Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Swan Island bolsters maritime welding pathway certificates, attracting more women

Story & Photos by PCC's Public Relations Office.

Portland Community College’s Maritime Welding Training Center, a partnership with Vigor Industrial, sits within earshot of the Swan Island shipyards. As a result of its location and recent collaboration, the facility is providing a steady stream of trained and qualified workers to companies like Vigor.

Welding faculty have created two new Career Pathway Certificates that tie into the skills that businesses want. The three-class, 12-credit certificates – maritime welding and maritime ship fitting – allow students to move into the workforce early if needed and emphasize desired maritime applications like butt and socket welds, fabricating spools, straight runs off sets, and more.

“We made sure we captured all of the attributes of what the students will need to be successful out on the job,” said Matt Scott, welding instructor. “Both certificates complete the welder certification training. The students can then basically walk from the shop here across the street and become gainfully employed after they pass their weld test.”

Welding students.
2022 PCC Bond Measure

PCC will be on the November 8, 2022, ballot. If passed, the $450 million bond measure is estimated to maintain current tax rates for local homeowners. The bond would …

  • Update technology and equipment to provide students with modern higher education and job training opportunities. Upgrade classrooms and technology to provide more options for hybrid learning so students have the flexibility to balance school with transportation challenges, job schedules and family responsibilities.
  • Expand access to education for people living with disabilities. Increase facility life span and efficiency through heating and cooling upgrades, and updated ventilation, plumbing and electrical.
  • The college will pay off a bond debt in 2023, which provides the opportunity for PCC to go out for a new bond. The rate taxpayers pay would stay at $0.38 per thousand dollars of assessed home value. The bond will mature in approximately 16 years. (This is the date when the borrower repays the principal amount and interest). The taxpayer cost would be $95 per year or $7.92 per month for property with an asse- ssed value of $250,000. Assessed value is generally lower than market value.  

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Scott said more pathways are on the way, including certificates in pipe welding and pipe fitting. The goal for all of the certifications is to have students move through the training quickly and find employment with great wages.

The Maritime Welding Training Center is a 4,000-square-foot facility that was built to provide Vigor, which is the region’s leading company centered on shipbuilding, ship repair, ship conversion and complex industrial fabrication, plenty of qualified ship welders. In 2008, Vigor and PCC joined forces to open the Swan Island Training Center to help meet this demand. Skilled welders are a key labor component for manufacturing companies and, locally, there is a shortage.

“Students have the opportunity to go from being green to being able to weld test in a very short amount of time,” said Maritime Welding Technician Louis Delegato. “Being immersed in the environment and processes and seeing all of the work happening around them, it really acclimates the students to the whole industry pretty quickly.”

Faculty Todd Barnett said the shop has 42 booths but is operating at one-third capacity due to pandemic restrictions. However, these rules will soon be relaxed and the program will ramp up and accept more students to be near capacity.

“There is a huge demand for trained workers. There is an overabundant need,” added Barnett, who works with second-chance individuals.

To complement the tailored training and reach new populations that have been typically under-represented in welding, the Maritime Welding Pathway is diversifying its student cohorts – 27% identify as female or non-binary while the latest welding cohort is composed of 50% women. For example, Alex Cuevas and Keyonna Williams (pictured) are working on earning their flux-cored arc welding career pathway certificates. Cuevas wants to train quickly and transition into the workforce while Williams is searching for an apprenticeship, possibly with a union.

Years ago, Williams’ grandfather opened a welding school in Toledo, Oregon where she got hooked on the trade.

“I love it,” she said. “Honestly, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my career path before this but as soon as I started welding, I knew right away I wanted to do it.”

Cuevas said the PCC program is a great way to get into the welding profession and explore the myriad of jobs associated with it.

“I’ve always been curious about the trades but I had no clue about how to get into them,” Cuevas said. “It seemed like a really good opportunity and is a great field to get into, especially right now. I think Portland needs a lot of revitalization so I decided to jump in. 

“I think it’s extremely important for women because I think a lot of us don’t know how to jump into the field,” she continued. “Having this program makes it super accessible and is user-friendly. You have people working with you at every step of the way to help you in the process. I love this program and am glad it’s here.”

For more details on the program’s certificates, visit https://www.pcc.edu/maritime-welding/, or apply to PCC to register for classes at https://www.pcc.edu/enroll/

And for more details on what was built with past PCC bonds, visit www.pcc.edu/bond/