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College sparks welding training to fill demand

January 15th, 2008 · No Comments

Surry Community College in Dobson is rapidly expanding its facilities to train welders, Brooke R. Corwin reports today in The Surry Messenger.

As reported previously, a shortage of welders and other metal fabricators is preventing or delaying several companies’ expansion in Surry County. The college offers welding classes, but has had trouble attracting prospective students.

The problem of finding welders came up again earlier this month at the economic summit in Mount Airy — ironically, a meeting held just three blocks away from metals-fabricator Ottenweller Company, one of the manufacturers mentioned in Corwin’s article.

The others are Granite Tactical Vehicles in Pilot Mountain, one of several U.S. firms developing specialized, hardened vehicles for use by military troops and security contractors; CK Technologies of Mount Airy, which manufactures truck parts for Volvo and Freightliner; and Tampco of Elkin, which manufactures stainless steel fittings for marine uses. All, like Ottenweller, have unfilled job openings.

All need workers trained in precision welding.

“It’s very delicate work,” said Chad Bledsoe, dean of SCC’s business, computer and engineering technologies. “When you think of welding you often think of slapping things together. Those days are gone.”

The demanding curriculum led some students to drop out of a fall welding course offered through the college’s Corporate and Continuing Education Division. However, with many industrial welding jobs now paying $60,000 a year or more, Vice President George Sappenfield says he hopes the new classes offered this semester will attract plenty of interest.

“We hope, now that the information is out there, people will realize that with welding there are jobs where you can make a pretty good living,” Sappenfield told Corwin. “These are solid industries looking for welders. They are not going to fold anytime soon.”

Surry Community College offers one-semester courses and one-year diploma programs that prepare students for welding certification tests.

The corporate and continuing education division this month will begin two classes designed specifically for Granite Tactical’s needs. Each requires 75 hours of classroom time.

Tags: Businesses · Economic development · Workforce

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