GRAYSON, KY (WOWK) — A local community and technical college in Kentucky just unveiled a brand new, state-of-the-art facility for an important program in our region.
“The plasma’s, easier to work with, that ain’t the hand torch and all that. The metal grinders we have are easier to work with, so everything’s just kind of a step above,” says Thomas Wheeler, welding instructor at Ashland Community and Technical College (ACTC).
The welding lab at ACTC just got an upgrade. The program there has made quite a name for itself over the years.
“Our welding program has actually been here at this particular facility for over 20 years but it is one of the premier programs in the nation and last year we received an award as being the third-best welding program in the nation,” says Larry Ferguson, president of ACTC, “Demand for welders is really insatiable from our construction fields and also the metal fabrication, and our students can come out earning anywhere from $45-$60 thousand dollars immediately after graduating from the program.”
That’s why ACTC is investing a chunk of change in this program.
“The investment was actually three-quarters of a million dollars and that was just doing a new innovation and what that really meant if you turn around and look we have all new welders, we have the most welding booths of any college within the KCTCS system within Kentucky-—that’s 42—and on the outside of the building you’ll see we have a state-of-the-art ventilation system which is critical of course for a welding program,” Ferguson says.
Ferguson says they are the largest program within the area, and they serve companies in Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky among others.
Welding instructors with the program say having the new facility will help equip students with the skills they need for a promising career.
“We’re changing lives! I’ve got ladies that used to work at Walmart that are now out welding, men that used to work in little supermarkets or something, they’re out welding making a career and a living, and that does something in here for me that I can give somebody the opportunity to have a family, to start a family, get a house, you know what I’m sayin’?” Wheeler says.
Around 100 students at ACTC are learning to weld on the college’s newest investment this semester.