SCHNECKSVILLE, Pa. | Rather than reach for scissors, Jordan Everett fired up an acetylene torch Wednesday afternoon during the ribbon cutting for Lehigh Career & Technical Institute’s new Welding Technology Center.
The 18-year-old sent sparks flying as he made quick work of a ceremonial ribbon, drawing applause from more than 100 people gathered for the grand opening celebration.
A host of state and local officials joined school staff and students for the event, which featured remarks from Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Don Cunningham and American Welding Society District 3 Director Sean Moran. LCTI Executive Director Thomas J. Rushton, Director of Career & Technical Education Kurt Adam and Joint Operating Committee Chairperson Gary Fedorcha also spoke during the afternoon ceremony.
Cunningham praised LCTI’s administrators, as well as the education and industry leaders who’ve supported their years-long effort to expand LCTI’s Welding Technology program by building the new center.
“You’ve more than doubled your capacity to turn out welders, and that’s a good thing because just in the last three years in the Lehigh Valley, we’ve had a demand for 275 more welders, primarily due to retirements,” he said. “Today, 38 percent of the welders working in the Lehigh Valley are now under the age of 35, which is extraordinary. We are replenishing our skilled workforce with young talent.”
Moran pointed out that demand for welders is on the rise nationwide. “By 2023, we see a need for 375,000 additional welders in the workforce. That’s a bunch. And how do we meet that need? We do it through schools like this,” he said.
Everett, a Southern Lehigh High School senior in LCTI’s Welding Technology program, was among students who hoisted shovels at a March 14 groundbreaking ceremony for the center. It’s been exciting to watch the $4.25-million school addition take shape since then, he said.
With 10,000 square feet of instructional space and another 2,000 square feet devoted to storage, the center is twice the size of LCTI’s old program lab and packed with cutting-edge equipment purchased, in part, with a $50,000 Pennsylvania Department of Education grant. The new equipment includes a Lincoln Electric virtual reality welding trainer, a Machitech Automation CNC plasma cutting table, Miller welders, Henlex capture arms and much more.
“It’s fantastic to see all of the state-of-the-art equipment that we’re surrounded by,” said Everett, who works part-time at Schlosser Steel in Hatfield, Pennsylvania through LCTI’s cooperative education program.
The center has 40 welding booths and 10 work stations, so 50 students can weld simultaneously. All the booths are outfitted for shielded metal, gas metal, flux cored and gas tungsten arc welding. Each station is designed for a different welding process, from oxyfuel gas cutting to plasma arc cutting.