WCCS a gem in community

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The issue: Wallace Community College Selma leads the way in many efforts.

Our position: We have a gem in the community and should realize it.

The most recent news out of Wallace Community College is good news. The two-year school has earned a couple of grants from the state Department of Postsecondary Education.

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One of the grants is $288,890 for expanding the welding program on campus. Right now, 100 people are on the waiting list. This grant would allow the school to accommodate nearly three times the number of students who want to learn the trade.

Wallace is performing an important service by training welders. Some employers provide training, but the U.S. Department of Labor says most prefer to hire workers who already have experience or formal training. This isn’t just about how to operate machinery, but important courses go into this training, such as blueprint reading, shop mathematics, mechanical drawing, physics, chemistry and metallurgy.

A knowledge of computers is nearly imperative, especially to function in the most modern settings, such as ThyssenKrupp or Honda or any other automobile manufacturer.

Welders can advance to more skilled jobs with additional training. Some experienced welders open their own repair shops. Others obtain bachelor’s degrees and become welding engineers.

The job market is outstanding, especially here in South Alabama with so much construction and the opportunities at the steel plant further south of our region. The Labor Department says welding, soldering and brazing workers are expected to have excellent job opportunities because some employers just can’t find those skilled enough. In 2006, the last date for which the Labor Department has figures, about two of every three welding jobs were found in manufacturing.

And, a welder can make a living. The median, or middle, wage-and-salary earnings in motor vehicle parts manufacturing, the industry that employs welders in the highest numbers, were $17.75 an hour in 2006. The top 10 percent of welders in the country earned $22.50 during the same year.

Welding is only one example of how WCCS is helping train and retrain people to take their position in society.

Under the leadership of Dr. James Mitchell, WCCS is taking part in a regional attempt to ensure workers in the Black Belts of West Alabama and East Mississippi have verifiable skills to offer employers. Mitchell is president of this WAEM Alliance of community and junior colleges.

This effort compliments the training that goes on at community colleges by ensuring the job market that the people who come out of these schools have the skills and can pass the assessments to function in the manufacturing world that supplies a global economy.

We are fortunate to have WCCS in our community. We should support it in all endeavors.