Sparks fly as PCC, Union Pacific officially open mobile welding trailer
Story by James Hill. Photos by Ric Getter and James Hill.
On Tuesday, Oct. 17, Portland Community College, the PCC Foundation and Union Pacific cut the chain on a new future for the college’s welding training.
The new Mobile Welding Outreach & Skills Training Center was unveiled at the Swan Island Trades Center in North Portland. Surrounded by guests and dignitaries, welding graduate Keyonna Williams used her torch to cut the ceremonial chain to mark the occasion. This followed key remarks from PCC President Adrien Bennings; Associate Vice President of Sales Operations & Dental at The Standard Jans Dykhouse (Foundation board vice president); and Union Pacific Senior Director of Public Affairs Aaron Hunt.
The mobile center was made possible due to an initial investment of $375,000 over three years by Union Pacific to outfit the trailer and launch the program. Funding from a Future Ready Oregon grant covered the cost of the tractor, and longtime welding partner Vigor Industrial is providing a storage and staging area, along with equipment and materials, for the trailer and its tractor.
Swan Island Bolsters Maritime Welding
Portland Community College’s Maritime Welding Training Center is a long-time partnership with Vigor Industrial and is situated at the Swan Island shipyards. As a result of its location, the facility provides a steady stream of trained and qualified workers to companies like Vigor.
In the past year, 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. With a dedication to equity (last year’s cohort was 50% female), the program is a great option for all students wanting careers in manufacturing.
More than 20 institutions across the country have similar welding trailers for their training outreach, including Pueblo Community College, Northwood Technical, Colorado Mesa, Red River College, and others.
“This innovative project is designed to extend the reach of PCC’s skilled trades training programs by bringing the classroom to communities across our region,” said Bennings. “Welding training provides individuals with the opportunity to secure their future in high-demand jobs that pay a living wage. Portland Community College’s welding program is at the forefront of this transformative journey.”
This mobile center brings PCC’s skilled trades training programs to the student by visiting communities across the region, while building a more robust workforce pipeline for Oregon’s leading industries and companies, including Union Pacific. PCC faculty can provide training on-site across the region at community based organizations, schools, Tribal lands, and correctional facilities. The first round of visits will be to the Hillsboro School District.
With six booths, the mobile center can serve up to six students at a time. However, staff can stagger groups where they can serve up to 15-20 students. This training allows them to focus on passing a specific weld test, or they can focus on earning a Career Pathway Certificate. And, the training the students receive will provide a solid foundation for them to transition into an associate degree path.
Why welding? In the manufacturing industry, there is a lack of qualified workers from which companies like Union Pacific can recruit from. With an aging workforce, there is an overwhelming shortage of welders and employment prospects in the Portland area are strong as a result. The Oregon Employment Department forecasts more than 250 welding job openings per year through 2027.
“The only way we can do what we need to do as Union Pacific Railroad is to have a highly trained workforce,” Hunt added. “And, that’s where this partnership really makes sense because PCC can give us the highly trained trades workforce that we need to move our business into the future.”
One of the key benefits of welding training is that students can position themselves for lucrative career opportunities and job security in a diverse array of industries that depend on welding for their operations. Many trades use welding skills like sheet metal workers, ironworkers, boilermakers, carpenters, steamfitters, glaziers and repair and maintenance personnel in applications ranging from the home hobbyist to heavy fabrication of bridges, ships and many other projects.
The PCC Welding Program offers flexible scheduling with an open-entry/open-exit, self-paced format that fits the needs of the students. This allows them to register for full or part-time instruction by using the college weld shop. PCC offers welding classes at the Rock Creek Campus in Washington County, OMIC Training Center in Scappoose and the 4,000-square-foot Swan Island Maritime Welding Center in North Portland.
“The PCC Foundation is committed to removing barriers to education through the power of partnerships,” said Associate Vice President of Sales Operations & Dental at The Standard Jans Dykhouse, who serves as the Foundation’s board vice president. “It’s these partnerships that are critical to ensure everyone in the community has the access and the support to pursue their educational and professional dreams.”