By Dylan McConnell
Over the summer, the Northeast Texas Community College welding program made good use of the High-Tech, High Demand Workforce Training Equipment grant that was awarded to the department in 2012 by the Economic Development Administration (EDA), a segment of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The department used $350,000 of the allocated $357,000 on upgrading lighting, welding booths, a new fume extracting system as well as some cosmetic repairs such as paint. Northeast Vice President for Advancement Jonathan McCullough said the new equipment has brought NTCC’s welding department up to the standards of the top programs in the nations.
“We’ve not only been able to upgrade the esthetics of the welding shop but also the functionality as a whole,” Northeast’s Associate Vice President for Workforce Development Kevin Rose said. “When we bring students through whether it be high school, potential recruits or people from business industry, they see the way the shop looks, the way it functions as well as the high quality of instruction.”
Rose said although they received the grant in 2012, determining the best way to use the funding has taken some time to work through. “When we applied for the grant, we were looking for the opportunity to expand the welding program in conjunction with the industrial technology training center, which is the building out on Interstate 30,” Rose said.
The close connection NTCC has with the local business community helped give the welding department an added boost when it was applying for the grant. “What we wanted to do was make sure our business industry was strongly supported as a result of partnerships between the college and business industry,” he added. “That is what attracted EDA, was the partnerships between the college and businesses.”
Over the last three years, the program has been at full capacity to the point the department added another session to keep up with the amount of students interested in entering the program.
“We serve the individuals that want to stay here locally,” Assistant Professor of Mechanical Power Technology and Bilingual Coach Marcos Sanchez said. “Also the goal is to try and get these guys not just in the fields we’re in here, but to look outside the box, to look broader and farther out.”
Since receiving the grant, Sanchez and Rose said the welding department plans to continue to serve its students and the surrounding communities for years to come.
“It’s an incredible opportunity; it’s one of those things that were just extremely excited about,” Rose said. “When you go down and you look at the facility, it is just so nice. We believe it’s just beautiful in relation to being able to have that for the students for a long time in the future.”