Customized Welding Program Fills Workforce Need

Article by: Janet Paulson

Mickayla Catlin is the first woman in her family to become a welder and the first person in her family to go to college. She is also the first woman to graduate from a customized welding program specifically designed to meet the workforce needs of Canby manufacturer JV Northwest (JVNW). 

Last summer, JVNW faced a challenge in finding enough trained welding fabricators to meet the demands of their growing business. Customized Training and Development Services at Clackamas Community College proposed a solution: provide the training to qualified recruits on site. 

CCC and JVNW recruited an initial cohort of 10 to participate in the entry-level welding technician program, and the students graduated in March 2013. Catlin, who is now a full-time JVNW employee, was among the program’s second cohort of 10 students. The group celebrated graduation on June 27 at a ceremony held at JVNW.

Through the customized program, CCC welding instructors provided formal training to the recruits at the JVNW site in Canby and certified the in-house trainer as an instructor. Students in the program spent 20 hours a week receiving formal training and 20 hours a week in on-the-job projects.

The recruits completed 21 credit hours, leading to an entry level welding certificate. They studied welder’s print reading, industrial safety, welding certification and welding fabrication. The goal of the training is to prepare the students to pass a welding certification test. 

“It’s been successful,” said Robert Bitter, project manager for CCC’s Customized Training Department. “Last summer JVNW had to turn away orders because they needed a skilled workforce. They now have the workers they need. We were able to help them solve a business need.” 

JV Northwest is a 32-year-old Canby business that manufactures stainless steel tanks, pressure vessels and mixers for the food, beverage, pharmaceutical and chemical industries. The company operates 20 hours a day and employs more than 140 people. Production wages range from $10 to more than $26 an hour. 

Bitter said that CCC Customized Training may share the model with other businesses.

Funding for the training came from three sources: the Workforce Investment Act made available through CCC’s Workforce Development Department, the Credential Acceleration and Support for Employment (CASE) grant at CCC, and from JV Northwest. The parties entered into a formal memorandum of understanding before the training began. 

For more information, please call Robert Bitter at 503-594-3190 or email robertb@clackamas.edu.

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