In these hard economic times, people may be considering changing careers to make more money, and manufacturers are needing skilled laborers to produce quality products.
And now these opportunities are available locally.
Marion County had a lot to celebrate Oct. 15 when the Butler Community College Hillsboro Welding Center opened for classes.
Officials emphasized that even though the program is located in Hillsboro, the entire county could benefit — residents who take the training and businesses who recruit students from the class.
It’s already a benefit for five area students who have enrolled in the class.
Cody Phillips, a Centre High School freshman, is one of those students and is excited about the class.
“I’ll have something to fall back on after high school,” Phillips said at the grand opening. “It’s nice to have this training facility within the county.”
It all began several months ago when local manufacturers asked the city for assistance in finding quality welders. A BCC outreach facility is located in Marion, so the community college was contacted and the ball got rolling.
Within weeks, a building was identified that could house the training facility, $100,000 in grant funds were secured through Kansas Department of Commerce, and the city stepped-up by providing improvements to the building.
“This is an exciting day,” Hillsboro Mayor Delores Dalke said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The goal of the college is to train 125 welders in the Marion County area within the next three years.
Hillsboro Industries and Circle D, both of Hillsboro, also were recognized for providing support to the program.
Students are in good hands with instructor David Tucker. An experienced welder of 40 years, Tucker has owned and operated his own welding business.
“Training will be top-notch,” said Carter Zerbe, BCC board chairman. “Students will be AWS (American Welding Society) certified which is widely respected.”
The former AMPI building, located on North Main Street, was purchased by the City of Hillsboro when the milk producing business closed. Much renovation and improvements were required in a short period of time for the facility to be used as a training ground.
Tucker conducted a tour of the cinder-block building following ceremonies Oct. 15.
The main entrance, on the southeast side of the building, leads to a classroom. This room has a lowered ceiling, making it more conducive for lecturing.
The next area just west of the classroom is an open area with warehouse-height ceilings. This area will be used for storage of materials and equipment, Tucker said.
Just south is an open area with a bathroom and lockers for storing welding gear and clothing. An old freezer was ideal for an equipment storage room.
The most impressive area was the main training area. A mere few weeks earlier, it was a wide-open, warehouse-looking space. Today it has various work stations.
Four mig welders, the most common welder used in the industry, are available for training students. Individual stands with grinders for polishing welds were located around the perimeter of the room. Large, steel tables for mig welding were located in the center.
Two styles of plasma welders and four combination welders complete the ensemble for a well-rounded training center.
Even though there are only five students enrolled thus far when classes began Oct. 15, school officials are hopeful more people will take advantage of the training and enroll.
According to Pauline Holub, director of BCC Marion where students enroll for the welding school, people still can enroll for this session which ends Dec. 12.
Three more sessions will begin in January — one for 16 weeks which is designed more for high school students and two, eight-week courses for adults or for students who can work it into their schedules. All courses are a total of 32 hours and six credit hours.