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Welding program at Augusta Tech thriving as trade jobs keep growing

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, June 7, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Wannabe welders at Augusta Tech fuse metal to metal at a blinding 3000 degrees. But for those soon-to-be graduates, there's something else exploding -- available jobs.

"We get jobs for students," said Jim Price.

It's as close to a guarantee as you'll ever get. Program instructors preach a near-100 percent job placement rate for graduates. Their waiting list for the day program is 109 students long.

"Iron Man," remembers 27-year old Matthew Moberg. "He's in the shop making the suit when he's been captured, and he's gotta weld all the pieces together."

Hollywood sparked a desire in Moberg, who had good grades in the computer science program at Augusta State before electing to make the move to welding at Augusta Tech.

"There's so many people in that field," he said. "You get out, you can't even find a job. Welding, everybody needs welders."

Including major employers right here at home.

"Plant Vogtle, SRS, Fort Gordon," said welding instructor Thomas Lyles. "Advanced Industries, TTX, Augusta Iron and Steel, Modern Welding, (Club Car). We're surrounded with industry than needs welders.

And that goes for other trade jobs as well. Electricians and HVAC have become hot jobs in a cool economy.

"The jobs are out there, but the jobs are trade jobs right now," adds Price. "With Vogtle (reactors) three and four coming online, they realize they're going to need tradesmen to fill the void of their many retiring people."

Instructors say unionized welders can get $29 an hour locally. Students are going that direction too. 45 percent of student loan debt comes from trade school students.

Energy experts predict the trade jobs will stay popular until 2017-2018. Augusta Tech is about to open a fourth welding program, this time in Grovetown. Today, the program got a $400,000 donation from a parent company of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions for more training.

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