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Welding students complete first BCC class at Hillsboro site

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It takes training and a certain knack to be a successful welder.

It’s a form of art which like other forms, requires some natural ability.

It has been eight weeks since the Butler Community College welding training program began in Hillsboro and three potential graduates are preparing for the work world.

The program started with five class members with two not completing the course.

The three members, Chester Shaw and Troy Kahn of Hillsboro and Robert Gilkey of Marion, will take their final welding test in the coming days.

“The goal of the welding program is to have students AWS certified,” said certified welding instructor David Tucker. AWS is American Welding Society.

So, what does it mean to be AWS certified?

“It gives them a foot in the door for employment,” Tucker said. “They’ll have one-up on the average person off the street without the specialized training.”

The eight-week course, the first of its kind in Hillsboro and Marion County, was four-and-one-half hours, four days per week with 75 percent of the work being in the lab, actually doing hands-on welding and preparation to weld, and 25 percent classroom work with lectures and tests.

The test that will be given will be provided by a third party which is required for the certification. This assures students are ready to enter the workforce as welders.

One certified welding inspector is Bob Moffett of Cowley County Community College who may be the one to administer the test.

Students will have several hours to prepare and practice for the test but the test is a “one shot deal.”

If a student fails, he would have an opportunity to test again.

The test

Welding two pieces of metal together is the final step. To prepare for the welding test, students had to cut two coupons (pieces of metal), and grind off the rough edges.

Students are not graded on the preparation of the metal but if the coupons are not properly prepared, it could affect the final outcome.

Metal prices require BCC to “recycle” as many pieces of metal as possible. Each practice piece is re-cut and reground as many times as possible.

During the test, students are observed by the inspector. The weld then is inspected and graded — pass or fail.

The job

So, what can a certified welder who passes the test do with his new-found expertise?

There are numerous jobs for welders that are as varied as the welders themselves.

Manufacturing businesses which include the aircraft industry, pipe lines, maintenance, power plants, bridges, and building construction are among the possibilities.

According to Matt Gilbrith, a welding instructor at the El Dorado campus, another wrinkle in the welding industry is the average age of welders is 54. Within a few years, there could be a significant number of experienced welders who will be retiring, leaving a void of qualified craftsmen.

The next class

Students have a choice of taking an eight-week class for four and one-half hours, four days per week or a 16-week class for two and one-half hours per day, four days per week.

Classes will begin Jan. 20, 2009.

Students also can earn an associate of arts degree in addition to a certificate.

For more information, contact Pauline Holub at Butler Community College of Marion.

Last modified Dec. 18, 2008

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