(WACO, Texas) – The health protocols undertaken in Texas State Technical College’s Welding Technology program are not only keeping students safe, but also teaching a lesson.

Program faculty have designated entrances and exits for TSTC’s Industrial Technology Center, along with enacting social distancing, sanitizing and requiring masks. These measures will continue during the fall semester, which is scheduled to begin Monday, Aug. 31.

“The word is getting out that no matter how you will be learning about welding, this is the way you will be learning in the field,” said Jerome Mendias, TSTC’s associate provost.

The Welding Technology program will continue to teach in a hybrid format. Students will use Moodle for online lessons, quizzes and tests and do hands-on labs on campus.

Beginning this fall, the program will offer a three-class Occupational Skills Award in Basic Welding – Multiple Processes. The classes will take four months to complete, enabling students to go into the job market with new skills.

The OSA is one way to meet the employment needs of Texas.

“It is fast-paced,” said Carl Wilmeth, a lead instructor in TSTC’s Welding Technology program. “Nontraditional students that do not have the extra time can come in and get 15 weeks of training, get what they need and start doing job interviews.”

Monica Pfarr, executive director of the American Welding Society Foundation, said the skill sets in highest demand in Texas are gas metal arc welding and gas tungsten arc welding. She said the most welding jobs in Texas are in the architectural and structural metals manufacturing sector.

“We are doing all we can to promote the careers in the industry,” Pfarr said. “It’s not just welders, but also technicians, inspectors and engineers are in high demand. We are doing what we can to really change the perception of the occupation.”

Scott Kitchen, an apprenticeship coordinator for Iron Workers Local Union 66 in San Antonio, said workers who are good at shielded metal arc welding are in demand throughout Central Texas.

Kitchen said the union can work with new members to develop and improve their welding skills. The goal is for all members to earn American Welding Society-backed certifications and endorsements to progress in the workplace.

Texas had more than 50,000 workers earning an annual mean wage of more than $46,000 in May 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Woodlands-Houston-Sugar Land area had the highest concentration of workers in the state with more than 18,000, while the Waco area had more than 400 workers.

Jobs for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers are projected to rise to more than 439,000 up to 2028, according to the labor bureau. This is being attributed to repairing the nation’s infrastructure and helping to build pipelines and power generation facilities.

“It is an excellent time to consider welding,” Kitchen said. “A lot of the other welders are retiring.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

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