Welding receives $1 million

Industrial Technology Instructor Anthony Blakeney performs a shielded metal arc wielding demonstration for his class. With the donation to the university’s welding program, Blakeney and other welding instructors hope to teach the craft of welding to the next generation of welders. Jonathan Rhodes/The Lion’s Roar

The university’s industrial technology program has received a $1 million donation from CEO and co-founder of Performance Contractors Art Favre as part of a partnership to establish a welding inspection and supervision concentration for students interested in the field of welding.

Industrial Technology instructor Anthony Blakeney explained how the relationship with Performance Contractors came to be.

“I have known Art Favre through the American Welding Society,” said Blakeney. “In talking with Jerome Mabile and another industry partner George Fairbanks, and others have been talking to me during my 18 years as a teacher, telling me that, ‘We need to create a welding program because there is no program out there, and it is such a huge need.’ So, talking with these people in the last 18 years, I have changed the coursework to match what they needed. Our field, our industry partners desperately want to help and teach these students. That is what we have done here. That is what we are trying to create here.”

Blakeney is constantly trying to get donations to the program so students can get the best education on welding supervision and inspection that they can.

“The whole thing we try to do within the department of industrial technology is work directly with our industry partners,” said Blakeney. “We have an industrial advisers committee, and we listen to them. We have the donation from Mr. Favre. I have a meeting next week with another industry partner. This $1 million donation was just the first big donation. I get any metals that we need and any consumables that we need.”

One of the courses being provided under the new concentration to help students become successful in the welding industry is the Certified Welding Inspector program.

“The CWI is one of the top certifications that you can get in welding,” said Blakeney. “We are teaching the course specifically to that test. So, if students go out and graduate, they can take that test, and they should be able to pass it. It also is centered around the CWS program, which is the Certified Welding Supervisor program. It’s another certification exam that once students graduate they can take the test. We have had several students over the last five or six years who have gone through the improved welding course that follows the CWI exam, and within one year of working, they are making six figures because they have taken the CWI exam and passed it.”  

The welding industry is in a transition from one generation to the current one. Blakeney hopes that the university will be a source for this generation to learn their craft.

“In the United States, there is a shortage of over 200,000 welders,” said Blakeney. “Most of the welders and really across the world are in their late 50s. They are all retiring. There is no one to take their place. But along with the welders, you got managers, supervisors and quality control experts above them that are retiring as well. So, how is this going to affect our students? They now have the opportunity to jump into a program that is about to blow wide open.”

Blakeney believes that while welding is not the most popular profession in the world, it is without a doubt one of the most important professions because of what is created through welding.

“The air condition that is there when you walk in a room, a welder touched that,” said Blakeney. “The machine that made the clothes you wear, a welder made it. The food you eat is touched by a welder at some point. So if someone says that it is not something that is critical to somebody in the university or if they say, ‘Welding is dirty,’ don’t discredit what a welder does because your life is completely intertwined within the life of a welder.”