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Business North - The Daily Briefing - Business Newspaper Online
WITC holiday program tackles welder shortage, recidivism
PHOTO: Vern Channell gets some welding practice at the WITC boot camp.
A partnership between area employers, educators and the corrections system is helping to alleviate the shortage of skilled welders and to help convicted persons turn their lives around.
During the holiday break, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Superior is offering an intense accelerated welding program to address those needs. It allows participants to learn new skills to change their lives and become productive citizens, campus officials say. Although the program only spans three weeks, “We can determine if students have good potential,” said welding instructor Dan Wilkinson of the New Richmond WITC campus.
The 14 students currently are on probation, parole or incarcerated at the Gordon Correctional Facility. They are pre-screened, said Charlie Glazman, WITC’s associate dean of Continuing Education. Those who are selected, Wilkinson said, must attend on time, come to work prepared, work cooperatively and adapt to to change.
“If they’re late even once, violate shop rules or use foul language, they’re out of the program,” Wilkinson said. During class, they learn about shielded metal arc welding, print reading and cutting operations.
Most are anxious to participate, and 49 percent of the past 59 participants have found work as welders or general laborors.
“This is one of the most successful programs in the state,” Grazman said.
Before the class begins, WITC finds an employer that is willing to give the participants on-the-job trial employment. It serves two purposes, Wilkinson said. Workers learn what the welding profession is all about, and companies gain access to persons who are anxious to work and willing to get additional training.
“Not all of them immediately get jobs in welding, but this allow them to get their foot in the door,” Glazman said. “People with a good, productive job make better choices as they do not want to be incarcerated.”
This is the fifth year the program has been offered. Sponsors include the Wisconsin lndianhead Technical College, in partnership with the Northwest Wisconsin Community Employment Program, Inc. and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections Employment Program
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