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Welding Educational Pipeline

Kilgore Economic Development Corporation is contributing to an educational pipeline for the metal fabrication industry in Kilgore by investing in the area’s welding workforce in two important ways.
 
Kilgore College Dual Credit Welding Course
Kilgore EDC contributed  $80,000 to buy state-of-the-art equipment at the new dual-credit welding facility in Kilgore High School.   'Our board feels that a well-educated and skilled workforce is one of the most important ingredients of an economic development program,' KEDC President Pat Nault said. 'An educational pipeline is important for an economy.'
 
 
Commissioner for Employers Ruth R. Hughs of the Texas Workforce Commission presented a Skills Development Fund grant for another $217,000 to Kilgore College to complete the program’s wish list for equipment.  The dual credit program is a natural complement to another KEDC workforce initiative, the Advanced Technology Center.
 
KEDC Advanced Technology Center
It's a common sense solution to improving workers' job skills, elected officials say.
It's the next, logical step, to educators.
It's poised to provide badly-needed, custom-tailored skills, according to local employers.
 
The ATC houses the Kilgore College Advanced Welding Academy, which is expected to be the first of several training initiatives.  Taking input from numerous sources and sectors throughout the community, the facility is set to deliver a customized job training program to prepare workers with the advanced skills needed by the area fabrication industry.  The 24,000 square-foot building is owned by Kilgore EDC and, for now, staffed by Kilgore College instructors in its first, active phase.
 
Watch the 1-minute video:
 
Soon, the training hub will be filled with workers seeking to better their skills and salaries.
 
In a tour of Kilgore College, U.S. Senator John Cornyn echoed the impetus behind the ATC and the AWA.  'This is the common sense answer to how do you improve people’s wages and income,' the former Texas Attorney General said. 'The answer is you help them learn new skills that will result in them earning good salaries.'
 
It's a project of multiple dimensions, says Kilgore College President Bill Holda, addressing ongoing needs and goals at the school while concurrently serving its students, industrial partners and others.  From its initial involvement with the initiative, Holda said, KC sought the next level of job training, specifically for welding but with other options in mind as well.
 
'What I hear is that this availability of a trained workforce is intimately connected with economic development, and growth and economic development is connected to the health of our tax base and diversifying it for the future,' he explained.  'The college has a vested interest in being a partner to help growth the tax base. The region is much stronger when you have a trained workforce.'
 
G.H. 'Bo' Steding is one of the advisory board members for the AWA and is general manager for Drilltools, a Kilgore company that manufactures drilling and excavating tools for the civil construction industry.   
 
'We were very interested in the fact that we could help foster a technology training center such as this,' the Drilltools general manager explained. In the planning stages and in its final execution, 'where this originated in our mind and what intrigued us about the concept … is the nature of what we're seeing daily in terms of available labor in East Texas for us, particularly in skilled welding.'
 
Echoing Holda's praise and honest critique of Kilgore College's existing welding programs, Steding agreed students leave that training with essential knowledge of their craft, but not the marketable skills local companies need. It's the same story at other area schools, he added, like Texas State Technical College and Tyler Junior College.
 
'We felt that we had some people that were very close to what we needed but they just weren't there yet. This was, to us, a great place to direct those people and to be able to have a crop to pull from over there.'  It's that investment, Steding said, taking the solid, raw materials of Kilgore College students and other amateur-welders in the area and ensuring the human-commodity finds the best possible use in Kilgore that helped sell him on the idea of the Advanced Technology Center.
 
'That's how this evolved: not to continually try to recruit but basically to try to grow within the community and the area.'