Olney Central College is ready for the startup of its new Welding and Fabrication Associate’s Degree next fall with the completion of a new state-of-the-art lab and classroom at the West Richland Center in Noble.
The renovations are part of a Title III Grant initiative, which includes revamping OCC’s welding program to establish an Associate in Applied Science Degree. Work on the former high school welding shop began in June and wrapped up in August.
“There is not a thing in here that isn’t brand new,” said Welding Specialist Maverick Fisher. “This puts us among the elite welding schools. As far as a quality education, we’re as good as the top schools in the country including Hobart (Institute of Welding Technology).”
The new lab features 15 welding booths with Stick, Mig and Tig welding capabilities. Students also have access to aluminum spool guns, which provide a steady and reliable feed for soft aluminum wire.
Other additions are an Ironworker punch press students will utilize in the fabrication class, two industrial-sized band saws and three high-speed pipe bevelers.
“With this equipment, we are getting to the place where students will be able to weld all the time and won’t be waiting for metal to cut,” Fisher said. “The goal is to get the students as much welding time as possible.”
The program also has purchased 20 tons of steel for student use in the lab.
The associate’s degree focuses on fabrication and 6G pipe welding certification. As Certified Welding Inspectors through the American Welding Society, both Fisher and fellow Instructor Curtis Marshall are qualified to award this and other vital credentials to the students.
Fisher said these skills are highly sought after by both local and national employers looking to hire fabricators, pipefitters, boilermakers, ironworkers, steel metal workers and production welders.
The U.S. is currently experiencing a shortage of qualified welders as many employees are reaching retirement age. According to the American Welding Society, the deficit will reach 400,000 workers by 2024.
OCC is making it easier for individuals to pursue a career in welding by offering an evening Welding and Cutting Certificate beginning in January. Classes will meet at 6 p.m. and be offered Monday through Thursday.
“This is an opportunity for people who are interested in welding to come to college without giving up their day jobs,” Fisher said.
Students who begin classes in the spring will be able to enter the second-year courses for the associate’s degree in Fall 2022. Those classes will also be offered in the evenings and students will be able to graduate with their associate’s degree in Spring 2023.
Students who have already received a welding certificate at OCC or Lincoln Trail College can earn their associate’s degree by simply completing the second-year coursework. For more information or to enroll in the program, call 618-395-7777. The Title III program is supported in part by a five-year grant awarded to Olney Central College from the U.S. Department of Education effective October 1, 2018. The estimated total cost for all project activities is $2,506,775 financed by the grant award of $2,249,968 (90%) and $256,807 (10%) by Olney Central College.