Lynne E. Mayfield
The Metal Trades/Welding program of the Centers for Education and Technology of the San Diego Community College District (SDCCD) provides training in a variety of welding and manufacturing technologies. The department has a keen awareness of industry needs and is capable of identifying significant issues and trends that will impact students as they are trained to be viable members of the workforce in major metal trades.
The centers constantly strive to strengthen industry relationships and to foster the development of state-of-the-art programs to match the new technologies playing a large role in the future of manufacturing, welding, and materials joining. Shifting world economics, social change, and fast growth in technologies make it imperative that our education, training, and certificate programs meet standards acceptable worldwide.
The need for skilled workers in this country is indicated by two primary factors. First, the average age of the skilled worker, fully employed now, is 54. This means that in the next 10 years, virtually half of the metal trades and manufacturing workforce will be of retirement age. The ranks of younger people coming up behind them are very slim.
The second factor is the volume of jobs available. National Steel and Ship Builders Company in San Diego says that in the next five to six years it will require 10,000 cross-trained workers. The local construction industry has approximately $5 billion worth of construction pending. The general president of the Ironworkers Union says 200,000 construction workers are needed each year between now and 2006. That is almost a million new workers not presently in the construction industry. The local Ironworkers representative says they need approximately 120 new apprentices each year. The Occupational Outlook Report for 2002 indicated there would be 3,000 job openings for metal trade workers in San Diego County alone by 2006.
The U.S. Department of Education shows that 70 percent of completing high school students attend college; however, only half have earned a degree six years later, and only one-third have jobs directly related to their degrees.
The Centers for Education and Technology seek students interested in career training. They are encouraged to take classes that will allow them to become immediately employable and contributors to their community. With secondary schools pushing their students toward college degree programs, and with students choosing high-end computer careers, little attention is paid to the needs of the student who may want to work in a field that has immediate job openings and excellent salaries.
There is still a perception of the metals industry as being an antiquated or dirty-hands sector of the economy. The work is not perceived as glamorous or prestigious, though there is documented ongoing need for skilled workers. These skilled workers make a very decent wage. Some students can go to work as soon as they begin their training and progress up the pay scale as they complete additional competencies.
As much as industry needs the trained workers to prevent even more of the manufacturing work being sent overseas, the question arises: Where do we find qualified candidates for training necessary to fill the positions?
Welding Professor Dennis Horn at the Center's Educational Cultural Complex, the only one of the centers to provide welding classes, sees a need to reach into the high schools now to create an interest in manufacturing trades. Unions, apprenticeship programs, and employers already have a long-term familiarity with the centers and the quality of the workers produced in the vocational training programs. Horn and industry leaders coordinate the needs of the industry with the skills to be taught in the metal trades classes. Vocational advisory committees comprised of industry experts and educators keep the curriculum up to date. Strides are being made in outreach to the high schools and to the general public to let them know about the high-quality free training that is available.
Money for these classes comes from community college district general funds and in large part from the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act of 1998, also known as Vocational Training Educational Assistance (VTEA). A grant funds a loan program for financially disadvantaged students so they can borrow personal protective welding gear, equipment, and textbooks from the classroom.
VTEA grant monies are also used to upgrade and update the instructional equipment in the welding lab.
Local welding and shipbuilding companies donate tons of their scrap materials to the class each year so students can have access to real-world situations and train in ways that prepare them immediately for employment.
Once enrolled in the Metal Trades/Welding program, students who need additional skills are counseled and guided into high school completion or GED test preparation classes. They can also improve their English language skills if they are not native speakers.
English and math competencies can be addressed in a variety of either classroom or learning lab settings. Coursework includes team building and problem-solving techniques, so the student emerges as a well-prepared employee for the fast-moving workforce.
Results and Impact
For the school year 2001-2002, the placement outcome was 45.3 percent for Welding and 41 percent for Steel Fabrication. The following samples indicate the strength of the training program and placement.
One student completed two welding courses and his GED this year; he certified to the standards of the American Welding Society Structural Steel Code using the Shielded Metal Arc Welding and Flux Core Arc Welding processes and obtained employment with the Operating Engineers Local 12 as a welder making $30 per hour.
Another student completed all four welding courses over two years of studies. He has been placed with five different employers as a welder, starting with D & H Truck Equipment at $9 per hour, Pacific Coast Steel at $9.50 per hour, Harbor Welding & Piping at $12.50 per hour, Superior Ready Mix at $16 per hour, and now Matrix Services at $24.15 per hour. He also completed his GED this year.
Six students started work at National Steel & Shipbuilding Company in May as Ironworker Trainees. One has certified to the American Welding Society standards in the Shielded Metal Arc Welding process and has gone to work as a Journeyman making $32.50 per hour with the Boiler Makers Union.
A second of these six students has certified to the standards of the American Welding Society for D1.1 Structural Steel Code using E-11018 electrodes with the Shielded Metal Arc Welding process. He was accepted to the Boiler Makers Apprenticeship training program and went to work in June. He also completed his GED requirements.
And another student completed his GED, certified to the American Welding Society standards of Dl .1 Structural with the Shielded Metal Arc and the Flux Cored Arc Welding processes. He acquired a job as a welder with a company called Solid Rock, building climbing walls.
Industrial Marine Testing Company reported that 17 apprentices — a complete class — successfully passed their welding tests. They are certified to the requirements of the American Welding Society.
For more information, contact
Lynne E. Mayfield
This article is from the League publication, Building a Workforce System Through Partnering.
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