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Welding Program Gives Student ‘A Career Head Start’ In The Unionized Trades

Published Monday, July 6, 2020
by The Gazette Virginian
Welding Program Gives Student ‘A Career Head Start’ In The Unionized Trades

(SOUTH BOSTON, VIRGINIA) - A radio ad sparked an interest in welding and now Harrison Parker makes sparks fly all across the country as a Certified Welder, enjoying an in-demand career with great wages.

“I ‘always had an interest in learning how to weld and wanted to learn a skill with my hands,’” Parker said. “I heard an ad on the radio for the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s Welding Program ‘and thought why not?’  When I first got into the program, ‘I literally knew nothing about welding or really anything that it involved.’  ‘All I knew is that I was interested in learning more and was willing to put the time and effort into it.’”

Welding@SVHEC is a hands-on, 10-month Training Program providing Trainees with instruction in MIG, TIG, stick and pipe welding.  No prior welding experience is necessary for individuals to successfully complete the program and earn nationally-recognized certification.  Welding@SVHEC also emphasizes hands-on instruction and is taught by experienced, certified Welders.

“When I started the course, I was ‘kind of nervous not knowing a thing about welding,’ but (the Instructors) ‘were so easy to work with and to learn from.’  ‘I really had no problem asking questions and for advice on how to do things,’” Parker said.

“During class ‘I learned how to operate a grinder, torch and plasma cutter, and I got great first-hand experience and instruction in stick and MIG and TIG welding on both plate and pipe.’  ‘To me it was very satisfying to learn a skill not many can do, and to get better day by day made it all worth the while,’” he said.

Individuals who successfully complete the Welding@SVHEC Program have an opportunity to earn nationally recognized Welding Certification through the National Center for Construction Education and Research.

Parker completed his Welding Training in spring 2019, earning NCCER CORE and NCCER Welding Levels 1, 2 and 3 Credentials.

He credits his training and credentials with giving him a head start in his welding career: “Once I finished up at SVHEC I applied for an Apprenticeship through the Boilermakers Union out of Richmond.  The welding certifications I earned in school ‘really helped me get to the front of the line in the apprenticeship.’  ‘I didn’t have to wait very long before I was indentured and started even more training.”

Since then, Parker has continued to advance in his welding career and today, he enjoys a well-paying position that allows him to travel and work on a variety of projects.

“I’ve been through two Welding ‘Boot Camps’ now for more than six weeks each time and have passed weld tests for SMAW, GMAW, and GTAW for contractors at different jobs.  ‘Being in a Union, I get really great wages and benefits, plus I get to travel a lot.’  I just finished up a job in Texas working for APCom,” he said.

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