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Weld together a new career... fast

It's a complaint that has come from many manufacturing companies in the last few years: finding skilled welders has become a challenge.

"Typically it's taken us at least a couple of months to find good qualified candidates," said Dustin Rassier, who oversees the fabrication department at Capital Safety.

A new program from Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical and Hiawatha Adult Basic Education is aimed at training new welders and getting them into the workforce in a matter of just a couple months.

The new welding certification class -- which begins later this month -- will get students prepared for work in less than two months and for only $775 in tuition.

Conversely, students typically spend one or two years -- depending on their program -- and pay up to $8,000 for tuition to get a welding degree at Southeast Tech.

The new course won't cover as many things as Southeast Tech's traditional welding programs, but it will cover enough to get students a foot in the door at a manufacturing company, ABE Director Theresa Luther-Dolan said.

"They should be able to get an entry-level position," she said.

Southeast Technical worked with area employers, including Capital Safety, Thomas & Betts and Neufeldt Industrial to make sure the skills being taught in the classes matched employers' needs.

"We asked, 'Is this important? Are you looking for this in a new welder?'" Southeast Tech business relations director Katie Hardyman said. "They confirmed what we were doing for the curriculum was important."

Because Capital Safety works with a lot of specialized materials and has its own procedures, Rassier said even experienced welders that the company hires need to go through quite a bit of on-the-job training before they are actually put to work.

That means that graduates of the certification class would "absolutely" be hirable, Rassier said.

"As long as they have the fundamentals, experience running newer equipment and blueprint reading skills," he said.

Luther-Dolan said ABE and Southeast Technical began developing the course about a year ago. She said local manufacturing employers as well as students were interested in getting the course going.

"We had students who said, 'I wish I could get into a job where I could be a welder,'" Luther-Dolan said. "We had it coming from both ways."

The class will be taught by Southeast Tech's welding instructor Casey Mann.

The first portion of the course begins May 21 and will be two nights a week. That part of the course is taught in a classroom and will cover safety, basic math applications, blueprint reading and go over welding equipment and terminology.

The hands-on portion of the class will begin June 17 and will be held three nights a week.

"When they get to the hands on ... it gets more intense; there's more time commitment," Luther-Dolan said.

Because Southeast Tech only teaches welding courses at its Winona campus, the Red Wing campus doesn't have any welding equipment. The Red Wing School District has agreed to allow the course to be taught in its shop at the high school.

The class ends July 18. Students who complete the class will get a basic welding certificate.

"This certification is giving them a nice step into this career for much cheaper," Luther-Dolan said.

Unlike many ABE courses, the welding course is open to high school students, Luther-Dolan said, as long as they're over 16 years old.

"It would be some good intergenerational learning happening," Luther-Dolan said. "And they can then get right into a really good full-time job."

Students have until Friday to sign up, and can do so by calling 651-385-4656 or emailing

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.