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Program prepares students for jobs in welding

Courtesy Photo A student at the Industrial Arts Institute in Onaway receives instruction during a welding assignment while in class. The school offers a 19-week course that equips people to enter into the welding field.

ONAWAY — People who are just preparing to enter the labor force, and others who are seeking career changes are utilizing the welding education offered by the Industrial Arts Institute in Onaway.

The school offers a 19-week program that equips students with the skills they need to acquire quality employment in a field that is in high demand and pays well.

Market Coordinator Stephanie Gillett said the classes have become very popular and people come from as far as California and Alaska to take it. She said there are local instructors, as well as industry leaders from welding businesses who teach.

Gillett said the school has students who have recently graduated from high school and adults who are seeking to make a move into another career. She said some people have taken the course because they have been displaced in the job market and a couple who have passed the class after losing jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We produce industry-ready welders in 19 weeks, which is different from a community college,” she said. “It is perfect for people who are eager to get into the workforce sooner. They are getting a best-in-class education from industry leaders, with the latest technology.”

The cost of the program is $13,750, and Gillett said there are scholarships and loan programs available to select students, depending on their fit with the program and financial needs.

She said the program also has support from some property owners on Onaway who made lodging available to the students who are from out of the area.

“We have eight or nine landlords who are willing to rent apartments for the duration of the program,” she said. “They put them with another student and they split the cost of rent and it lowers the cost for the students.”

Gillett said once trained, welders make a good wage, and there are specialty areas in the field where earning power increases.

She said an entry level job normally starts in the $15 to $17 an hour range and rises. That amount can fluctuate up or down, depending on the employer.

“It’s a good starting wage in a field that is looking for workers,” she said. “If you continue your education and go into underwater welding, or pipe fitting welding you can make amazing money.”

The next course is slated to begin on Jan. 18, and there are only a few spots open. People who are interested can contact the school. Gillett said because the course is so close to beginning, financial aid may be unavailable at this time.

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