Posted on Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Workforce-WednesdayThe welding and machining programs at Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) have only been in existence two years, yet their success is already being recognized throughout the community college system. To date, the program has provided classes to 278 students, of which 54 have obtained welding certifications.

This work aligns with Virginia’s Community Colleges new six-year strategic plan to triple the number of credentials that students earn by the year 2021. Over the next ten years, Virginia will need to fill 1.5 million jobs.

“There is a tremendous shortage of qualified welders across the country and in our area,” explains Wiley Perry, the welding and machining program manager at BRCC. “For the past 20 years, there has been a focus on many IT occupations. The shift is now focusing back to the trades. A good number of the folks doing this work are near retirement age, and there haven’t been as many young people being trained to take their place,” said Perry.

BRCC offers three levels of welding classes – basic, intermediate and advanced welding. Each class is eight weeks long. BRCC is working on creating a certificate program, which will include a combination of welding and machining, while also providing an introduction class for welding inspection. 

A qualified certified welder can expect to earn a beginning wage of $17-$22 an hour or more depending on skill level.

“From the students who have gone through our program, I know at least 30 who have found jobs directly related to the training they received at the BRCC welding program,” said Perry.

The machining program staff recently went through National Institute of Metalworking Skills, Inc. (NIMS) training. NIMS operates under rigorous and highly disciplined processes as the only developer of American National Standards for the nation’s metalworking industry accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

BRCC has added new machines and aligned curriculum with new projects and programs. This has enabled instructors to train students toward machining credentials with NIMS. There are a number of stackable credentials machining students can earn as they go through the program.

Maintaining a close relationship with local welding and machining companies is important to BRCC. Companies such as Daiken Applied, Tenneco, Shickel Corporation, Silverlake Welding, Top Bead Welding and Cerro Metals have all hired BRCC students or have employees who have taken BRCC welding classes.

For more information on BRCC’s welding and machining programs, please visit:'

Amanda Christopher

Amanda Christopher is a graduate of Hollins University and Virginia Commonwealth University. A native of the DC metro area, Amanda worked in public relations for the American Red Cross before joining the Virginia Community College System as the Workforce Communications Coordinator.

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