By Merissa Anderson
The Hutchinson Community College Welding Technology Program is making strides to provide students with the best welding education possible to prepare them for their careers in an ever-growing industry.
The program, either a one-year or two-year depending on a student’s preference, is coordinated and instructed by Greg Siepert, who is in his ninth year of teaching at HutchCC.
“If a student chooses a one-year certificate, then they may start with no or little background so from day one they come in a they work through the processes,” Siepert said. “They will spend eight weeks in gas-metal-arc welding, eight weeks in gas-tungsten-arc welding, and eight weeks in shielded arc welding, and then they spend eight weeks in what we call cutting processes.”
During their time in the program, as they learn the different types of welds, the students will create their welds and then test the strength and quality by the ‘bend’ test.
The bend test uses a high power machine to subject the welded metal to a set amount of pressure that the weld must stand up to.
These four sections of the first-year welding program will allow the student to graduate their Cert A, which is the first round of certification for being a welder but is not an associate’s degree.
In order to receive an Associate in Applied Sciences with Welding Technology, the student must take a second year of classes, as explained by second year welding student, Ty Stallbaumer.
Finding a Career
“I graduated in May of 2017 with my Cert A in Welding Technology, so 24 credit hours,” Stallbaumer said. “If you come to Hutch and get the associate, then more than likely you’re going to get promoted over the other guy. Hutch is set up to where you can do one year and be out if you want, but I recommend the two-year program.”
Stallbaumer’s interest in welding began in high school when he would repair the welds on chairs and desks that would break throughout the school year. He later got a job with a commercial mechanical company where he did smaller welding projects before he was fully certified.
“All the people I know are going for bachelor’s degrees, and there’s no jobs for them but there’s jobs for us,” Stallbaumer said.
Additionally, over the summer before entering his second year of the welding program he worked with Tulsa Oilery, where he worked 60 hours a week with 20 hours overtime and hopes to land a future career with them.
“My friends seeking bachelor degrees say it’s not fair but the tides have turned,” Stallbaumer said. “Everybody used to go to school and get a degree and now everybody is so educated that they don’t have the jobs for them and they need technical programs like ours.”
Siepert also mentioned how every welding program in Kansas is constantly searching for more students interested in welding due the need for welders in the industry.
“The welding industry as a whole is growing big time,” Siepert said. “There are a lot of careers available in welding, because there are a lot of manufacturing that is happening. Any of the skill trades, not just welding, are running out of people to fill the jobs because the baby boomer population is retiring.”
If the students are willing to move for the career, then they are almost certain to find a well-paying welding job after graduation.
“Every student that I had that graduated last May left with a job,” Siepert said.
Its own little island
The welding building, although located on main campus, is sometimes overlooked by those not familiar with the program which is situated between Shears Technology Center and the Dragon’s Landing Apartments.
Although the welding building is only a few feet from STC, Siepert encourages students to look into a few welding classes.
Although there is not a hobby welding class yet, there are several evening classes available to those not necessarily seeking a full welding degree but would like to learn a certain welding process.
In the future, Siepert would like to see more emphasis on specific types of welding in addition to the comprehensive program that is now being used.
“We pride ourselves in being a comprehensive program because a student graduating from here can be successful in multiple facets of the welding industry,” Siepert said. “Some schools have a focus in maybe pipe welding or other specialized welds but we can’t teach it all or else the program would be ten years long.”
Although the program may not be able to focus on every type of specific welding career option, Siepert makes an effort to ensure that his students have the opportunity to still learn about the different facets though former student guest speakers.
“Russell Starks is a previous student of mine and he graduated in 2013,” Siepert said. “He benefited the students by demonstrating propane tank welding. It’s a little bit of a niche market and it was a good exposure to show students another process that uses shielded metal arc welding.”
Starks walked the students through the whole 10-hour process last Wednesday and showed them the need for being a quality operator when using a cutting torch, and introduced them to an inspection process to analyze the quality of welds.
“It gave them a different perspective and it really benefited the students,” Siepert said.
Even if not interested in a full welding certificate or degree, Siepert encourages people to get involved with the program.
“Come in and learn more,” Siepert said. “Everything we do affects everything in the whole world truthfully, from bridges to ag equipment to to the machinery that makes plastic bottles, it’s all affected by welding.”