The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory announced five finalists for its Advanced Welding Workforce Initiative, a partnership to invest $1 million in education and training for advanced technical workers in Appalachia.
Finalists were selected based on their anticipated impact on the region’s advanced welding and manufacturing workforce, as well as pressing regional needs including economically distressed areas, opportunity zones and recruiting workers in long-term recovery from substance abuse disorder.
Calhoun Community College’s Robotic Welding Program, in Decatur, was chosen because it plans to expand course offerings to include robotic welding for students and incumbent workers seeing careers in North Alabama’s growing aerospace and defense-related manufacturing industries.
“The plentiful energy resources being extracted in the Appalachian Region are yielding a value chain that can create thousands of well-paid, high-skill jobs for Appalachian workers, including in advanced manufacturing techniques,” said Tim Thomas, ARC federal co-chairman. “Among these are good jobs in advanced welding, and that is why ARC is partnering with the National Energy Technology Laboratory to invest in programs ensuring our workforce is prepared for this unique opportunity.”
The initiative’s funding is jointly provided by ARC and DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy High Performance Materials program to prepare a new generation of welders to manufacture and service high-temperature alloy components in advanced coal- and natural gas-fueled electric generating stations. Several of the AWWI finalists put forth projects that would develop a workforce with the high-tech welding skills needed to use those advanced materials to ensure the successful operation of low- or near-zero emission plants.
Demand for workers with similar skills are needed in the automotive, aerospace, aviation and petrochemical industries.
Calhoun Community College offers a number of welding programs, from beginners to specific training, such as with gas tungsten arc welding, gas metal arc welding, plasma arc cutting and more. The college’s program is approved by the National Center for Construction Education and Research and is an accredited training and education facility and an American Welding Society accredited testing facility.