School is in session around the county and at the Hutchinson Community College-sponsored welding school in Hillsboro. Eight students started class last week at the former AMPI facility, in an air-conditioned room on the south side of the building.
“We’re still taking care of some housekeeping duties so far,” said instructor Steve Swartz. “We have to work on safety instruction, OSHA 10 requirements, a math section, and a blueprint reading section — those all have to come first before we actually get into the lab and do some welding.”
Hutchinson Community College took over the program last year from Butler Community College when area business leaders expressed an interest in keeping alive the technical training option for local students and workers.
“We are here to reach a variety of different students,” Swartz said. “Right now I have eight enrolled, four are high school students (three from Marion, one from Canton-Galva), one non-traditional student, and several adults from Hillsboro and Herington who were either looking at a career change or needing certification or college credit to advance at their current position.”
Swartz said plans to start classes during the summer did not materialize due to busy harvest schedules for potential students, and the fact that high school students were not ready to give up summertime hours.
“We really hope that high school students looking for something different in their schedules will capitalize on this program,” Swartz said. “We give 14 college credit hours and I run it just like I would a regular college class.”
The welding class takes three hours from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., every Monday through Friday.
“Since we are here so long, I allow a little latitude for breaks and something to drink,” Swartz said. “I don’t allow electronics like cell phones or iPods, but just like any college course, I treat the students like responsible adults until they prove me wrong. And they haven’t done that.”
Students completing the welding course in February will gain certification in MIG, metal, gas, wire welding, oxyacetylene and tungsten inert gas (TIG). They also will have completed safety and communication certificates and will be ready to step into the workplace.
“There is a need for these skills in this area,” Swartz said. “There will be opportunities for these students to work in this area, or they will be qualified to go other places too.”
Swartz said HCC was willing to offer additional and more advanced classes as well as assist students in finding intensive apprentice-type situations, after class completion if necessary.