CTE Program Highlight: Welding Sparks Interest

Department Co-Chair Cameron Moran stick welds during a demonstration.

Are you dreaming of an occupation that cures your travel fixation? Perhaps you are fascinated by fire and metal. Maybe, you’re just simply yearning for a financially stable future. If so, the Welding CTE Program at LBCC may be what you’re looking for. 

Cameron Moran, co-chair of the welding department, teaches welding, blueprint reading, metal fab drawings; a language of welding symbols, and fabrication skills. Teaching in this field is his passion. 

“I think I would like to stay here. Seeing the students that come through and what happens from the first day they’re here, to the last day they’re here, is amazing. Especially the ones that have never welded before, it’s completely new for them. And to see somebody develop and get such a high skill set and confidence in their career is so rewarding,” said Moran.

Recently, Moran was able to showcase a new technology in the welding industry – virtual reality welding. With the latest tool, he is able to go into local high schools and give students some ‘hands on experience,’ while promoting the program. 

“Being able to play with awesome tools all the time doesn’t hurt at all either. The technology development is amazing.” 

In an interview, Moran answers some program questions. 

Describe what students learn in your program.

We have students that come in knowing absolutely nothing. So what they will learn is about the trade specifically; what to anticipate in a job setting, and learning how to use the tools that are required; anything from hand tools to machinery. They’re trained on anything that you will see in a production fabrication shop, and then also on all the different welders. They learn maintenance on welders, as well as equipment to learn a little bit about hydraulics. They learn a little bit about pneumatics and learn math that is associated with the trade as well. So everything is very oriented towards a career setting, which I think students get a lot out of, because some of them don’t know what to expect at all. So again, it goes into the broad spectrum of what we can see out there as a career. So, an overall welder is what we try to train.”

How long is the program?

We have a one year certificate or a two-year associate – that two-year associate is what we recommend. You get a lot more fabrication, more pipework, and experience in the second year, to hone the skills that are going to be required in a career.

How are classes structured?

Classes are structured a little differently than most across the college. Our class duration is a little bit longer and a lot of it is lab-based. We do have some of the classroom lectures and things. But for example, this term for Intermediate Arc Welding, we’re in the lab for four hours at a time. You get a progress card, with a whole bunch of different welds on it. And that’s what you work on. It’s working on welds at your own pace. But then also, we critique them to an industry standard, so that way we can make sure the students meet a bar before moving on.

Some of the students are like, let’s just go in the lab, absolutely let’s do that. For instructors too, we can do lectures in the classroom, but when we lecture in the lab, it just links everything together. So instead of using a whiteboard and a PowerPoint, we go out there and weld and tell them why it didn’t work, or why it is working.

What kind of salary can graduates from the program expect for future jobs?

Salaries can range for sure. The median salary in the United States is about $40,000 for welders. That’s completely dependent on what you do. If you’re just working in a shop production welding, that’s probably the 40K range. 

If you get into Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (TIG) welding or into nuclear welding, you’re going to increase your salary. You can see six figures if you get into the right situation. Pipe welders can make quite a bit of money as well – it’s a traveling situation. As you build on the pipeline, you can get paid quite a bit. Around here, I’m going to say that $40,000 is probably about the median as well. Students get hired on around $17-ish/hr, and a lot work while still in school and make around that figure. 

What is Tungsten Arc Welding? 

With TIG welding you can work for SpaceX and Aerospace companies because they’re always hiring. TIG is also used in the food industry for pots and cooking pans. 

Alternatively, you can focus on Shielded Metal Arc Welding (stick welding) where you can travel the country and can work in mills. You can go anywhere around the United States or different countries. You can get welding jobs in Hawaii!

We teach all types of welding, including having a pipe welding specific degree as well as our Fabrication/Welding degree. The pipe welding focuses on all types of pipe, joining methods, blueprints specific to pipe, welding practices and much more. 

Around this community, what kinds of places might people find the CTE graduates from this program?

Locally, we have 10 really strong partnerships right around here, and those range from the heavy fabrication of steel buildings and trusses or doing bridges all the way to the aerospace side. There are other businesses around Portland as well. And as you move across the country, you’ll see some graduates in other states. But right now we’re working hard towards that [the aerospace industry] because they need so many welders. So that’s fun. 

Right here in Albany there are several shops. Tangent, Lebanon, Corvallis, and Philomath have a couple of shops, and then Eugene has a whole bunch. Salem has some as well. I mean, there’s tons and tons of spots [welding positions] out there. And if you want to travel, you can get in possibly with a union of some sort. Some unions are even local. 

That’s the coolest thing about welding – the career technical skill. You can take it anywhere you go. Somebody’s going to need a welder to either fix something or build something. So it’s a good skill set to have.

I’ve heard there’s a welder shortage. Can you tell me about this? 

So there’s a huge shortage, they are estimating that over the next decade that the nation will be about 49 thousand individuals short of welders per year. We’re also looking at a huge amount of individuals that are retiring, and we’re running out of those individuals that want to get into the skill for whatever reason it is. So I don’t foresee a future time when welders aren’t in shortage.

How long has the program been at LB?

It was founded by John Alvin in 1967, and it just has developed. Many of the students that went through the program here become instructors. 

How big is the cohort?

Our average cohort is probably 16 students. We try to cater towards up to 20, but that gets really, really busy really fast. So you’ve got 20 people with fire in their hands, and it gets a little bit concerning at times. But right now, the numbers are down just a little bit because of Covid issues. Students are not sure what’s happening next, or at least not until the school year starts. So we are hoping that in the fall, we see numbers increase again. 

How often is the program offered?

We try to start everybody in Fall. So fall term, you’re going to start out with all the basics, and then you start moving up as you go through the terms. We do have openings throughout the year. If you want to get in right away, we have classes we can offer to those not enrolled in the program yet. But it’s harder when one takes classes outside of the program sequence. If you’re wanting to get in, the fall is probably your best bet.

%d bloggers like this: