Welding the gap

Welding program enrollment continues to climb

BY ELAINE GEROU 
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Schoolcraft College is continuing to increase the push for trade route jobs, and students seem to following suite. Since Schoolcraft Full-time Welding Instructor Coley McLean’s first day on the job in 2014, the welding program has seen enrollment increases up 60 percent. There are now over 60 students in the program, which could be due to McLean industrializing the program.

“I think honestly Coley turning it around, making it more industrial for the trades has a big influence on why our enrollment is up. Before, my impression of Schoolcraft was welding at home for art,” said Don Neilson, part-time welding instructor.

IMAGES BY ALEC ADAMIC | PHOTO INTERN Thanks to Schoolcraft’s Early Alert System, students have a greater opportunity to improve their grades. Above: A group of students watch close as their teacher demonstrates the assignment the class is working on.

IMAGES BY ALEC ADAMIC | PHOTO INTERN
Above: A group of students watch close as their teacher demonstrates the assignment the
class is working on.

There are now a substantially increased number of course objectives.

“Before I got here, in one class, students were performing nine welds for the semester. The same class now performs 50 welds for the semester,” McLean said. “We have talked to industry leaders to ensure we are teaching processes and techniques the industry needs.”

The dedicated instructors are what make this program special though.

“We have employed some amazing instructors who all have come directly from the field,” said McLean of her coworkers who are all American Welding Society certified.

Neilson was one of those instructors and is now teaching his third semester. He actually ran his own welding business from 2002 to 2014 in Westland and taught at Washtenaw for five years, which is where he met McLean, before coming to Schoolcraft.

“The one-on-one instructor student time is really good. The amount of attention that the students can get out of the instructors is just priceless,” said Neilson.

The instructors are well liked by the students as well.

Welding Instructor Don Neilson shows the class what the flame coming from the torch means exactly and which gasses to balance for the flame to work properly.

Welding Instructor Don
Neilson shows the class what
the flame coming from the torch means exactly and which gasses to balance for the flame to work properly.

“We all get along, joke around and help each other out,” said Schoolcraft welding student Gabe McBay who is working towards a two-year degree to go into structural welding.

With the workspace holding 15 booths for students to utilize, the maximum class size is 15. With this low number and a few hours being devoted to practicing welds each class period, students are able get ample supervision and critique in order to become successful.

“You have to be in the booth welding. You can talk about it all day long, but it’s not going to make you a better welder,” Neilson said. “It’s all hands on.”

He recommends that students who enjoy cars or even artistic sculptures should consider welding as an option.

“I love it. It’s something way different,” welding student Amani Pewitt said who was originally just trying out the program.

Schoolcraft offers both a fabrication certificate and a two-year associate degree. The certificate will get an entry-level welding job, which can be completed in less than a year. Whereas the degree is something for a student looking for a more advanced position in the field or even move on to a four-year welding engineering technology career. There is also a Pre-apprentice certificate designed for students who want to be in a union. Students who complete this particular certificate get the chance to start off as a second semester apprentice with the Local 25 Iron Worker union, which Schoolcraft is partnered with.

“Certifications are becoming more in demand due to liability reasons,” said McLean, which mirrors the enrollment increase.

Forty students have already become certified since Schoolcraft’s welding program became an accredited test facility in May. Last year, Schoolcraft also took fifth place in the Skills USA welding competition, and they plan to compete again this year.

The welding program plans to continue pushing forward, getting more students jobs in the field. Only time will tell what advancements will be made next.

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