This month, the Welding Journal is running a profile on the Merrill Institute in Alma, Michigan, a facility that offers an intensive and successful welder training program and is also an American Welding Society Accredited Test Facility (ATF).
An ATF is a facility that offers testing for AWS welder certification. Each ATF must undergo a thorough examination process before it is granted accreditation by the AWS in order to ensure that the quality of the facility matches the rigorous standards of the AWS’ welder certification program.
The Merrill Institute was originally established by Merrill Technologies Group to train welders, especially returning veterans, to relieve the shortage of skilled craftsmen in the area.
The facility offers a rigorous training program, engaged in STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics) talent development designed to expose students to project-based learning and real-world learning opportunities. For example, Merrill students have opportunities to tour manufacturing plants and interact with experienced engineers and technicians.
The Miller Institute’s philosophy is “failure is not an option,” and the institute’s small class sizes, intensive training programs, state of the art welding labs and extremely selective acceptance practices help see that philosophy through.
“Before being accepted into the welder program, “Mark Johnston, institute director, told the Welding Journal “prospective students are interviewed for assurance they have the willingness to do the work and tested to verify they have the necessary eye-hand coordination and math skills. Of the 30 to 45 people interviewed, only ten are chosen for the course.”
The screening appears to benefit the students and program, as the Miller Institute maintains more than a 90% graduation rate and an 85% employment rate.
Part of what keeps that employment rate so high is that as students are learning welding skills, they are also being certified by the AWS.
The institute’s course of study is totally compliant with AWS SENSE (Schools Excelling through National Skills Standards Education) guidelines, meaning that each of Miller’s three levels of welding courses is compliant with AWS qualifications for certification. That means when a student graduates from a course at the Miller institute, the graduate receives a Miller Welding Certificate of Completion for their course level, as well as an AWS SENSE Certificate for their level.
Since the AWS is a nationally recognized organization establishing respected quality standards for the welding industry, credentials from the AWS are accepted by employers across the country. When a Miller student graduates with credentials from the AWS, they are automatically graduating with a leg up for finding employment. Coupled with Miller’s proactive approach to placing students into jobs by graduation, certification means hard work at the institute really pays off.
As an ATF, the facility is also able to test welders for specialized welding skills, known as codes. Because of this, the Miller Institute can not only provide certification services to its students, but to the welding industry as a whole. An ATF is authorized to perform welder qualification and ATF assessment testing for companies and individuals across the country.
If you’d like to learn more about the Miller Institute and their “failure is not an option” philosophy, we invite you to check out their full profile in the March issue of the Welding Journal. If you’re part of a facility that would be interested in learning how to become an ATF, check out the AWS Accredited Test Facility information page. AWS Online will be offering a course on how your facility can qualify and apply to be accredited. In addition to helping improve the quality of the industry nationwide, many facility’s that become ATFs experience a significant financial boost by becoming distributors of AWS’ portable, respected credentials. Learn more at http://aws.awo.org.