SHERIDAN — Sheridan College is rolling out a new program geared at increasing skilled laborers in the workforce while accommodating the needs of nontraditional students. The first-ever Weekend Welding Certificate course starts March 6, and represents an opportunity for students to keep their day jobs while they earn professional certification.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Estella Castillo-Garrison said the program covers the same curriculum as the school’s existing one-year program but is designed to accommodate students with additional life obligations.

“This is for the adult learner,” she said. “It’s for those who are working in the workforce now and want to try something different, or they are already working in this area and would like to get additional skills.”

Castillo-Garrison said that when looking at ways the college could better serve the local community, it didn’t take long to identify the welding industry as one that was in great need of more skilled workers.

“There is a lot of literature about the need for welders nationally and within our region,” she said, adding that part of staying in touch with local educational needs includes working with advisory committees consisting of industry experts to periodically review the need for labor and integrate curriculum changes to ensure graduating students are as well-trained as possible.

“In the spring of last year, through those advisory committees, we launched focus groups. Just in that room of Sheridan County manufacturers, there was a need of 18 welders right then — it was loud and clear. Those are results that did surface in the data we received and that told us where to go first.”

Career and Technical Education Chair Brett Burke said the first-ever Weekend Welding Certificate course will be Friday afternoons and most of the day Saturday.

“It’s the same program as our one-year welding certificate, but it’s just offered at a different time,” Burke said, adding that while students in the conventional welding program learn multiple skills at once, weekend welders will fully cover one specific skill area before moving on to the next.

Class times for the new program are Fridays from noon to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Interest in the alternative schedule is high. Castillo-Garrison said attendance was robust at an informational session a few weeks ago, and some students arrived with laptops ready to register for the course then and there. Enrollment in the weekend course quickly filled to capacity of 15 students.

While it’s true that the school’s existing welding program also tends to run at or near maximum enrollment, confidence is high that the weekend certificate program can bring in a new demographic of students who are interested in increasing their job skills and making more money.

“I talked to one gentleman that said he had to choose between work and furthering his education,” Castillo-Garrison said. “I said to him, ‘You are exactly why this was built’.”

Though the initial weekend class is full, aspiring trade workers in the Sheridan area are still invited to attend the first session of the course, which is a lecture class focused on safety.

“We are inviting additional folks interested in becoming students to that first class,” Castillo-Garrison said. “If a space becomes available, they may be able to continue the class.”

Educators within the Northern Wyoming Community College District are interested in potentially adding more weekend programs in other disciplines to reach more students.

“This is the first of multiple programs we would like to be able to offer. This is something different for our college and our district,” Castillo-Garrison said. “We might have weekend or night classes, but not an actual program you can start and finish on a schedule like this. It really opens conversations around our district about how to serve our population and how programs like this might fit them. “

Students attending the Weekend Welding Certificate course are eligible to apply for Wyoming Works grant dollars, on-campus housing, scholarships and financial aid.

 

Article by Tracee Davis

for The Sheridan Press