Career watch: Welding education and job opportunities abound in Bay County

John Herek wants to get the word out about welding opportunities in the Bay region.

Herek and his colleague Eric Knochel have partnered together to revamp the welding training program at Bay-Arenac ISD. The duo launched their new program in the fall semester of 2018.

"We were hoping that it would go half as well as it’s been going," Herek says. "We’ve been very happy so far."

The school now offers a 15 week-long introduction to welding course where students spend five weeks on each of three welding techniques: Gas metal arc welding, or MIG; shielded metal arc welding, or stick; and gas pumps and metal welding.

Once students complete the introductory course, they can pursue a full semester in an intermediate level course in any of the three techniques. They then take an advanced course, which leads to a certificate program.

Herek says that the courses are ideal for those looking for a well-paying job, be it their first, second, or third career. Some students are even enrolled with the purpose of "fixing stuff in their garage."

"We lay the groundwork, then they go on to apprenticeships, and then the big bucks start coming in. These jobs start at $17 to $23 an hour," Herek says.

"In Bay County, we’re looking at a lot of small businesses in the area that do machining. Or students can make the big bucks working out of state on the pipelines."

The duo’s plan is to work alongside local companies searching for employees. Another goal is to partner with the Local 85 Pipefitters union.

All in all, it’s a great opportunity; Herek says that Bay-Arenac ISD courses are cheaper than many local college programs.

"Our goal is to put trained welders out there," Herek says.

"Once they see their future, they’ll continue on."

Visit Bay-Arenac ISD online to learn more about its education programming.

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