Wallace Community College, along with four other Alabama and Florida community colleges, will participate in a $10 million grant program to provide area residents with greater opportunities to learn welding, a high-demand job skill for this region.
The four colleges will use mobile welding training labs to bring welding training programs to rural areas and small towns. Each of the five colleges – Wallace, Lurleen B. Wallace Community College, Northwest Florida State College, Pensacola State College and Chipola College – will receive a mobile welding lab that they can use to bring welding training programs to businesses seeking to train employees or to communities seeking to provide welding training to local residents.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to serve them and make a difference in their lives,” Wallace Community College President Linda Young said.
Welding has been identified as a high-demand career field for the area, with high job and wage growth for the foreseeable future. Not enough people in the local work force are able to meet the growing demand, however, necessitating the grant program to help develop the local labor pool.
Currently, about 90 percent of graduates from Wallace’s welding program find jobs in the field with starting wages of between $16.50 to $22.50 per hour. College officials said the program will be especially helpful to recently-laid-off workers and veterans seeking new skills for a new career.
“It’s a great investment for the American taxpayer in the work force and jobs,” Lurleen B. Wallace Community College President Herb Riedell said.
The mobile welding training labs will include welding simulators and traditional welding training equipment.
Wallace already has some welding simulators in use. The simulators cut down on time and materials used in welding training and also create less pollution than traditional welding training. Students demonstrated how they work for visitors to the college on Tuesday.
Montrel Sanders, a 20-year-old Wallace student from Eufaula, said he likes the instant feedback the simulator provides.
“It really helps out a lot in teaching hand movements and angles and lets you know what you’re doing wrong,” he said.
Will Query, an 18-year-old Wallace student from Enterprise, said the welding simulator allowed him to practice more frequently because it cut down on preparation time.
“Instead of having to take a day to cut the metal, a day to grind it and a day to weld, I can get in there and do it all at one time,” he said.
By Jim Cook