(ABILENE) – The first group of Welding Technology students walking into the Industrial Technology Center at Texas State Technical College later this month will be in for a pleasant surprise.
The new building next to Abilene Regional Airport will have state-of-the-art equipment for automated welding and metallurgy, said Ashley Yezak, TSTC’s statewide department chair for Welding Technology. The building will open Monday, Aug. 27, for the start of the fall semester.
“Metallurgy students go to work with engineering companies or for companies with engineering departments,” said Yezak. “They can develop new welding procedures.”
The automated welding equipment is the first of its kind among TSTC’s four West Texas campuses.
Yezak said the kind of students who succeed in welding are those who are comfortable working with their hands or have relatives involved in the welding field.
Area employers are seeking welding graduates with such experience.
Mike Petty, owner of West Techs Chill Water Specialists in Abilene and a 1986 Welding Technology graduate of Texas State Technical Institute (now TSTC) in Waco, said job candidates for basic welding are readily available but those who do fitter welding are a challenge to find.
“They have to know a little trigonometry and understand how to measure and cut pipe on angles,” said Petty. “It’s more than just welding the pipe together.”
Petty said the oil and gas industry can determine the job candidate pool.
“West Texas has a lot of welders because of the oil and gas field,” he said. “The problem is when the oil prices go up, we have a shortage of welders, and when the prices go down, we have a surplus of welders. It all hinges on that oil price.”
Jeremy Bartz, human resources director at Hirschfeld Industries in San Angelo, said he has recruited Welding Technology graduates in the past from TSTC. The company has a fabrication plant in Abilene.
Bartz said a majority of the company’s work on large industrial, nuclear and structural projects throughout the world is wire welding.
“We can bring in three and four at a time to train,” he said. “We have to have experienced welders to go in and go to work. If we train somebody, we want them to come to work for us.”
Texas State Technical College will offer the Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology starting this fall in Abilene. Yezak said having the associate degree available gives certificate students at TSTC’s Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater campuses the option to continue their welding education.
Students can also earn certificates in structural welding or structural and pipe welding for the first time this fall in Abilene.
Yezak said Abilene’s welding programs can open up opportunities for high school students seeking dual credit and for prospective students in rural areas.
Besides the Welding Technology program, the Industrial Technology Center will house new programs in Industrial Maintenance and Electrical Power and Controls and will be the new location for the Emergency Medical Services program.
For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.