Porter and Chester launch welding program in New London

New London ― Porter and Chester Institute is launching a new welding program on January 9 in New London, allowing students to enroll in a day or evening class and graduate in 10 months.

Classes will be held at 351 North Frontage Road and students have a choice of three sections with classes from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, during this Thursday through Saturday period, or in the evenings.

“There are plenty of opportunities for students, from the automotive side to the structural side, to the marine trades,” said program coordinator and lead instructor Peter Barber, who previously spent 30 years with Norwich Public Utilities. He added that there are carpenter-welders who work with pile drivers, pipe-welders working in nuclear power plants and boiler-maker welders.

“Obviously in our area we’re building submarines, rebuilding bridges, doing all kinds of commercial (work),” Barber said, and he underscored the importance of welders to the aerospace industry.

Porter and Chester opened their new London campus in 2018 following the sudden closure of the Ridley-Lowell Business & Technical Institute. Welding will join New London’s existing programs in Electrical Technology, Plumbing, Computer Aided Drafting and Design, Computer and Network Technology, Dental Assisting and Medical Assisting.

Barber said each section can accommodate up to 20 students and the program would typically enroll new students every 10 weeks.

The program will teach shielded arc welding (SMAW), gas arc welding (GMAW), gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) and flux cored arc welding ( FCAW). Barber said the first three types are also known as stick welding, MIG welding and TIG welding respectively.

“When the students come out, even though they’ll be entry-level welders, they’ll still be pretty well-rounded in their experience,” Barber said.

Another welding program in the area is the Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative, which differs from the Porter and Chester program in that MPI programs last 5 to 10 weeks and are free to enrollees. Asked about the differences, Barber also indicated that the MPI is more suited to what specific employers are looking for.

“I don’t mean we won’t do it at all, but that’s not the original game plan,” Barber said. “The initial game plan for us is to create well-rounded welders who can go just about anywhere as an entry-level welder,” whether at EB or in more TIG-oriented work in aerospace.

Those interested in learning more can visit porterchester.edu/career-programs/welding or call (888) 983-3851. Barber was unaware of the tuition, and campus operations and education director Kim Aylett said people can contact the school for cost information. Financial assistance is available for those who qualify.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts about 47,600 openings for welders, cutters, welders and brazers each year through 2031, a growth rate of 2% that is slower than the average for all occupations.

But BLS data shows that in May 2021, the median hourly wage for this field was $29.82 in the Norwich-New London-Westerly area, compared to $23.79 statewide and $22.60 $ nationwide.


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