Michigan Community College Arms Welding Students to Hit the Ground Running
Long-Time Partnership with Lincoln Electric Allows School to Train Students on the Latest Welding Technology
With the increasing cost of a traditional college education and retraining of America’s existing manufacturing and fabrication workforce, community colleges around the country have seen a huge spike in enrollment. This in turn has driven the development of new programs and the expansion of current offerings.
Lansing Community College (LCC), Michigan’s third largest two-year school, is a case in point. In the last five years, the school has enjoyed a steady rise in new students to the tune of near a 15-percent increase.
“When the economy goes down, the number of students goes up,” says Denny Morse, dean of LCC’s Technical Careers Division. Morse goes on to explain that with the ongoing uptick in new students came the need to expand many of the school’s programs, including welding.
“We’ve enjoyed a reputation for having a strong welding program, but with the nationwide shortage of skilled welders and the hits the automotive industry has taken, especially in this area, we knew it was time to take our program to the next level,” he explains.
The Next Level
Meeting the demands of industry and rising enrollment meant building a top-notch facility outfitted with the latest equipment and technology. The school worked directly with local companies who would eventually be employing its students. It formed an advisory committee of professionals to provide counsel on what knowledge and proficiencies were necessary to make tomorrow’s workforce competitive and employable.
LCC also partnered with Lincoln Electric, a leading manufacturer of welding equipment, welding consumables and technology to outfit the school’s hands-on welding education department.
“We worked hand-in-hand with Lincoln Electric to determine what equipment we needed to ensure our experienced instructors were arming their students with the skills and expertise to be competitive in a tight job market,” Morse says.
The result was a 9,000-square-foot welding lab. Plans were also developed for expansion in the near future. This welding lab is ground zero for LCC’s one-year certification and two-year associate degree.
Additionally, the college has a partnership with Ferris State University. Welding engineering majors can complete their first two years at LCC and then transfer to Ferris for the last two years of their bachelor degree program.
LCC’s welding lab is run by a team of instructors who have more than 200 years of combined experience.
Full-time instructors Bill Eggleston and Catherine Lindquist are Certified Welding Inspectors (CWI) and are joined by nine part-time instructors who work in the field of welding or inspection. Some of the part-time faculty holds CWI certification and others are certified in the discipline they teach.
The school curriculum includes courses such as blueprint reading, metallurgy, SMAW (stick), GMAW (MIG), GTAW (TIG), gas/brazing, structural fabrication, pipe welding, tool and die welding, aircraft welding, rigging and construction/industrial safety.
The Welding Lab
Lansing Community College’s welding lab includes 43 fully equipped booths, 14 oxy stations, four cutting stations and two plasma cutters.
The welding lab is outfitted with a variety of Lincoln Electric equipment including:
“Whenever possible, we want our students to be exposed to the latest technology and processes. They need to be able to stand out in a very competitive job market,” says Lindquist, who is a Certified Welding Inspector and had been teaching at the school for more than 20 years. “By partnering with Lincoln Electric, we’re able to ensure our students have the best foundation possible.”
LCC has also incorporated Lincoln Electric’s robotic welding education cell into its curriculum.
“General Motors is in our backyard, and its shops, as well as others in the area, continue to rely more heavily on automated solutions,” Lindquist explains. “So of course, we’ve worked this into our program. We understand that it’s not just about being a talented welder and laying down a clean bead; it’s about our students understanding the intersection of welding and technology and feeling comfortable operating in that arena.”
For LCC’s welding program, effective training is not just about the equipment in the students’ hands or the robot they’re programming. It’s also about the air the students, instructors and visitors to the lab breathe every day.
The school deliberately designed its lab to incorporate a comprehensive air filtration plan, which includes three separate Lincoln Electric weld fume control systems. Each system utilizes a combination of modular hoods and extraction arms to remove fume directly from the source. The fume is then transported through ducts to a Statiflex® 6000 central filtration unit.
“We want our students to understand the intrinsic importance of fume control in a welding environment,” Lindquist explains. “We want them to know what to look for and what questions to ask when they’re in a professional environment.”
Reaching into the Community
In building one of the country’s leading welding programs, Lansing Community College has been able to successfully expand its offerings beyond the borders of its traditional program.
First, the college partners with the Eaton Intermediate School District to serve as its career center. This involves more than 900 students taking classes at LCC each year, including welding.
The school serves as home to the statewide SkillsUSA® competition, which allows students preparing for trade, technical and service occupations to compete against one another. The top three students from each region travel to Lansing for the day-long competition, from which the winners then advance to the annual national competition.
At the professional level, LCC offers corporate training for companies around the region.
“For most companies, it would be extremely cost prohibitive to build and staff their own welding school,” Lindquist says. “They’re able to partner with us to offer a variety of certifications to their workforce, as well as additional training when needed.”
The college also designs customized training programs for corporations when needed.
As would be expected, the automotive industry plays a major role in the local economy. In addition to offering an automotive program, LCC provides a comprehensive welding training program for General Motors and Delta. This five-day program includes primarily MIG repair training.
Additionally, the school provides AWS (American Welding Society) welding certification for the Michigan Department of Transportation.
“We would be hard-pressed to stay current without the support of Lincoln Electric,” Morse states. “They’ve helped us build a great program, which has allowed us establish Lansing Community College as one of the top schools in the country.”