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White Mountain’s Welding Program is Red Hot
Published Monday, May 22, 2017

Welders are in demand and White Mountains Community College in Berlin is attracting students and employers from throughout the state and beyond to help meet that demand.

The college’s advanced welding program will expand through a new Associate in Trades Management degree that will be offered in the fall. With the new program, students not only learn traditional welding skills but also management and leadership skills needed to advance in their careers.

“We’re going to find ourselves in a bind soon with many workers getting ready to retire. About one-third of the [welding] workforce is eligible for retirement. We will find a huge gap in middle management,” says Heather Wells, a welding instructor. “We will prepare younger workers who have on-the-job experience but may not have managerial experience to advance in the company. This will allow students to step up into supervisory roles.”

To date, 100 percent of the school’s job-seeking students who have completed the program have walked into a job through partnerships with businesses, including the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Westinghouse Electric in Portsmouth and Cianbro in Maine. Michael J. Pike, a welding technology instructor and the program’s coordinator, attributes the program’s success to its advisory board, which includes welding professionals. “They are telling us what they need out there, and we tweak the program to meet their needs. It’s why we are so successful in finding work for our students,” Pike says. And while community colleges primarily serve students within their regions, White Mountains’ welding program boasts of students who come from Vermont and Rhode Island as well as from southern NH and Maine.

“Our main focus has been making industry connections to find industries that need our graduates and fill the void in their search for employees,” Wells says. While the good news is that graduates who want work can find it, the downside is most of that work is located in southern NH or outside NH. That means local graduates face either a long commute or relocation. “Unfortunately there’s not a lot for work here,” Wells says of the North Country.

The hands-on program currently has 39 students enrolled, the highest enrollment in its 10-year history. As much as 90 percent of the instruction for the advanced welding programs takes place in a lab. “Everything we do is industry based,” Wells says. For more information, visit wmcc.edu.

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