A Surry Community College welding student snagged second place at an American Welding Society competition that was held at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in May.
Zachary Sumner of Hillsville, Virginia, placed second in the competition, which graded welding students on each competitor’s ability to fabricate a project from a provided print, along with judging on quality of welding. Wyatt Brown of Madison also participated in the competition and earned seventh place.
According to the college’s lead welding instructor Mike Dixon the welding competition included 19 competitors from across the state of North Carolina. Both Surry students took home new grinders, among other equipment, as prizes for their finishes in the competition.
Dixon said that Sumner and Brown are a product of a revamped welding program at the college. Dixon said that when he arrived at the school in 2013, the department undertook a massive renovation and restructuring program that was funded mainly through a Department of Labor grant.
Dixon said the building that houses the welding classes at Surry Community College was once home to a number of programs including carpentry and automotive. When Dixon arrived at the school he saw a need for renovations in order to make the welding department more conducive to learning and safe for students.
He said that basically everything is new. After gutting the building, students installed 26 new welding stations in the facility, each with its own welder. Dixon says he can now look down the line of stalls containing welders and see all his students working. He also said a new band saw cuts down-time in between projects, making cuts in one minute compared to five minutes on the facility’s old machine.
According to Dixon students who graduate from the welding program have bright futures when it comes to opportunities in the workforce. Dixon said the vast majority of students can be hired directly into the workforce locally after completing the college’s welding diploma program.
Dixon said that local opportunities for welding graduates range from $13 to $22 per hour. He added that local companies such as Ottenweller Metal Fabricators in Mount Airy often hire Surry Community College’s graduates. Additionally, Dixon says students can make more money if they are willing to travel. He said work such as “pipeline” work often pays in excess of $25 per hour.
Dixon said the college will soon be expanding the program, accommodating another 16 students or so. Currently the school offers two sections of welding, consisting of about 16 students per section. However, Dixon said that beginning next fall the program will offer a third section.
According to Dixon students like Sumner and Brown leave his program prepped for the workforce and ready to head into the world, having learned every aspect of the trade necessary to find meaningful employment.