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February 03, 2009 3:38 am

Welding program may expand at NWC

Written by Tribune Staff

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Welding student Jake Griffis of Lovell uses an arc welder to join two pieces of pipe at an angle in the Northwest College welding lab on Tuesday. Tribune photo by Ilene Olson

College awaiting approval for two-year certificate

Many students enrolled in the Northwest College welding program take classes for two years to prepare adequately for their future careers. But they often leave with certificates verifying only one year of work in the program.

That is because the college currently offers only one-year certificates for different welding skills and an associate of applied science degree in the program, said Bill Johnson, associate professor of welding.

Johnson said many students don't want to work for an associate degree, as it includes courses such as English and other general-study classes they find difficult or have no interest in.

Those students soon will be able to earn two-year welding certificates verifying broader sets of welding skills if the college's application to offer the certificates is approved by the Wyoming Community College Commission.

Last month, the NWC board of trustees gave its permission for college officials to apply to the commission for approval of the certificate program. If approved, the new certificate program would begin this fall.

“The industry agrees that, as long as they have sufficient skills, an (associate degree) is not needed,” Johnson said Tuesday.

Johnson said the NWC welding program attracts students from all over the country. In addition to students from the Big Horn Basin, he has students from Pennsylvania, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Colorado and North and South Dakota.

Most hear about the welding program from previous students through word of mouth, he said.

Once they complete their course and welding lab work, students are prepared for jobs in many industries, including structural steel, pipelines, oil rigs and farming.

“They can even go for underwater welding certification,” he said. “They can work in shipyards, on airplanes, anything. The door is open to them.”

Johnson said this is a good time to enter the field, he said, as many long-established welders are retiring.

“We're leaving the door open for these kids to pick up the trade,” he said. “They figure by next year, there will be more than 260,000 jobs available in the welding field nationwide,” he said.

Wyatt Reed of Worland is in his first year in the welding program.

“I've been welding since I was a little kid,” he said. “It just made sense.”

He said the program is a good one with plenty of hands-on work.

“There's not a lot of book work,” he added.

If it becomes available, Reed said he plans to work toward the two-year certificate.

Brick Doely of Broadview, Mont., also is in his first year in the program. Doely said he plans to get his associate degree.

“The instructors are real good to work with you, with lots of hands-on time,” he said. “There's not a lot of book work. In some colleges, you have to do a semester of book work before you can even touch anything.”