NCC’s Welding Program has Record Enrollment this Fall

It’s no secret – industry needs skilled welders. Welding is a fine skill, and to an employer, the best welders are worth their weight in gold (or steel!) And like many skilled trade occupations, the number of people qualified to work in the industry is far below the number of job openings.

Don Van Den Top, Director of Human Resources at Link Mfg. in Sioux Center, verifies this urgent need. “Right now, I don’t know of a manufacturer who isn’t looking for a skilled welder. We need places like NCC to continue to educate not only people who are new to welding, but also to train existing welders on new, more efficient techniques. As the industry changes, the need continues to grow.”

NCC is excited that the Welding program is looking as bright as the arc that emits from a welding rod. The program is seeing record enrollments. Twenty-five full-time students are registered for classes this fall. Additionally, eight local high school students will take part-time classes on campus to learn the basics of welding.

Robert Hoting, instructor of NCC’s Welding program, is excited for the elevated interest. In his twenty-four years of teaching, this is his largest class. And with interest like this, the College recently hired a welding lab assistant to aid in instruction.

Hoting believes that the recent spike in interest is due to a number of factors, including awareness of the new, state-of-the-art welding lab, which NCC renovated in 2019. “Once a prospective student tours the lab, they are usually hooked.  It’s a big draw.  It’s clean, spacious, and cutting edge.” Additionally, successful welding alumni give credibility to employers and are silent recruiters for prospective students. The word is out on the success of the program. Hoting notes that he is seeing more and more students from farther away attend, sometimes from as far away as Muscatine, IA.  They chose NCC’s program because of its reputation.

The welding industry has changed immensely over the past decades. Welding equipment is more sophisticated and intuitive. Hoting indicated that when he began teaching at NCC, pulse welding (advanced method of MIG welding) was not as commonly used in industry as it is now. As a result of technology changes, the variables in old pulse systems have been reduced, so instruction and operation of this commonly used welding technique is streamlined. Changes in technology make welding environments cleaner, from air quality to physical surfaces. There is less “welding spatter,” which also means less cleaning of the weld after it’s completed, making it nearly paint booth ready. This fact alone creates significant efficiency improvements in manufacturing plants. Additionally, the use of robotic welders has changed the industry. Robotic welders create more consistent welds than humans are able to do, and are safer for the employees to use. Robotic welders do not diminish the need for people in the welding industry, but changes the daily operation of the job. People who work with robotic welders are doing more programming of the machine and inspections of the finished product instead of holding a welding torch.

Welding is taught in multiple formats through NCC. Beyond the traditional “for credit” coursework, NCC offers not-for-credit classes which can be customized to industry needs and taught directly to business partners. Most of the time, this method trains current welders in new approaches. GAP tuition assistance training is also offered through NCC’s Welding department, which offers short-term training for people who are underemployed and need quick training to meet industry needs.

Miller Electric of Appleton, WI, is a great partner in welding instruction. Because Miller Electric sees the need to recruit and retain skilled welders, they recently donated a MobileArc™ Augmented Reality Welding System to our welding program. This piece of equipment is a fantastic training tool that not only educates a potential student on some basics of welding (like how gun angle and speed are critical to a good weld), but also offers current students a way to enhance skills that need improvement in a more cost-effective method. Training in an augmented capacity saves resources such as welding gasses, wire, and metals. This handheld device is extremely portable, which enables it to be transported from the classroom to career fairs and industry demonstrations with ease.

“The augmented reality aspect is great to help build muscle memory for new welders. It’s just like in sports where repetition creates success; the same is true for welding. Muscle memory can be developed with tools like this,” says Robert Schuster, District Manager for Miller Electric.

The technology can give training in flat, T joint and lap joint welds, gives a score of success, and will even play back the action so that the welder can re-watch his or her work to look for ways to improve.

The future of welding is very promising. There are no signs that the industry will slow down, and changes in welding practices are guaranteed to evolve, especially as robotics continue to play a significant role in process control. “It’s great money and a great career, and welding can take you wherever your motivation drives you,” says Hoting.  He notes that his alums can stay local, but he knows of alums of NCC’s welding program who have done significant work on other continents. “Your ambition can take you anywhere in this industry. I recently had an alum who spent six months welding in Africa on a special project from his employer.”

For more information about NCC’s welding program, or to learn more about educational opportunities at NCC, call 800-352-4907 or visit nwicc.edu.
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Photo: Link Manufacturing representatives meeting with NCC Welding students