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School starts combination welding program to meet demand
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School starts combination welding program to meet demand

School starts combination welding program to meet demand
Welding instructor Douglas J. Tollett Jr. (right) shows student Di’Marco Spencer how to use an aluminum welding gun at the Aviation Institute of Maintenance in Duluth.

School starts combination welding program to meet demand

Until recently, the Aviation Institute of Maintenance in Duluth specialized exclusively in aviation-based job training programs. That changed in May when AIM launched its first combination welding training course.

“Good welders are in demand,” said Reggie Baker, executive director of AIM’s Duluth campus. “We had a lot of interest from the community from employers as well as prospective students seeking a quality welding program, and our career services staff said they have been receiving calls for several years inquiring about welding. One employer told me, 'I can’t buy a welder at any price. If they are good, their boss will offer them more money to stay where they are.’ ”

Demand for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers in Georgia is expected to grow by 13 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the state’s Department of Labor’s Office of Workforce Statistics and Economic Research.

Nationally, a 15 percent job growth rate is expected during that same period, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau said the median annual wage for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers was $35,450 in 2010, with the top 10 percent earning more than $53,690.

“Welding requires intelligence and good hand-eye coordination,” Baker said. “There is a great deal of art and pride in a welding, too.  If you do it well, people around you will notice, and you will be respected for your skill.”

Since the basic skills of welding are similar across industries, welders can often shift from one industry to another. Welders laid off in the automotive industry may find work in the oil or gas industry, for example.

Welders can also pursue careers in industries ranging from ship building, to commercial building, and aerospace and aviation. Also, repairs to the nation’s aging infrastructure will require the expertise of many welders, cutters, solderers and brazers to rebuild bridges, highways, railroads and buildings.

“Welding skill is useful in everything from the most highly technical industries to a hobby in your own backyard,” Baker said.

Baker said a new combination welding class starts up every five weeks at AIM’s Duluth campus. Tuition for the training program is about $15,000. Students are required to have a high school diploma or GED to qualify, and must be at least 18 years old.

Classes are small, with about 15 to 20 students. Baker said the 45-week program is very hands-on, with more than half of instruction taking place in the shop or lab. Instruction includes nine five-week blocks that touch on all varieties of welding and cutting processes and techniques. Upon completion of the combination welding program, graduates are eligible to seek certifications in specific industries, Baker said.

AIM’s financial aid officer is available to advise prospective students interested in pursuing scholarships, student loans or financial aid such as Pell Grants, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Federal Direct student loans, veterans benefits or military assistance.

“We are also awaiting VA approval for the combination welding program and expect it soon since our other programs are approved,” Baker said.

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