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Welding program heating up

After only a year,  enrollment in the welding program at LBW Community College Luverne Center has doubled. Students are given the chance to interact with both virtual welding exercises and actual welding materials. Pictured is Alex McLeod, a freshman at LBWCC Luverne Center, getting hands on experience in the class. (Photo by Journal Staff/Beth Hyatt)

After only a year, enrollment in the welding program at LBW Community College Luverne Center has doubled. Students are given the chance to interact with both virtual welding exercises and actual welding materials. Pictured is Alex McLeod, a freshman at LBWCC Luverne Center, getting hands on experience in the class. (Photo by Journal Staff/Beth Hyatt)

In order to keep up with the rising demand of career readiness courses, LBW Community College Luverne Center invested in a new mobile welding lab last year. The facility houses a $470,000 mobile welding lab, courtesy of the multi-million-dollar U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant.

The lab is home to six traditional welding stations as well as two non-traditional, state-of-the-art virtual welding stations that utilize a virtual reality headset and a mock welding tool to simulate the actual process with none of the actual hassle.

When LBWCC President Dr. Herbert Riedel saw a need for a program such as this, he quickly began to assess the situation and found the grant that led to the college receiving the mobile lab. “It is important to provide opportunities for students to acquire skills for employment and rewarding careers,” said Riedel. “By locating this program closer to the students’ homes, it allows more of them to participate in this valuable training.”

Since the classes were first offered one year ago, the attendance has doubled and interest in the field has continued to increase. Mike Presley, welding instructor for LBWCC Luverne Center, has been welding for 40 years and knows the importance of keeping classes like these in the curriculum. “We originally started out with 14, then had the summer program with five and this new year we have 30. So, it’s really progressed,” said Presley. Whether the skill set is used to make a career or even just to learn a new hobby, Presley believes that welding is important to learn.

Because of the wide variety of job opportunities and job locations available to those with this skill set, Presley believes it to be one of the most important skills a person could learn.There is always the opportunity to learn more about the field, and Presley hopes to be able to use his real world experience to educate the students on his particular area of expertise as well as the fundamentals of welding.

The program is offered as a duel enrollment credit for high school students as well as a college course. High schools such as Luverne, Brantley and Highland Home School actively participate in the programs in the morning sessions; after that, LBW students come in for the afternoon. Presley wants to continue to encourage more high school students to participate in the program because it gives them a chance to explore welding as a real world employment option before they graduate. “It guides the high school kids early on in the direction they may want to take before they graduate,” said Presley. “We have a wide variety of experience they can learn from.” Presley is confident that many of his students could one day find employment in the field of welding if their desire to pursue the career continues after graduation. Following two semesters of welding courses, the seniors involved will graduate with half of the credits needed to obtain full certification as a welder.

Alex McLeod, a freshman of LBWCC Luverne Campus, has had an interest in welding for a few years now, and hopes that he will be able to continue his studies and make a career  out of welding. His interests in the field includes one day specializing in tig welding and eventually working shut down operations. At this point, McLeod is open to any and all opportunities in the field, and is excited to see where this path will lead him.

“We have a wonderful instructor, and I’d highly recommend the program. Anyone who’s interested in welding would learn more about it,” said McLeod. There have been many lessons that McLeod has taken away from his time in the program, but the greatest has been cultivating his work ethic. “I’ve learned a trade, a skill set, that I think everyone could learn from and needs,” he said.