding program also prepares students for the well-paying jobs offered by local companies.

“Our certificate, diploma, and associate programs also prepare students to work for local industries,” Lancaster said. “These include Gestamp, Timken, ESAB, Webb Forging, Cone Industries, Santuc Precision, Parts & Machinery, Gonvauto, and Sonoco.”

Lancaster pointed that the demand for trained welders is expected to grow dramatically over the next decade.

“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment growth in this field for the next 10 years is expected to be stronger than average for all occupations,” Lancaster said. “This reflects the need for welders in manufacturing and nuclear construction because of the importance and versatility of welding processes. The basic skills of welding are the same across industries, so welders can easily shift from one industry to another depending on where they are needed most.”

Lancaster said that through the welding program offered at the Advanced Technology Center and related programs offered through Spartanburg Community College and the Union County School District, Union County is well-positioned to meet the needs of local and other industries for welders. She said in meeting this need, the program can also help the people of Union County get the high-paying jobs being created by those industries.

“I think we have a wonderful opportunity here in Union County with our programs at the Advanced Technology Center, Spartanburg Community College, and the dual credit courses offered through the Union County Career and Technology Center,” Lancaster said. “We have a pipeline to high-tech, high-growth, high-paying jobs. Residents just need to take advantage of it.”

For more information about the welding program and other classes offered at the Union County Advanced Technology Center call 864-466-1060.

Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at cwarner@civitasmedia.com.

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