By: Jonathan Baca, Senior Reporter | Photos By: Scott M. Roberts
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The Welding Program prepares students for many different types of careers in all types of industry, said full time Manufacturing Chair and Welding instructor Jim Berry.
Students learn to weld using many different techniques with metals commonly used in industry, and upon graduating should be prepared for entry-level jobs throughout the field, said Berry.
“I think we’re the best program in the state, and one of the best in the country,” said Berry, who has worked in the industry since 1979 and taught welding for four years.
He said that he has seen many graduates pass certification tests; tests that other welders struggle for years to pass.
Graduates of the program find it much easier to find work in the industry after taking the certification program, said Berry.
“It excites me that we’re doing a good job preparing people to actually get a job,” he said.
Hunter Jay, a first-semester welding student, said he entered the program to learn how to weld bicycle frames.
“I heard it had really good teachers. All the equipment is good, and the teachers are nice and help you out a lot,” he said.
The labs, equipment and instructors available to students are some of the things that make the program stand out from others in the state, said Berry.
Two large labs with many welding booths full of some of the best equipment available give students a special edge, he said.
“We keep very up to date on all the equipment that’s used out in industry,” said Berry.
He said he is proud of the instructors in the program because they really care about teaching their students the skills they will need.
Students enrolled in the welding program have consistently won state welding competitions for the last several years, including SkillsUSA, a national competition among students in many different trades and industries, said Berry.
Many students have also gone on to compete and do well in the national competition, he said.
“Our students are always on top, and we win every year,” he said.
Berry said he is also proud of the program’s safety record, which has been very good.
“Obviously we’re out there welding, grinding and cutting, and every term there is some minor cuts, but we haven’t had any bad accidents,” he said
Welding students regularly build valuable things for other departments, said Berry, including new tables for the Plumbing program and the new stainless steel time capsule that was recently installed on the Rio Rancho campus.
“We’re one of the programs that a lot of the faculty knows they can come and ask us to build things for them,” he said.
He said these make great projects for students and benefit the school as well.
Welding jobs have been in high demand recently because of a lack of focus on trades in higher education and an aging workforce that will soon be retiring, said Berry. He said that CNM has made a big effort to fill this gap with skilled graduates that will be prepared for jobs in the industry.
The Welding program has been very popular, and some students have had a hard time getting into required classes.
Welding major John Eichorn said he tried to get into all the first term labs this semester, but he waited too long and they were all full. Many students found they had to register early to get into the required classes.
Berry said that the administration is committed to keeping the Welding program successful.
“We have very good support. Everyone in administration knows it’s a good program. Our students all get employed and we have the respect of our industry,” he said.