Virtual welders were one of the biggest hits at this year’s Manufacturing Awareness Week celebration at Robeson Community College. The college purchased five Lincoln virtual welders at a cost of approximately $200,000 last year using Advanced Manufacturing Alliance grant money awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor.
These training aids look like real welders and have all of the same selection options, such as electrical output, allowing students to get realistic, hands-on training before moving on to the “live” machines. Students can learn the proper settings for the equipment, positioning and other techniques without wasting expensive consumables such as rods and metal.
As community colleges have evolved through the years into institutions that focus on granting two-year curriculum degrees and training law enforcement, small business and industrial clients, many community members have lamented the move away from skilled trades such as carpentry, masonry and welding.
In an effort to meet a local demand, Robeson Community College is moving back into that arena and will introduce a new welding diploma program in the fall. In addition to purchasing the Lincoln virtual welders, the college also used Department of Labor funds to completely refurbish the existing “live” welding lab.
The lab was gutted, electrical, heating and ventilation systems were upgraded, and the floors were redone before the installation of 14 state-of-the-art welding booths. When this expense is added to the cost of the virtual welders, the college’s investment in the new welding program totals almost $500,000.
While Robeson Community College hasn’t offered a diploma or degree program in welding for many years, welding classes were never completely phased out like with carpentry and masonry classes. The college has been offering welding classes for a number of years in continuing education programs and as a part of its Industrial Technologies programs, but we have not had a full-fledged welding program in more than a decade. The new equipment and refurbished lab will position the college to offer a one-year diploma welding program in a clean and safe environment on the main campus.
Industrial Technologies Chairperson Harvey Strong said the college decided to reintroduce its welding program to better serve businesses and industries in Robeson County and beyond.
“This move will also better prepare the local workforce for technical, skilled positions in the field,” he said. “There are good- paying jobs in this field, especially for those who are willing to travel.”
In Robeson County, both Campbell Soup and Elkay Southern have indicated a need for trained welders. Strong also pointed to the Southeastern Health construction site on Dawn Drive, almost within view of the college, as an example of possible local construction-related needs.
With 14 live stations and the five virtual welders, the welding labs will accommodate 18 to 20 students in the new diploma program during the fall while continuing to serve other Industrial Technologies and continuing education students. Students interested in any of these programs can apply by visiting the Robeson Community College admissions office or calling 910-272-3342. For information about the welding program or other Industrial Technologies programs, call Industrial Technologies Chairperson Harvey Strong at 910-272-3472, or email him at email@example.com.
Dennis Watts is the public information officer at Robeson Community College. If you have questions about RCC or suggestions for future articles, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.