San Jacinto College expands welding training to meet high demand
08.26.2014 | By Rob Vanya
San Jacinto College welding instructor Amber Tyler prepares to work in the welding training lab at the North Campus. The San Jacinto College graduate enjoys the pride of skilled craft workmanship that goes along with welding. Photo credit: Rob Vanya, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations, and government affairs department.
Welding training booths added, late-night classes offered
The demand for certified welders remains strong as the Houston area economy and population continue to boom. To help fill the need for welders, San Jacinto College is expanding its welding technology training.
The San Jacinto College North Campus added 16 new welding training stations in the Spring 2014 semester, and 32 new training stations are now under construction and are scheduled to be ready for use in the Fall 2014 term.
“We are adding these additional training stations because of the continuing high demand for welders in the area,” commented Eddie Foster, welding department chair at the San Jacinto College North Campus. “In fact, I was recently contacted by a human relations representative from the Fluor corporation who said that Fluor is hiring welders.”
At the Central Campus, the welding program is now at full speed in new, expanded facilities that are equipped with advanced equipment. The Central Campus also recently began offering a twice-weekly 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. “graveyard” welding class to help accommodate shift workers.
The student enrollment in the welding programs at both the North and Central campuses is the highest in the history of the College, with a combined enrollment of nearly 800. “In just two years the student enrollment count has doubled,” commented Tivo Parras, welding program director at the San Jacinto College Central Campus. “It’s due mostly to the new and improved training facilities, and because we began offering the late-night classes.”
The strong demand for welders shows no sign of slowing down, according to Glen O’Mary, director of education for the Construction and Maintenance Education Foundation (CMEF), an organization that tracks skilled labor needs in the Gulf Coast region. “There has been a consistently growing demand for skilled welders for Houston area industries,” he commented. “Rig welders, especially, are being sought after in an expanding market. CMEF Training Contributor Partners hire new welders on a regular basis.”
O’Mary said several large companies are especially in need of welders, including Turner Industries, Jacobs, and Force Corporation. “For welders, the current job market offers an increasing number of employment opportunities and a greater earning potential,” he said.
Students who graduate from the San Jacinto College welding technology program generally have no problem finding work, with job placement rates on an upward trend, according to data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The average job placement rate for welding graduates with a one-year certificate of technology at both the North and Central campuses was around 70 percent during the three-year period of 2009 to 2011. But in 2012, the job placement rate jumped to nearly 80 percent at the North Campus, and to 94 percent at the Central Campus. Both Foster and Parras say that job placement rates should continue to trend upwards as a result of the region’s strong job and population growth.
According to the Texas Workforce Commission’s (TWC) labor market tracking site, welding has been one of the highest demand careers in the Gulf Coast area since 2010, and the need for welders is projected to remain high for the near future. The TWC’s projected estimated employment figure for welders from 2010 to 2020 in the region is 20,650, which represents an industry growth of nearly 27 percent.
Wages for welders, according to the TWC site, are fairly good. For 2013, the TWC estimated average annual wage for entry-level welders was $28,031; the estimated average annual mean wage was $39,699; and the estimated average salary for experienced welders was $45,533. But, with the recent surge in demand for welders, wages are reportedly rising dramatically. Parras says that welding students can start earning as much as $28 an hour after earning a one-year certificate. Wages can quickly escalate, and Parras said that several of his students have gone on to purchase their own trucks and welding rigs, which allows them to earn as much as $7,000 a week working in places such as the Eagle Ford drilling fields in South Texas.
Although welding is a male-dominated field, San Jacinto College welcomes females in its welding technology program, and Amber Tyler, a welding instructor at the College, says females have certain traits that can help them to excel as welders. “Women generally have a lot of patience and tend to have an eye for detail, which are qualities that are important for anyone who wants to consistently make quality welds,” commented Tyler.
After high school, Tyler worked for four years as a contract welder. She earned a welding technology associate degree from San Jacinto College in 2009, the same year she began as a part-time welding instructor at the North Campus, where she now serves as a full-time welding instructor. She says welding is not what she considers a “glamorous” job, but there are positives and benefits that are rewarding. “There’s job security and very good pay,” she said. “It’s a career where people can make a future for themselves, and for their family. There is also a certain pride in workmanship that I find rewarding. You can feel good about performing a skilled craft and about knowing that your work will hold up – it has a lasting quality.”
According to research by the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP), many employers in the Gulf Coast region struggle to find workers to fill welder positions and other “middle-skill” jobs, which do not necessarily require a four-year degree, but still pay substantial wages. As a partner in GHP’s UpSkill Houston initiative, San Jacinto College is part of an effort to meet an ambitious goal of training workers to fill an estimated 296,000 new middle-skill jobs in the next three years.
Dr. Gary Friery, dean of business and technology at the San Jacinto College North Campus, says he has noticed in recent years a subtle shift in general perception about middle skills “blue collar” workers, such as welders. “We are finding an increased interest and a changed attitude toward these types of jobs, many of which require only one or two years of college,” he remarked. “When people learn that, for example, a welding job can lead to a six-figure income in a short amount of time, that can change a person’s perception.”
For more information about welding training, please visit www.sanjac.edu/welding-technology.
A related video clip is available online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmu2hwt837Q
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 credit students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career and workforce preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College. For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit www.sanjac.edu, or follow us on Facebook.