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Monday, 28 July 2014 09:23

MHC churning out highly-employable welding students

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When a post-secondary institution can say it successfully has all of its students from a program garner employment, that is the ultimate in success.


This is exactly what has happened for the welding students in the pre-employment program at the Brooks Campus of the Medicine Hat College.
Welding instructor Lee Gall has been a welder since 2000. He says the welding trade and its employment is very fluid.
Gall says some shops have employees who have been with them for a long time. If they have a good welder, you want to keep them.
“I never expected it. I didn’t know what would happen,” explains Gall who says welding shops have been busy in the Brooks area. “They’re fresh, they have no bad habits learned yet. A lot of the shops around here have specialties and they have contracts working on specific things.”
Gall, who works for Cinch Welding in Brooks, notes that just because the petroleum industry has slowed in southeast Alberta, it doesn’t mean the welding shops aren’t busy. Gall says there are a lot of out-of-city, provincial and even non-Albertan contracts and jobs these welding shops have been hired to complete.
He says they will truck whatever work needs to be done. Businesses in different parts of the province or country may not have the necessary welding services available and then just outsources them.
Hence, the Brooks-area had already a lot of welding facilities and with welders in high demand, it looks like a post-secondary program will currently be popular.
In a press release, the College reports that according to Statistics Canada the demand for skilled trades is expected to increase by 12 per cent in the Lethbridge-Medicine Hat region between 2012-2016.
The growth in welding is expected to locally exceed what is estimated provincially.
Gall says his students were a “Heinz 57” cross-section of people. Some were older students looking for a new career; some were younger people who had an understanding of welding, but needed to (highly) hone their skill level. Gall adds others had absolutely zero experience.
As part of the pre-employment welding program, the traditional apprenticeship system is used, but students do not have to be employed/indentured to be accepted to this training. The college says those who pass will have skills equivalent to a first-year trade apprentice and be eligible to write the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training First Period Theory Exam for the welding trade.
In Brooks, the employers’ demand is there and the college has new lab facilities in that city.
“We had the new lab facilities last spring so we were able to utilize it,” explains Kristi Liboiron, a program administrator with the Brooks’ campus, Medicine Hat College. “And of course welding is front and centre. The welding program last year was successful.
“We need some success stories up here in Brooks and (to) show that we can do it.”
She adds as college administrators, they are always assessing and reassessing what is desired for the college, but also for what employers and students in Brooks need.
Liboiron says there are so many community groups using the facilities and the community does value what the college means to the city.
For Gall, he will be back for the upcoming academic year.
“I really enjoyed it,” says Gall. “Three of them actually work with me (at his employer). Another bunch of great people and the best part is that they are very appreciative. ... they’re grateful.”
Offered once a year, the next intake for the pre-employment program will be in January 2015.
There is a max of 12 seats allotted for the course.
Gall anticipates that seats will fill up quickly so encourages those interested to register soon. Classes will be offered Tuesday and Thursday evenings and all day Saturdays.
For more information on the program visit online: www.mhc.ab.ca. Registration is now open. To stay up-to-date on what is happening at the Brooks campus, follow on Twitter @Brooks_MHC or Facebook: www.facebook.com/MHCBrooks.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor