To help attract and train more welding professionals, American River College on Saturday promoted its technical education programs.
According to the American Welding Society and the college, the country will need more than 374,000 welders by 2024. The society co-hosted Saturday’s event, offering virtual reality welding experiences and hands-on demonstrations. Local companies set up booths to offer information and job applications for students and graduates.
Mark Reese, the college’s welding department chairman and professor, said the average age of a welder is 55. Reese said a four-year degree is not necessary to join the field.
“Students who go to school here have been hired,” Reese said, pointing to the job board in the welding classroom. American River College offers the certification welders are required to have, and renew, every six months. “Students pay a $30 donation. If they don’t have it, we ask that they come back later after getting jobs to help out.”
The college offers five different certificates and a welding technology degree. Brandon Beattie, a welding specialist, said it is possible for students to obtain a certificate in one semester, as each requires up to 14 units.
Beattie graduated from American River College in 2015 with his welding certification, ultimately “working his way up” to become a light-rail and locomotive welder with Siemens in Sacramento.
“Siemens has hired 40 people since September – 75 percent from local community colleges,” Beattie said. Most welding companies look to hire students because they do not have “bad habits” and can be “built” to perform a specific job, Beattie said.
Beattie said he owes his success to the college’s welding program.
“I get paid to have fun,” he said. “If you do something you love, it’s not work.”
Jason and Rebecca Summers said they are former drug addicts who turned their lives around shortly before Jason began attending the college.
“This classroom is the reason for change,” Rebecca Summers said.
In 2008, they said, Child Protective Services took their 1- and 2-year-old sons. After their recovery process began, the children were returned and eventually Jason Summers began attending American River College.
“I have been certified for five years,” said Summers, who works for JB Radiators in Sacramento.
Trish Caldwell, the college’s dean of technical education, said the tech departments and tech students get overlooked.
“Tech education has disappeared in high schools,” she said.
Caldwell said she was excited about a recent grant the college received that will revamp the program.
In 2015, five Northern California colleges, including American River and others in the Los Rios Community College District, were awarded a $5 million grant to fund the Northern California Community College American Apprenticeship Initiative.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor website, the program will establish an apprenticeship model for Northern California.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for welders is $37,420, with a median hourly rate of $17.99. Commercial drivers, welding inspectors, sales representatives and technicians annually earn between $47,000 and $55,000. The highest-paying job in the field, which requires a degree, is materials engineer, with a median annual wage of $87,690.