Campus & Community

Welders, industry to benefit from PBSC testing facility

Local welders can now get industry-recognized advanced certifications at Palm Beach State College, which in turn will help local businesses compete and grow.

AWS ATF LogoA longtime leader in welding education, PBSC has been named an Accredited Test Facility for the American Welding Society. As the second college in Florida and only the fifth entity of any kind in the state to achieve ATF status, PBSC has begun to offer advanced AWS certifications in various welding processes. Located on the Lake Worth campus, the ATF serves individual welders, as well as companies employing welders, as the sole source for those certifications in Palm Beach County. Before PBSC became an ATF, the closest facility was in Hollywood, Florida.

The AWS certifications offered include Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) and Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), and only skilled welders are eligible for the testing. A reduced price of $457.41 per test is available until March 31, 2017, a $300 savings. Visit the website for the fall test schedule and more information.

ATF Grand Opening
Associate Dean Rick Reeder and Provost Jean Wihbey cut the ribbon at the grand opening of PBSC’s Accredited Test Facility for advanced welding certifications.

“PBSC’s ATF will directly impact economic development in the county,” said Rick Reeder, associate dean for Trade and Industry programs on the Lake Worth campus.  “There are many instances in industry where lives depend on the structural integrity of a weld, and so there are welding jobs that require welders to have certain kinds of certifications that attest to their ability to do a particular weld. Our business community really needs welders with advanced certifications to stay competitive.”

Everything from shipping containers and cars to the fabrication of steel for buildings requires advanced welding skills. Lucrative contracts may hang in the balance, for example, when companies bid on producing sub-assemblies for major manufacturers, and requirements dictate that all welds be performed by a certified welder.

“The College is proud to serve the welding community with the ability to certify their advanced learning because that gets them into jobs,” said Dr. Jean Wihbey, Lake Worth campus provost and vice president of workforce development. “The AWS certifications get them in front of employers faster and into higher paying positions. It really improves people’s ability to be self-sufficient and have a better quality of life.”

In addition to convenience, the PBSC ATF provides a unique advantage. As part of the fee, the College gives welders four hours of evening practice time to get accustomed to the welding booths and machines. The next evening, the welders return for the four-hour test, in which the specific weld is completed and then judged and stress-tested by a specially trained PBSC instructor. “We do it this way because it is our goal for experienced welders to be successful their first time around,” said Reeder.

Grand Opening
To celebrate this achievement, Palm Beach State hosted a grand opening Sept. 29, inviting local business partners to tour the facility.

Bee Access Staff
The team from Bee Access Products visits PBSC test facility, from left: Nicole Belmonte, customer relations manager; Zackery Wysocki, production assistant; and Charles Sterns, production manager.

“We want to thrive in our community—that’s what our business is about,” said Nicole Belmonte, customer relations manager for Bee Access Products, a West Palm Beach-based manufacturer of scaffolding, rigging and other types of suspended access equipment. She attended the grand opening with colleagues Charles Sterns, production manager, and Zackery Wysocki, production assistant. “We’ve hired PBSC graduates, and our employees go there to better themselves and continue to move up in our business,” she said.

“In our industry, welders have to be certified,” added Sterns. He pointed to Wysocki, a PBSC Welding program graduate, as an example of a rising employee who will go back for the advanced certifications. “We’re expanding our company, and he has a future here.”

Grand opening of ATF Welding Facility
At the grand opening, from left: Sandi Barrett, PBSC program director for Trade and Industry Continuing Education; James Norvell, project manager for East Coast Metal Structures; Rick Reeder, PBSC associate dean for Trade & Industry; and Pat Richie, PBSC dean for Business and Trade & Industry.

James Norvell, project manager for East Coast Metal Structures, the Lantana-based structured steel fabricator, also voiced a commitment to hiring and developing local talent. “We take great pride in bringing on employees using resources such as PBSC that we truly appreciate to help get them trained.”

PBSC became an ATF with the help of a federal grant from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program. Palm Beach State was awarded $1,138,183 of the $12.7 million TAACCCT grant given to a consortium of six colleges in 2013. The Southeastern Economic and Education Leadership Consortium project, led by Pellissippi State Community College, has focused on improving education in advanced manufacturing, with one goal being that each college would become an ATF.

Welding Booths at PBSC
Welding booths at PBSC Accredited Test Facility

The grant has paid for $300,000 in new equipment, faculty training, various accreditation expenses, and the initial reduction in the cost of the tests.

Joshua Magwood, an instructor for the PBSC Welding program has been a certified welder for 14 years and trained to become the AWS Certified Welding Inspector for the ATF. He’ll oversee the judging of the completed tests. “There’s a definite need for this ATF, especially in South Florida. It will be beneficial for the local community, so that they can get training and certifications the right way.”

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