SORRENTO, LA (WAFB) - Students are lining up to fill a big need at plants along the Mississippi River.
Baton Rouge Community College is expanding its welding program into Ascension Parish to better serve those industries.
There are some bright ideas coming to light inside a small shed in Port Allen. It is filled with student welders at BRCC. They are learning everything from structural to pipe welding, but it is not all about business.
"I'm also working on a barbeque pit for Circle Baptist Church in Baker. That's part of my services to the community," Antoine Sowell said.
Sowell, a trained craftsman who once fabricated boilers for a local company, said a female welder on a recent job site convinced him to invest in a pair of welding boots.
"They had a girl sitting on a bucket welding and I felt like the whole turnaround revolved around her. I was making $23 an hour and she was making $43 an hour. So, I knew I had to go back to school and get my welding education together," Sowell said.
Sowell and his classmates are polishing off the final hours of coursework at BRCC. Industry leaders said their skills are in high demand.
Executive Director of Workforce Solutions, Girard Melancon, PhD, said that is why the college is expanding to the chemical corridor in Sorrento.
"There's a big need. There's a lot of plants within that corridor, a lot of turnaround work going on and a lot of plant expansion so they need welders to do this work," Melancon said.
BRCC is partnering with Chicago Bridge & Iron Company. The company has provided an instructor, Edward Mabile, to help mold the curriculum and teach the class.
"It can mean the difference between life and death sometimes," Mabile said.
BRCC Welding instructor, Thad Burleigh, said the students will go through a thorough evaluation before they are certified. That includes thousands of hours of hands-on training.
"Students spend a lot of hours in the booth practicing. So, when they are done they are ready to go," Burleigh said.
The 15 week course begins on May 26 and ends on August 21. Classes will meet Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Classes will be held at the RPCC Sorrento campus located at 9697 Airline Highway.
An Open House is scheduled for May 14, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
The cost of the program is $750. Scholarships are available.