UNION — Increased enrollment, new course offerings and the achievement of a long-time goal are the latest benchmarks in the continuing growth of the Union County Advanced Technology Center.
Site Director Kathy Jo Lancaster announced Tuesday that the center’s full-time enrollment for the fall 2012 semester was up 116 percent over the fall 2011 semester.
“We have 197 students enrolled in multiple courses being offered at the center this fall,” Lancaster said. “Last year we had 91 enrolled.”
Lancaster said the growth of enrollment is due to increased awareness of the center and its services by the community.
“When I say awareness, I mean the community knows that we are here and they know what we do,” Lancaster said. “We have promoted that awareness through our emphasis over the past year on improving basic workplace skills,expanding our course offerings in manufacturing, industrial and health care, and promoting specialized training for our business and industry sector.”
Another factor in this increased awareness are the “dual credit” courses offered by the advanced center technology center through the Union County Career and Technology Center at Union County High School.
“The courses include Machine Tool Technology and Introduction to Health Professions,” Lancaster said. “We have approximately 70 students enrolled in those courses. Another dual credit course we offer high school students is the Introductory Welding courses which are being taught here at the technology center. The students get dual credit for taking these courses.”
Lancaster said the Introductory Welding courses are part of the expanded curriculum now being offered by the center.
“We have expanded our course offerings to include introductory welding courses and introductory courses in mechatronics and machine tool technology,” Lancaster said. “We also continue to offer pre-Health Science courses as well as English, math and reading.”
The new introductory welding courses are part of the center’s efforts to meet the growing need of industries in Union County, the Upstate and beyond for trained, certified welders. While it was already offering some welding courses through its continuing education division at Spartanburg Community College, the center has been working since it opened in 2009 to provide an academic certificate in welding. This would enable students enrolled in the welding program to obtain their academic certificate at the center rather than traveling to Spartanburg to complete the course.
Lancaster said Tuesday that the center has finally received approval to offer full certificates in welding and other fields.
“Two weeks ago we were granted approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to offer full academic certificates in welding,” Lancaster said. “We also received approval to offer full academic certificates in mechatronics and emergency medical technician training and production associate technology.”
Lancaster said the center’s full certificate program in welding will include four entry level classes including Introduction to Welding, Gas and Arc Welding, Advanced Arc Welding II, and Arc Welding III. To enroll in the program, students must have a high school diploma or GED. While not required for enrollment, previous and/or current experience working in an industrial environment would be a plus.
The center’s efforts to implement a certificate program in welding has intensified in recent months due to the arrival and/or growth of industries and industrial projects requiring trained, certified welders. Lancaster said the arrival of the ESAB Welding and Cutting Products manufacturing facility, which produces high performance MIG and sub-arc welding wire, has sparked increased interest in welding in the county.
“Since ESAB has been here, it has really sparked an interest in welding as a career opportunity,” Lancaster said. “We have really seen an increase in inquiries about our welding program.”
Lancaster said there are many opportunities for persons interested in a career in welding, especially if they are willing to travel. Those opportunities include the building of two new reactors at the VS Summer nuclear facility in Fairfield County which Lancaster said will require 3,000 workers, many of them welders, during the construction phase. There are also discussions about building a nuclear facility in the Gaffney area and, in February 2011, Shaw Construction Co. announced plans to build two new units at the Vogtle nuclear power plant near Waynesboro, Ga.
Wages for trained, certified welders can range from $18 an hour to $35 an hour at the entry level. In the nuclear construction industry, an experienced welder willing to travel can earn as much as $55 an hour.
Spartanburg Community College, which together with USC Union operates the advanced technology center, already offers the welding course at its Spartanburg campus. On average, students complete the course and are ready to enter the workforce within less than year. Of those who successfully complete the course, 90 percent have jobs soon after graduation.
While enrollment is over at the center for the fall, Lancaster said enrollment for the spring will begin Oct. 22.
Anyone interested in enrolling for the spring should contact the Union County Advanced Technology Center at (864) 466-1060.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.To original article, click here