Welding and metalwork students at UCC can now take advantage of a new Associates of Applied Science in Welding. The two-year degree offers a more comprehensive path to employment as well as the option to train in several different welding disciplines.
“I feel this is an opportunity, and the time is just perfect for us here in the industry,” said Duane Thompson, a long-time welding and metalwork instructor at UCC.
He and the other instructors within the department said they are seeing large demands both locally and nationally for skilled welding workers. The metal fabrication and equipment repair craft supports industries such as the wine and micro-brewing field, the agricultural and irrigation businesses and boat construction.
The new welding classes are designed to help students to effectively tap into those opportunities. An example is the pipe fitting/welding course series taught by Brian McKune, a boilermaker and welder with 20 years of work experience. Being able to cut, fit and weld more challenging round pipe is a useful ability for a broad range of welding applications, he said.
“It’s a huge field, good trade to be in. Lots of employment out there looking for it,” McKune said, “Not too many welders out there welding the pipe.”
The second year of the degree features a choice of three unique program options: aluminum-only welding, cooperative work experience (CWE) and engineering. Ian Fisher, the program coordinator, explained that this arrangement gives students the freedom to focus on a particular skill-set while completing the AAS.
“If it’s more suited to a student, if they feel that project planning and design developing might be more their strong suit, they can take some engineering classes and still get the Associates of Applied Science in Welding,” Fisher said, regarding the first option which integrates classes from the existing engineering program.
The aluminum-only option covers all facets of aluminum welding, a specialty required for welders in the boat business as well as the modern car industry.
“You have North River Jetboats, you have Fish Rite, Hell’s Canyon. There’s a lot of boat manufacturers in Oregon now and they’re screaming for welders,” Thompson said.
The department purchased new equipment especially for the course: two push-pole aluminum pro-welders. They function on pulse-on-pulse technology which makes it easier for a welding operator to achieve the industry look.
“[It] gives you that rippled dime, that pretty finish that you see on nice mountain bikes, boats, motorcycles, that real pretty weld, real custom,” Thompson said. Cooperative work experience courses are required for all welding students, but are more emphasized in the AAS’s third option. Students learn their trade by helping manufacture pieces for businesses in the community or getting actual work experience through unpaid jobs in those businesses.
“Some of those people go there and get jobs afterwards,” Thompson said. “We can place those students locally in businesses that are here. For people that live in Glendale, they can work at Swanson’s, they can work at trucking outfits.”
Brett Smith, a Welding major, is one of the students currently working to complete the AAS degree.
“I’m excited about it, we get to go more in depth than the one-year certificate. You can do a lot more fun stuff in welding,” Smith said.
As for future employment: “I’ve gotten a few offers, but they are waiting until I’m done with school,” Smith said.
Located in Lockwood Hall, the welding area is a dynamic environment with multiple work stations and access to a range of industry equipment and educational opportunities. Last year, the entire team took a field trip to Wisconsin to attend a workshop held by Miller Electric, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of modern welding equipment.
On Thursday, expert instructors from Miller Electric traveled to UCC and shared their experience with over 50 high-school and UCC students who attended the workshop. They brought a cutting edge arc-welding training machine that digitally senses and rates a student’s welding angle speed and positioning.
The department is spearheading a dual-credit program with local high-schools. Participating schools run UCC’s welding curriculum, allowing high-schoolers to earn college credit tuition-free and giving them a head start in completing the AAS.
One of the program’s main highlights is its teaching faculty. Both McKune and Fisher are certified welding inspectors with extensive industry experience, and Thompson has worked and taught as a welder and metalworker since he graduated from UCC in 1975.
“I feel pretty successful from UCC, you know. I feel pretty blessed and successful that I was able to do this and come back,” Thompson said.
With the AAS degree, the department is looking to provide students with the best opportunities for such a successful career. In the future, they are hoping to go even a step further and become the first accredited testing facility on the West Coast, allowing students to leave with American Welding Society certification.