North Central Michigan College will begin a new welding class next month in partnership with the Industrial Arts Institute, in Onaway, Michigan. The associate degree program will split coursework between the college and the institute. According to Pete Olson, vice president of academic affairs and student success, North Central was approached by Georgia Abbott, the institute’s former executive director, to see if the college was interested in creating a “wrap-around associative applied science degree” to go along with the existing welding program. Introducing more general education requirements into the welding program is intended to give graduates more choices in their careers and to “produce a welder who is a little more well-rounded than someone with just the technical certificates,” Olson said.
The new associates degree includes courses, such as mathematics, computer-aided design, and computer-aided manufacturing, that will benefit students interested in a career in manufacturing. Olson admits that “not every student is going to be interested” in the program, which is designed to last four semesters for a full-time student. Some students want to get their certification as quickly as possible so they can enter the workforce. However, Gretchen Carroll, associate dean of business, manufacturing and technology at North Central, is hoping that most will take advantage of the opportunity to obtain additional skills. “What we’re hoping is that they stay and complete the associate’s degree because it makes them more well-rounded so they can go into more managerial and administrative positions,” said Carroll. Abbott said the program is aimed at those students who are thinking of going into management or supervision within a manufacturing industry. “You’re not just a welder, you also have this complement of skills that are really needed for manufacturing today,” she said. “The associate degree is really aimed at developing a further leadership skill set and manufacturing skill set.”
This is a great example of higher education and skilled trades working together to provide continuity between cultures. The result will be prosperity for our co-supported students. They now have the ability to grow with their education rather than be limited by it. Our region made a huge step forward with this initiative and our residents will quickly realize the value and benefit from this collaboration.
— Tom Moran, Industrial Arts Institute
The Associate of Applied Science in Welding is 60 credit hours. Students will complete the general education and a part of technical skills coursework at North Central. The remaining technical skills coursework, including welding, blueprint reading, and machining will be completed at the Industrial Arts Institute, Inc (IAI). “That basic welding class really assists them in making sure they are prepared and have some foundational welding training before they get into the second semester,” Abbott said. Tammy Ward, the operations and student services manager at the Industrial Arts Institute, notes that this program allows a student to enroll into an associates of welding program through the college and receive their basic welding and comprehensive industrial welding courses in order to complete their associate of applied sciences degree at North Central.
Abbott added that there are “endless” opportunities for someone who wants to enter the manufacturing field. “There’s no question that our employers are going to start moving into employees aging out in the areas of tool and die, maintenance and facilities management, welding, fabrication and machinery,” she said. “Our area companies who are in the manufacturing industry are struggling with a talent gap and the aging of their current employees. It’s kind of a double hit.” Between student services at North Central and student services at the institute, Abbott said any questions are welcome. “If they have financial needs, both of our groups are positioned to answer their questions,” she affirmed. For more information, contact Carroll at (231) 348-6619 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.