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MCC welding program evolves to meet standards

Frankie Rivera, left, works with welding instructor, Buddy May, on MCC’s Kingman campus.

Mohave Community College's welding technology program continues to adjust to meet national standards, which can help students find work not only in Mohave County, but throughout the country.

"We're no longer a traditional welding program," said Buddy May, the program's director.

The American Welding Society's Schools Excelling through National Skill Standards Education Level I curriculum, and the National Center for Construction Education and Research Level I and II curriculums have recently been added to the college's welding program.

The program's new curriculum is in line with expectations set by the American Welding Society, an organization well known for its welding certification processes.

"Employers want AWS-certified welders, and our students are better prepared to take and pass written and performance testing with our updated curriculum," May said. "The AWS welding certifications are what you want to earn because they are globally recognized."

As the nation's welding industry grows so does student interest in MCC's program. In the past six years, welding enrollment has increased by more than 200 percent, according to May.

The average welder makes roughly $18 an hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Cindy Weihl, a spokeswoman with AWS, said she estimates the nation will need nearly 240,000 new welders by 2019.

"The average welder is 55 years old, and they are retiring at twice the (rate) that new welders are coming into the workforce," she said. "There are many growing industries, such as nuclear, gas and oil that are constantly hiring. In Virginia (and) Pennsylvania, they can't find enough welders there for all of the work they have; Nebraska has a pipeline that is also picking up steam and needs welders."

The impact of choosing a career choice such as welding is not lost on students.

Jeremy Sterling, a 28-year-old Kingman resident, said he turned to MCC's welding program after work in road construction staggered.

"Welding was always something I wanted to learn how to do," Sterling said. "I figured it would be a good time to make a career out of it ... I'm a hands-on kind of guy. I like to work outside. That's what drove me to start working in the welding program."

When Sterling entered the program, his knowledge of welding was limited. Now, he's close to obtaining his Level I certification.

"I feel like I'm accomplishing something great," he said. "A couple of former welding students have come back to visit and they are making really good money."

Frankie Rivera, a 29-year-old Lake Havasu City resident, entered the program because he wanted to add to his nine years of construction experience.

"Welding goes hand-in-hand with pipe fitting," he said. "I need to be on top of the food chain and welding is where it's at. I could probably go and get a welding job now, but I'm choosing to stay and continue my education."

Victor Salas, a 43-year-old Lake Havasu City resident, said his education has helped him with job searches.

"It's been great," he said. "The welding program is a really good program. I had never welded before in my life, but Buddy made me open my eyes to what's actually happening during the process instead of just showing me how to do it.

The Spring 2013 welding classes are nearly full, so interested students should visit a campus near them as soon as possible.

For more information about MCC's welding program, contact May on the Kingman campus at (928) 692-3012 or bmay@mohave.edu.


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