“There are plenty of welding jobs available out there, but the average welder is 54 and there aren’t enough young people out there interested in the trade,” said Ryan Blythe, executive director of Georgia Trade School, which will host a ribbon-cutting tonight at 2260 Moon Station Court, Suite 110, in Kennesaw.
Welders earn an average of $22 per hour in Georgia, Blythe said.
The school will begin offering the 15-week class to students later this month, after it receives its post-secondary license from the state. Classes will be held Monday through Friday, 35 hours per week. Open welding labs will be held at night.
Tuition and fees at Georgia Trade School is about $6,750 for the class, which Blythe said is one-third the cost of other schools in the area. Students will be able to earn welding industry certificates with the American Welding Society and American Society of Mechanical Engineers, along with the opportunity to take what Blythe calls the “physical welding test” in four welding processes.
“In addition to welding training, we will also offer an open welding class, so it will be a place for people to send their employees or for people to come learn the trade,” he said.
Three instructors, who have 40 years of experience combined, will teach the courses. They are Eden Parks, Elaine Waters and Sean Quinton.
Waters has been teaching welding since 1998.
“I want people to learn the right way to weld,” Waters said. “People can get hurt if they don’t weld right. Our job is to make sure they have the right procedure and skills.”
She also said that welders can work anywhere and in just about any field.
“You can work with aircraft, work on ships, microscopic welding,” she said. “It’s a wide-open field and a good field to be in. You can do anything with welding.”
The studio, which is a former digital media studio in north Cobb, is about 8,400 square feet and includes 15 welding booths.
“We decided to open in Kennesaw because it gave us an opportunity to be in a university town and surrounded by a young demographic,” Blythe said. “There will be over 2,000 jobs that will come open in the next few years, but we don’t have welders to fill those jobs.”
Debbie Underkoffler, president and CEO of North Georgia Staffing, a job-placement agency headquartered in Kennesaw, said the new school would fill a need in Georgia’s workforce. She is also a member of the board of Chattahoochee Technical College, which offers am 18-month welding and joining technical diploma at its Jasper campus, and a continuing-education class at the North Metro Campus in Acworth where students can earn national certification.
“I’m always looking for different avenues to find welders,” she said. “There’s just a huge skills gap in welding, fabricating, maintenance.
“The skills trade has not been made glamorous to our young people, so now there’s a huge initiative with the governor’s Go Build Georgia to decrease that skills gap and to even introduce them at the elementary schools level,” Underkoffler said. “Once it’s made a little bit more glamorous, we’ll see more young people looking at the career.”
Students at Georgia Trade School must be at least 17 and have either a high school diploma or a general equivalency diploma.