Last month, Bossier Parish Community College awarded technical certifications in its newly-formed Advanced Welding program to a pretty unique group of individuals.
The first set of graduates from the program’s inaugural cohort were seven active duty military members serving at Barksdale Air Force Base. The seven received free training from a grant provided by The Manufacturing Institute. The grant provided funding to train veterans seeking employment in the manufacturing sector, and subsidized welding kits for students who do not have proper equipment. In addition to subsidizing tuition and program materials, the grant also covered student fees for national welding certifications.
With Bossier City home to Barksdale Air Force Base there is no shortage of active duty military and veterans seeking to transition to civilian jobs.
Senior Airman Greg Heyl was one of the program’s first graduating students receiving a certification, and Heyl wants to continue in the program. “I’m looking forward to continuing this path and take whatever classes needed to be able to become a Certified Welding Inspector.”
“Greg told me when we first met that he has always wanted to have the opportunity to learn how to cut and weld, and his biggest goal is to be able to hold his own and go head-to-head with his brother to earn bragging rights,” said BPCC’s Advanced Welding program director Jeremy Whittemore. “He would love to become a certified welder and he also has told me from day one that he wants to become a Certified Welding Inspector.”
The program’s focus on veterans is attractive to industry leaders who look for opportunities to hire service men and women for their exemplary work ethic, leadership skills and rigorous technical training and experience. More than 80 percent of manufacturers report a need to find talent to fill skilled production jobs within the industry. BPCC is meeting that need and closing the skills gap by producing a pipeline of highly trained workers equipped with advanced techniques to serve in the manufacturing sector.
“Like many industries, welding has advanced over the last couple of decades in terms of equipment and materials,” said Whittemore. “Area industry partners approached BPCC to create the program to help current welders learn new technologies in the industry and train for national certifications like the American Welding Society’s (AWS) Certified Welding Inspector and Certified Welding Supervisor.”
BPCC and the business community have partnered and responded to advancements within the industry and demands for a higher level of welding training.
Students train in the college’s new Advanced Welding Lab which was funded by state and federal grants. Red Ball Oxygen has also partnered with BPCC by donating $125,000 over five years to cover the cost of scholarships for Advanced Welding students.
There are plans for at least two more veteran cohorts, starting this spring in addition to two non-credit welding classes which are limited to 20 students; but not limited to veterans only.
BPCC’s Advanced Welding program will offer courses for Certified Welding Supervisors and Certified Welding Inspectors. The curriculum for each of these is taken directly from the American Welding Society. Students will also have an option to complete a TCA with designated courses from either Advanced Manufacturing and Mechatronics or Oil and Gas Production Technology.
With the addition of new industries in Northwest Louisiana, industry leaders have requested a certification program for higher level welders to include: new welding technology, supervision and management, inspection, testing, economics of welding, and welding materials. The program has several specialization options to help students in several industrial fields including Advanced Manufacturing and Mechatronics and Oil and Gas Production Technology.
Scholarships are available for students in the Advanced Welding Program.
For more information on the new Advanced Welding program, visit bpcc.edu/tem/advancedwelding.