EGCC, Choffin Collaborate to Fill Need for Welders

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio ­– Robert Lutman enjoys a breath of fresh air outside the welding lab at Choffin Career Center as he contemplaties his  career. For the past year he’s worked toward gaining the skills he hopes will allow him to build a new life.

“I just decided that I was tired of working low-paying jobs, getting dirty and sweating all day. This is the new direction I wanted,” he said Wednesday.

Upon graduation, Lutman wants to start a mobile welding business.

“It’s something I’ve been working on since being in the class,” he said. “I’ve done a few side jobs, and that’s what gave me the idea.”

Lutman is one of the students working to earn a fully accredited associate degree in welding through a new program  Eastern Gateway Community College offers that’s housed at Choffin.

Eastern Gateway and Choffin officials cut the ribbon yesterday for the Eastern Gateway Community College welding lab.

“We’re technically tenants of Choffin, but we work together,” says Ryan Pasco, Eastern Gateway director of energy and engineering initiatives.

Eastern Gateway students such as Lutman and recent Choffin graduates are enrolled in the program.

“The students that complete the welding program here at Choffin, at the high school level, are able to transfer right into the associate degree program or the noncredit program,” Pasco says. “They already have some of the background skills, and it makes for an easier transition.”

Students are exposed to subjects that teach soft skills as well as courses that cover the technical skills most in demand by employers, Pasco says.

“We have all the basics: math, English, psychology, sociology, as well as blueprint reading and drafting.”

Students who graduate from the program will find themselves in demand, Eastern Gateway and Choffin leaders  say.

The American Welding Society projects that almost 300,000 welding jobs will go unfilled by 2020 if current trends continue. The average age of a welder in the workforce today is 54.

The Mahoning Valley Manufactures Association and local business leaders have long called for an increased focus on training skilled manufacturing workers, especially welders.

Welding instructor Vicki Young sees her job one aspect of this process, which requires her  not only to teach recent high school students along with workers displaced by automation and globalization.

“Welding is a trade for people who might need second and possibly third chances,” she says. “If you’re having difficulty finding employment in other fields, welding is the field to pursue.”

Young has worked as welding instructor in the program since the beginning of 2016.

“We are tech-savvy here,” she said. “We have students pulling up assignments on computers. We have a welding simulator in the welding lab. We have a CNC plasma machine that students are going to be versed in, so not only will they cut pieces and parts out, but they’ll also take them over to their booth and weld them and put them together.”

The program is designed to teach students the trade and to keep them up to date with the latest advances, Young said.

“Our goal is to keep students abreast of the technology that’s most in demand in this community and to help them plan out their path to success as far as a welding career goes,” she said.

Pictured: Cutting the ribbon Wednesday are Ryan Pasco, Eastern Gateway director of energy and engineering initiatives; Joe Meranto, director of Choffin Career Center; Vicki Young, welding instructor; and Arthur Daly, dean of the Youngstown campus of Eastern Gateway Community College. 

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.