CSI holds first pilot program for welders

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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - The College of Southern Idaho is one of two colleges in the state holding a pilot program for welders to get ahead in their college career and out into the workforce.

"It's an eight week, intensive summer training program. It's pretty cool," said student Stetson Albertson.

He is one of seven training at CSI.

Clay Wilkie, the welding instructor, said the state wanted to start a pilot program. The other college involved is the College of Western Idaho, based in Nampa.

"They got the first semester of our program in high school. They had to pass a few tests," Wilkie said.

Those tests included the technical skills assessment and the postsecondary assessment. The students received 10 credit hours for college then.

"They're getting their second semester now," Wilkie said.

After the summer program, the students will be done with a whole year of the welding program.

"We come into school where the 2018 class would be freshman, we'd already be sophomores, so then we'd graduate next May with an associates," said student Kalib Taylor.

Taylor said he got into welding after seeing his dad doing it on the farm.

"I grew up in a little town and everyone farmed and you have to weld on a farm, because if something breaks, you can't just go into town," he continued. "So you got to weld it back together, and I thought it was really fascinating."

Albertson said he wanted to give welding a try after seeing his uncle doing it.

"I wanted to give it a try and I was OK at it at first, and I just fell in love with it ever since," he said.

He said it just seemed like a good opportunity.

"If we qualified, everything was paid for for this eight weeks. The only thing I have to pay for right now is food," Albertson said.

The Welding Summer Bridge program was developed by Idaho Career and Technical Education and has 14 students total, seven at CSI and seven at CWI.

"They're skipping a year in the program by just entering in and enter in the fall. So they'll only have one more year of the program to go," Wilkie said.

He said they are looking at how they can make the program sustainable.

"Right now, the state of Idaho is funding this, but we've got some things in the works that maybe we can find other funding sources for this," he said.

Wilkie said the students in his program are doing really well.

"I haven't found one area that they're really lacking. Their teachers have them very well prepared," he said.

If this program does well, ICTE could have other programs for trade jobs.

"If it's a success here, then they're going to look at automotive and other trades to see if they can get these kids out into the workforce faster," he said.

Wilkie said according to the American Welding Society, the average age of a welder is 58 years old.

"When they do retire, right now, we don't have enough welders to go around," he said.

He said trades are a "great place for people in America right now."

"This position isn't unique to welding. All the trades cross the board need people and you can make a really good living," he said.

Wilkie said if a high school student is interested in a program like this, the student should talk to their teachers or a local college for programs.

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