Jeff State Welding Center opens on Shelby-Hoover Campus
By WILLIAM MARLOW / Special to the Reporter
HOOVER — Jefferson State held a ribbon cutting ceremony opening of the college’s new Welding Center on Thursday, June 24.
The celebration occurred at the college’s Shelby-Hoover Campus, where the facility will be located.
At the event, Jefferson State President Keith Brown described the opening on Thursday as the culmination of a two-year collaboration between the college, county leaders and the city of Hoover.
According to Brown, the development project was initiated in response to a growing demand for skilled welders in Alabama and across the United States.
“The research tells us that this is what employers in Shelby County need, and this facility is one way we plan to fill that need. So, I am very excited to see this come to fruition after such a long time of planning, but I’m more excited about what it’s going to mean for this community,” Brown said.
In fact, welding jobs are currently the second-highest jobs in demand in Shelby County, according to 58 INC., an economic development group based in the county.
Amy Sturdivant is the managing director of economic development at 58 INC., and says that the facility will be instrumental in addressing workforce shortages across the county and state, significantly reducing hiring costs as well as job wait times.
“This facility will give a great pipeline of talent and allow a lot of the graduates here to find jobs quickly and locally,” she said. “Many of these graduates will also rise up and become managers so these jobs will be used by folks that live in this area and that can go to work at companies in Shelby County.”
Sturdivant added these effects in turn would greatly benefit the Shelby County economy.
The new building will also expand educational opportunities to several areas in the state, according to Jeff State President Keith Brown, and will provide greater access to the college’s welding disciplines in Shelby, Chilton and Bibb counties.
“People will now have the opportunity to develop these skills right here in their community, and we will now be able to serve not just in south Jefferson County, but also deep into Shelby County as well,” Brown said.
Prior to the construction of the Shelby-Hoover facility, the school’s welding program was offered only at the college’s Jefferson and St. Clair-Pell City campuses.
According to Brown, the construction of the new facility is part of a larger effort to diversify the college’s curriculum and prioritize more skill-based training to contrast with the school’s primarily academic programs.
“We have really stepped up our efforts in providing career technical programs, specifically skilled trade and welding, and this facility will expand our footprint on the skilled trade side,” he said.
The college’s welding program initially launched in 2015 with a class of just eight students, and currently has over 200 actively enrolled participants. Moving forward, Brown said that the school’s priority will be on broadening the program’s enrollment and course offerings, and that the new facility was even designed to accommodate additions and expansions.
Welding programs to be offered at the Shelby-Hoover campus include the school’s short and long-term certification program as well as the college’s associate’s degree path.
James Brody Scott will be one of the lead instructors at the new facility, and has 13 years of experience in the welding industry.
He said that the facility was sorely needed and that he has observed the county’s welding shortage firsthand.
“We can’t graduate students fast enough. It seems like every time I’m turning around, I’m getting contacted by businesses, especially businesses in the Shelby County area,” Scott said. So, we’re always looking for new places to partner with for internships or apprenticeships, especially now that this facility is here.”
According to Scott, around 80 percent of the program’s students are already working in the welding field through either internships or part-time work.
This year marks Scott’s sixth year of teaching at the school and described his position as a dream job. He said that his welding skills came naturally, and that he had worked with his hands since he was a child.
“If I won the lottery today, I’d still come to work here because I enjoy what I do,” Scott said. “My favorite part is seeing students grow, and knowing that we’re providing a skill that’s going to help change their lives.”
Scott said courses at the new facility are designed with a combination of online learning and hands-on training in the facility’s lab to cover material while adhering to COVID-19 distancing guidelines.
“This career path is definitely very appealing for young people, as well as people that are trying to retrain and find new careers,” he said. “These students are gaining a skill that’s going to help them provide for themselves in the future ,and it’s always very rewarding when people come back and let us know how much of an impact we’ve had.”
For more information about Jefferson State’s Welding Program, visit Jeffersonstate.edu/programs/welding-technology.
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