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Teachers Update Training at College-Hosted Welding Workshop

Pennsylvania College of Technology is hosting a Welding Workshop this week to help the state’s teachers better prepare high-school students for the demands of higher education and today’s workforce.

“This program allows us to make available state-of-the-art technology for high-school teachers, and it allows us to work closely with industrial leaders in the field of welding,” said Dr. Lawrence J. Fryda, dean of industrial and engineering technologies at Penn College.

With ever-changing technology and ever-increasing competition from overseas companies, U.S. manufacturers must strive to be the best when it comes to safety, quality and productivity, according to Dennis Klingman, manager of technical training for Lincoln Electric Co.’s Welding Technology Center in Cleveland and chairman of the American Welding Society, Education Committee.

“The standards of industry today are much higher,” he said. “The welding industry is safer than in history, so you have to know more about what you’re doing. You have to know electrical safety, welding safety and fume control. You have to know more about equipment processes and material. Every part of welding requires more knowledge.”

For that reason, Lincoln Electric and the state Department of Education’s Bureau of Career and Technical Education partnered with the College to host the weeklong workshop to train high-school welding teachers and agricultural advisers.

The state organizes the program, Penn College hosts the program, and Lincoln Electric, which manufactures welding equipment, brings the program to central Pennsylvania, providing equipment, education materials and instructors. Lincoln Electric regularly hosts training sessions in Cleveland, but the Penn College workshop provides better access for Pennsylvania’s teachers.

“Penn College has excellent facilities here,” said Christopher Weller, agriculture education adviser for the state Bureau of Career and Technical Education. He said the state considered holding the event at a career technical center, but those facilities are not set up to handle the volume of work that would be done during the workshop. “It takes a lot of power and ventilation.”

Weller said that, with more general education requirements in colleges, “It seems teachers are not getting the technical, hands-on training. We want to bolster their technical training and support.”

The state pays 80 percent of the cost for the teachers to participate. The teachers pay a $75 registration fee.

In addition to having teachers with adequate hands-on experience, high-school programs should teach students current technology, Klingman said.

“That’s a gap we’re trying to close,” he said. “When students get to college or a new job, they should feel comfortable with the technology they’ll be using. Schools used to be able to train their students on older equipment, and the students could figure out the differences when they got to the job. That’s not so today.”

Now, welding equipment is digitized, with processes programmed into a computer. Welders no longer turn knobs to change settings.

“If you don’t know how to set the settings, you will have a difficult time passing tests, getting certified and getting a job,” Klingman said.

He said today’s welders have a double burden. Not only must they know how to be excellent welders, but they also have to learn to program a robot or other piece of equipment to do the work they would have done.

The advantage is that engineers in Cleveland can develop solutions to welding challenges and send them electronically to a plant in another part of the country, and, instead of two to three inspectors standing over a welder, information about the welder’s work is sent live from the equipment’s computer to the quality-assurance department.

“Quality expectations today are much greater,” Klingman said. “With our labor rate, if we are not the safest, highest quality and most efficient, work will go elsewhere. Today, continuing education is not an option. For workers to enter the workforce, it’s absolutely essential that they’ve had quality training. Employers expect people to invest in their education. They need people who are willing to work with their hands and think, as well.”

He praised Penn College’s Welding program, which includes a Welding and Fabrication Engineering Technology bachelor’s degree, a Welding Technology associate’s degree and a Welding certificate.

“Penn College has an excellent, excellent Welding program,” he said.

Klingman added: “You have to have had a good education in high school. The norm 10 years ago is not the norm today. You can’t come out of high school and not have applied yourself.”

He said that is why it’s exciting for him to work with high-school teachers, who can influence students at a young age and make them aware of workplace expectations. During the workshop, Klingman expected to take time with the teachers to show the connection between welding and academic standards.

“Math is a major player. Physics, chemistry, reading and verbal communication are all major players,” Klingman said.

The program is open to 20 teachers. This is the second year the state has offered the program, and it will likely continue on a two- to three-year cycle, Weller said. Participating teachers will receive continuing education credits from the state Department of Education.

“It allows faculty from across the state to come and experience our facilities,” said Donald O. Praster, assistant dean of industrial and engineering technologies. “(They), in turn, can return to their respective schools and assist us in our recruiting efforts.”

Since the equipment used in the workshop no longer can be sold as new, even if it was only used for 15 minutes, the participating schools will have the chance to purchase the machinery from Lincoln Electric for about 60 percent of what it would cost new. In the past, Penn College has bought welding equipment used in the workshop.

Klingman explained the benefit to Lincoln Electric: “If the welding industry grows, we’ll grow with it. If it shrinks, our business will shrink. It’s helping to keep the welding industry competitive. Instructors are an integral part of that.”

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